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My kingdom for a bath

21 February 2014

THEY say that stress is all in the mind. And it is particularly in the mind when you are moving house - or, at least, trying to.

I would really enjoy a bath right now, but that isn't possible. The bathroom is gutted, and quite a lot of it is in my bedroom. The room itself looks like a Roman excavation: bare brick, and pipes at odd angles. The good news is that we now have a new bath; the bad news is it's in the front room, along with the bulky tile-cutting equipment. To get to my desk to write this, I had to climb over plasterboard and boxes of tiles.

Today, things are about to get worse, with the arrival of the carpet men. They are going to rip up the old, the stained, and the moth-eaten, and, later in the week, replace it with the new. How they are going to work round the bath, the tile-cutter, and the large bags of grout mix remains to be seen. It is one of those days when I wish that I had a proper job and "went out to work". Working from home today is liable to leave me seriously discombobulated.

The reason for all this is that we are trying to make the house more saleable; at least, that is the plan. The old bathroom was very old, and a cowboy job even in its prime, while the carpets have seen much life pass over them. Hence the call for self-improvement; for there are two commandments when selling property. The first is: Thou shalt have no clutter anywhere. Make endless trips to the charity shop - if you haven't used something for a year, you do not need it. Ask your neighbour to house your remaining stuff during viewings (this clear-out should not include scented candles or anything smelling of fresh coffee).

The second is: Thou shalt make the place feel fresh. Use bland and inoffensive colours: think "mushroom", or "white biscuit". The idea is that viewers see a clean slate on which they can impose their individuality. They do not want your individuality: that is history.

The particular chaos of the interior is held in the larger chaos of the whole moving process. As many know to their cost, it is not an exact science. We may move in three months; we may still be here in two years. We have shaken on a purchase; but what is a handshake worth? It depends whose hands are doing the shaking, and what dark disorder the surveyor finds. But, if we cannot sell, it all falls through anyway, which brings us back to the gutted bathroom, the carpet men, and the bland-yet-fresh tiling.

In Paradise Lost, Milton got right to the heart of stress. "The mind is its own place," he said, "and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven." In short, my mind makes my universe, and I will keep watch over it amid this unsettling flux - although a bath would be heaven as well.




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