Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Lifts, knives, walls and other precious things

I should go away more often. Every time husband is left alone something miraculous happens that makes him want to do nice things to the house. My husband, I have to explain, does not like DIY. Neither does he enjoy other typically suburban husband duties, such as mowing the lawn. So, what might be an enjoyable weekend task for some other local husband is in fact, a sign of emasculating humiliation when it comes to mine.

Thus, I appreciate that painting our dining room while my daughter and I were away in Baku was an act of heroism and pure love. All I had to do was to hint that,after six months of agony, patches of various shades of colour all over the walls, and endless discussions (with some girlfriends whom I consider to have a good taste) I finally decided on the colour (with this lovely name cooking apple green); and it really was the best time to have this work done, while the child was not around. He of course, told me to keep on dreaming. But when I came back, my dining room looked great.

The problem, however is that when my husband applies such hard work to something in the house, he expects me to handle the area with respect and care. Both concepts are pretty alien to an ex-Soviet.

Let me explain what that means.

Back in Baku, my mother still lives in the same flat I was born and grew up in. It is an old Soviet building, and everything in it is also old, including the lift. That particular lift has suffered years of some people either using it as a urinal, or breaking it with heavy furniture items. It makes a lot of grumbling noise when you ask it to move, and might not look pretty, but yet….it works.

What I am struggling to understand, is how come everything around me in this clean and pretty western country is so….precious and fragile.

Take the very same object- a lift. How come my mother’s lift still works, after years of abuse, but the brand new, beautiful and sleek elevator at my work keeps breaking every month? And when it does, we can not simply ask someone to come and fix the problem as there are contractual issues involved. It is a new building, and a new lift. We therefore, have to follow certain procedures in order to get our contractor to come back and fix this piece of crap. In the meantime, we email the staff asking them to be patient, (again) and continue using the stairs, while we are locked in the negotiations for months at a time.

And it is not just lifts that are a problem for someone like me in the UK.

I had to learn quite a lot. That I could not use the end of an expensive sharp kitchen knife as a tin opener. The fact that a knife is expensive does not mean it is as strong as Soviet knives of my childhood, which could be happily used as any tool we needed at a time.

That, if I used my Soviet brutal force, things would easily break in my hand. Like the interior “bits” of my car that I ripped off when they did not do what I wanted them to do fast enough.

So once again, even after many years of training, I did not see any danger coming when, having washed up a couple of pans in my newly decorated kitchen, I shook the excess water off. And a few drops went flying on the beautifully painted wall above the sink.
That, in my husband’s eyes, was a criminal offense and a sign of disrespect towards his hard work. But here is my problem: Where I come from, paint used to be cheap. And labour even cheaper. Knives cost pennies and were hard and durable. Lifts were meant to last for many years- and not just the duration of a contract. And I did not have to think about velocity and projection of water when I shook it off my hands.

That night we were having dinner with my visiting in-laws. Having had a couple of glasses of red wine, I got slightly animated in my storytelling. And, imagine my luck. As I waved my hand to emphasize some particularly exciting part of the story, I knocked my large glass of wine across the table, all over my father in law’s new fleece, and (of course!) the virgin clean, cooking apple green, wall.

I have to give my husband some credit. Considering how frustrating he found me flicking some water around, imagine what it must have felt like, to see that baby of his covered in red wine. Out of all possible evil things I could have done that night, including cheating and murder, this was definitely the most unforgivable. And yet, he managed fine. He even resisted telling me off.
The only thing he suggested was to keep the marks, and stick a post-it note near them with “3 days PP” written on it (i.e.. 3 days Post Painting)

-And the only way you managed to keep that wall clean for the whole 3 days- he added, looking pleased with his own joke - is because you were away for the first two of them.

1 comment:

  1. Don't feel bad. It was an accident. My husband is the same way, except he likes fixing things even if they take a long time and he gets frustrated in the process (& he saves big projects like painting for when we’re away). Saving grace is that my Azeri Dad was the same way, so I don't break anything somehow:)
    I too found things in Europe to be very breakable. American stuff is much tougher, including cars (Japanese that is but made here). Maybe that's how come I don't break things here, they are tough enough for me :)