Friday, January 8, 2010

The Miseries of Renovation, 19th C Edition

In absence of anything to write about current work on The Sow's Ear (in absence of any current work being done on The Sow's Ear), here's some excerpts from a website I came across yesterday called Prints George. They're extracts from actual early 19th century letters, essays, and so on, and I, at least, can recognise my fellow house renovation sufferers in these doleful lines.

The page is titled The Miseries of Life, being "The Groans of Samuel Sensitive, and Timothy Testy":

(T.) In a state of extreme lassitude, throwing yourself on the support of an old easy chair, before you have recollected that the arm on which you principally relied has been lately amputated at the shoulder for the cure of its infirmities, and is still under the hands of the operator; during which interval, the title of said chair remains in abeyance.

(T.) Fumbling in vain at a rusty refractory door lock, of which the hasp flies backward, and there sticks---so that you are at last obliged to leave the door flapping and whining on its unoiled hinge, and fanning you into an ague---your own fury furnishing the fever.

(T.) Beginning your residence at the country house to which you have just removed, before the repairs are finished---with the comfort of picking your way from one ruined room to another, through fragments of pealed mortar, broken bricks, scattered axes, adzes, chisels, &c.---and at length, being invaded in the fortress of your Study, and there pursuing your meditations to the sound of hammers, files, saws, tumbling walls, &c. &c.;---not to mention the manner in which you drag on your domestic existence for a long time, before half the furniture, utensils, &c. from your late house, have arrived; to wit---bed chambers blocked up with matted trunks, bureaus, &c.---not a curtain or carpet, to cover the nakedness of the sitting rooms, &c. &c.---Then for your eating accommodations;---dinner dressed by the housemaid, with extempore spits, saucepans, &c. &c.en attendant the arrival of the bona fide cook, and her apparatus---every dish, as it is brought in, carrying a “noli me tangere” on the face of it, and, such as it is, being served up on the kitchen table, with a set out of cookery, from the same apartment---teaspoons to the saltcellars, or rather eggcups, as their proxies---a man’s white knife, to a child’s green fork, &c. &c.---no alliance, as yet formed, with the butcher, baker, carrier, &c. &c.---and lastly, when your time, with all these loads upon it, begins to hand a little heavy upon your hands---neither a clock to strike, nor book to kill it!

(T.) In default of a turnscrew, labouring with the back, or battering edge, of a good knife, at a notch infamously wide and shallow; so that it slips out of its place an hundred times over, without moving the screw an hair’s breadth. Likewise, Hammering your own fingers, instead of a very short nail which you fumblingly hold in them---said nail, when you do hit it, curling at the point, instead of entering the wall---or losing its head, so that you cannot extract it:---likewise, the head of the hammer violently flying off, so as to break a looking glass---a friend’s skull---&c. &c.

(T.) Hearing the ill-pasted paper of your apartment cracking and breaking away from the plaster, on a hot day; till in due time it swags half-way down from the ceiling, and fully indulges any curiosity you may have as to the nature of the wall behind.

(S.) A door so tight at the bottom, that it calls for your shoulders, as well as hands, as often as you enter or leave the room---and even when you have forced it to move, insists upon the company of the carpet every inch of the way.

(S.) The interval between breaking a pane of glass, and the arrival of the glazier:---N. B. The aspect of the apartment (your constant sitting room) E. N. E. and the wind setting in full from that quarter, at this crisis of the affliction:---glazier a drunkard, living seven miles off.

(S.) Cleansing the Augean stables;---or in other words, undertaking the labour of digesting into its proper place each of a thousand different articles, of as many different uses, sorts ,and sizes---(books---phials---papers---fiddles---mathematical instruments---drawings, and nick nacks without end---) which have been for weeks, or months, accumulating upon the tables, chairs, and shelves of your library, and which no servant is able to set to rights---so that you have been, yourself, obliged to await the tardy conjunction of activity and leisure, before you can enter upon the dreary drudgery of subduing them into arrangement.

(T.) The screws, nuts, pivots, and other loose appurtenances of a door-lock coming off, and dropping all about the room, as often as you turn the handle in an innocent attempt to open the door.

Well, at least modern DIYers don't have to worry about the servant problem . . .

1 comment:

Elaine said...

This is FANTASTIC!