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February 2003 - A Steamy Tale

So here I am, sitting, staring at this blank screen and wondering what on earth happened to my list of Comment subjects which was definitely here before Christmas and New Year. I've even picked the computer up to see if it's slid underneath like the frozen peas always do under the microwave.

I think I must have had a tidy up before we had all those festive visitors.

That's one of the problems with having people round, isn't it? You always like to make sure the place is tidy, so you clear up all the stuff you don't think you'll need and throw it away; only to find after everyone's gone, that it WAS something you wanted.

I'm sure I had a load of extremely interesting subjects written down, but I'm dashed if I can remember any of them now.

I wonder why it is that people always tidy up before having visitors? I mean, if you DO leave a mess around the place, nobody's going to care about it are they? They're all FAR too busy drinking your "reassuringly expensive" beer. About the only candidate for the job of mess inspector is going to be the chap who stumbles into your study, thinking it's an upright fridge with the rest of the booze in it.

And, the state he's in, there's a very strong likelihood that he'll leave the place a heck of a lot more untidy than he found it.

There are some totally illogical things we all do before having visitors. One is to go round and vacuum everywhere.

What on earth is the point of vacuuming all the floors BEFORE your friends come round? After all, they're going to throw red wine all round the place and tread those mini-sausages into the carpet aren't they? The first thing you'll need to do when they leave is to vacuum the whole place again?

I'm a compulsive note writer. All over this desk are notes reminding me of things to do, file names of bits of glorious text which need loading up onto the Web in the next couple of weeks; and all sorts of other reminders to save my tired old brain from forgetting things.

So why the heck did I throw them all away? I must be totally mad!

If, like me, you have this rather unfortunate tendency to forget things while you're operating in a roughly normal fashion, how on earth do you expect to remember things when a fortnight of something completely different intervenes?

I think I'll have to put myself down as a bit of a silly twit; and start again from scratch, with new ideas for subjects of great import and interest to enthral you.

After all, I know how many thousands of you were waiting, perched on the edges of your seats, for the last edition where we started the new year in splendid style; so I really ought to keep my viewing figures at their peak and make this a really stunning follow-up.

Now, I always thought the middle of every other month was a bit special, but today I've been proved wrong. Perhaps I should explain about the middle of every other month, so you have a bit of background.

Ever since I was a little boy, the middle of every other month has meant bath night. This tradition continues to this day; and I always thought that the amount of steam generated by a bath-full of hot water and a Nick Harvey was about as much steam as was possible.

After I've been soaking in a hot bath for the required hour and a half, there's so much steam in the bathroom that I find it impossible to even locate the soap. I realise that little things like opening a window might improve matters, but I actually LIKE a lot of steam.

So, to actually find a method of improving on my steam density has been quite a surprise to me.

Now, at this point, even more background data is necessary if you are to fully enjoy and understand the remainder of the story, so I shall now digress backwards a few years to bring you all up to date.

When we moved into this place I decided to install a loo roll holder on the wall. No, it's all right, I'm not going to witter on about loos for the next ten minutes again.

When I attempted to attach the holder to the wall I discovered that it was practically impossible to attach anything firmly without the use of those funny bolt things, which push through a giant hole and then open up behind the plasterboard like an umbrella.

It was whilst making the giant hole that I discovered the full history of the bathroom wall.

As I started the hole a layer of wallpaper came off, then another layer, then another, then another, then another and another. Yes, six layers of wallpaper had been put on the wall over the years by the previous occupants.

And, of course, they were all either the special super-stick bathroom papers, or ordinary papers attached by super-strong bathroom paste.

The story now jumps forward to just a few months ago, when 'er indoors decided that the bathroom needed decorating. So, back in July of last year we started pulling the paper off.

We also pulled paper off in August, September, October, November and December; but to little or no avail. There are odd places where we're down to the original paint, but those are few and far between.

So, we found ourselves in January with about four layers of paper still firmly attached to the walls in most places; and decided drastic action was now required.

Everybody has been recommending these wallpaper steamer things, so off we went last week to book one for a couple of days. It arrived this morning and we stoked it up like an old railway engine.

Having now explained the background to the story, yes, it's this steamer thing which actually outdoes one of Nick Harvey's bath nights at filling the bathroom with water vapour. And that's with ALL the windows AND the door open!

I've never seen so much steam in my life. As I write this it's even finding its way along the corridor and creeping under the door to this room, which I use as a study.

I should perhaps explain that it's 'er indoors who's actually wielding the machine. I was told firmly to keep well out of the way and let her get on with it. I don't think she has all that much faith in my do-it-yourself abilities.

Trouble is, when I went on an inspection tour a few minutes ago, I see all these layers of paper seem to be actually defeating the steamer.

I suppose it's obvious if you think about it. We've lived here for about eight years, so I must have had about forty-eight baths. If the wallpaper has stayed more-or-less intact through that number of Nick Harvey bath nights, there can't be all that much hope of the steamer cracking the problem.

So the next question has got to be where do we go from here?

Somebody obviously invented this special paper and paste for bathrooms which is steamproof so you don't end up with a heap of paper on the floor every time you have a bath; but who, if anyone, has invented the machine to remove the damn stuff when you really DO want it in a heap on the floor?

There must be a machine somewhere which will do the job.

We currently have odd patches of wall with anywhere between five and one layer of paper still attached; plus the odd TINY bit, here and there, with none on at all.

This makes the plan we discussed at lunchtime a bit of a non-starter. We can't give up, leave the walls as they are and bang some paint on top, because they'd look like a vertical model of a mountain range.

The only other option seems to be to give up and tile the damn room from floor to ceiling to cover up the disaster area we've produced.

Mind you, if we DID do that, I'll take a pound to a pinch of salt that the paper that's left under the tiles would then take it into its head to decide the time had come to separate itself from the wall; and the tiles would come crashing down with it.

Which seems to leave us with no solutions available which have any reasonable chance of success. I'd try to think up another answer to the problem, but the trouble is that all my best ideas come to me when I'm soaking in the bath; and that's not due again till the middle of March.

In any case, the bath's currently full of what paper HAS come off, so there's no hope of getting in there.

I think it's best to just give up and leave it looking very much as it has since last summer. I think I'll put my energy into writing down some future Comment subjects and KEEPING the notes instead.

I MIGHT let you have an update on the bathroom redecoration project in a future edition, but then again, I might not.

There WILL, however, be more of this rubbish at the beginning of March, so try to catch me then. Right, I'm off, where's me scraper?

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