Our walls are made of the kind of stuff sugar lumps are made of. They look perfectly sound and reasonable, but as soon as you go near them with anything approaching a sharp point they crumble away to dust. Most of our pictures are stuck up with a combination of No More Nails and Blu-tac.
Soooo, the phone socket just dropped out of the wall, leaving a big sugary hole and no way of plugging the phone in upstairs without extensive restoration work involving something called ballast.
I reconciled myself to not being able to hear the phone unless I was standing next to it, but my father-in-law, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of every electrical item Amazon has ever stocked, knew better.
For my birthday he bought me a jazzy new phone set up, which only needs one socket for the base phone while the rest of the handsets just plug into your proper solid British three-pin electrical affairs.
It took me fifteen minutes to plug it all in and set it up, and most of that was spent choosing the ringtone, which were all either awful, terrible or really, really shite. Now we have phones all over the house, and they light up and play electronic tunes and show the time as well, so we don’t need clocks anymore either.
This is undoubtedly an improvement, but with each phone I plugged in, a little bit of my soul withered.
When I first moved into this house, I spent years slowly doing it up, trying to get it to look as close to how it would have been when it was built (1928) but with central heating, Netflix and super fast broadband, obvs.
I had paint specially mixed, sourced door handles from reclamation yards, painted a cocktail cabinet in nail varnish because I couldn’t find the right paint tones I wanted.
I had two phones – a clever replica of an American diner phone and an original chrome 1930’s affair, with a proper dial and real bells instead of a ringtone.
The diner phone has always sounded as if you are actually making a call in America, using a cocoa tin and a piece of string. The chrome phone, while crystal clear, took five minutes to dial a number (they were invented when you just called the operator) and you could never dial 1 to be put through to the complaints department or tap in your date of birth.
So, they were pretty useless as actual phones, but they looked bloody fantastic and sounded great every time that nice woman called, concerned about my lack of PPI claims.
I pulled up carpet to hide the extension wires, even stuck wallpaper over some cables, and dabbed others with paint to make them invisible, because I wanted it to look perfect.
Is it the fact that I have grown up and stopped being so precious (I used to keep the DVD player in a drawer because it wasn’t authentic looking. Like, that was practical) that has made me just plug these new phones in, oblivious to whether they match the colour scheme (of course they don’t. I also once painted a TV bronze to match a room), and let their ugly cables trail merrily over windowsills and across the floor?
Or have I lost my sense of style, my perfectionism, have I let my standards slip, preferring convenience and the mainstream over authenticity and originality?
Or am I absolutely climbing too much up my own backside? Whether my phone matches my bookshelf shouldn’t really be dominating my thoughts in the weeks after a ruinously expensive Christmas at the arse-end of what has been one of the worst years for global upsets we can remember.
A friend, whose new curtains I was admiring, said she thought they were “too blue” but didn’t care. “When I was younger I would rather have sat here with a bare window than curtains I didn’t like. I wanted it all perfect. Now I live in the real world.”
And maybe that’s it. All the previous me, the one who ordered a mirrored bathroom cabinet from Italy because I liked its shape (**weeps at the thought of the expense**), had to worry about was how to hang an Art Deco mirror on a wall made out of brown sugar. Four children, three jobs, one husband and a near bankruptcy later, hiding a couple of cables has been shoved a bit further down the priority list. And it is a long, long list.