• Vol. 02
  • Chapter 12
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Grand Designs

The day I advertised my furniture on Freecycle, a woman arrived within the hour and filleted the leather sofa.

‘What’ll you do with the stuffing?’ I asked.

She showed me a picture of an attic room, roof tiles piled next to a sloping wall of windows; in the centre, a ruined chair draped with a threadbare shawl the colour of lichen.

‘The chair’s a classic,’ she said. ‘I’m reupholstering it. We’re renovating everything.’

She slid her Stanley knife back into the tool pouch that hung from the waistband of her shorts and gathered up the cushion pads ready to go.

I could tell that chair in the picture would be a work of art when she’d finished with it. She fizzed with can-do energy; her hands were blunt-fingered and strong. Outside, a man wearing a black pork pie hat and a narrow beard revved the engine of their VW van. Long planks of burnished wood were strapped to the top.

‘They’re from Freecycle too,’ she said when she saw me looking through the window. ‘From the floor of an old school. We’re picking up some Mexican wall tiles later.’

Their whole building project screamed Grand Designs. I could picture the two of them working in harmony – hammering, sanding, painting, tiling. In a few months, that attic would be transformed. I wanted them to stay, sit down with me and drink the rest of the wine, make a toast to their future success but he sounded the horn for her to hurry.


Grand Designs

‘You could renovate me next,’ I said as she headed for the door. ‘My life could do with a complete make-over.’ I imagined my world after they’d finished with it – triple-glazed for comfort and protection, energy-efficient, ingenious solutions created from detritus.

I think she may have laughed, thinking it was a joke. Maybe she didn’t even hear me. After they’d driven away, I poured myself another glass and sat on the edge of the stripped sofa. Flaps of leather hung down around me, like an old woman’s empty breasts.