SEEING RED

I was nine when dad started work on the sitting room.

I now knew the difference between a picture rail, a dado rail and a skirting board, so began to quiz my parents on this William Morris chap they were forever bickering about. I ascertained that he was a Victorian responsible for some of the gloomiest wallpaper designs I’d ever clapped eyes on and so helpfully picked out some jazzy alternatives from the big book of wallpapers permanently on loan from the posh home interiors shop up the road.

This precipitated mum and dad’s first harmonious decorating decision.

The sitting room was soon transformed with a plummy, peacocky wallpaper design that sat between the picture and dado rails. Above the picture rail, the walls and ceiling were a crisp white, complete with reproduction cornicing and ceiling rose. Below the dado rail, there was embossed wallpaper painted in a matching plum that my parents were terrified my brother and I would dent. Dad fake-marbled the fireplace and built almost-straight shelves into the recesses either side of it.

It was his finest, most authentic work yet.

A carpet was needed to complete the room. And so we set off to John Lewis of a Saturday.

I remember lying on a big fat pile of Persian rugs beside my brother as an unholy row kicked off between my parents. My dad was insisting – insisting – that a pillarbox red carpet was the perfect match for the plum colour scheme. Despairing, mum had inveigled several John Lewis shop staff into the purchasing decision, waving wallpaper samples and paint charts at these terrified bystanders.

My brother and I just rolled in the rugs. Back and forth. Back and forth.

Dad was ultimately unable to persuade mum and the entire first floor staff of a department store that red and plum were one and the same colour. So mum’s choice of carpet – a dove grey affair dotted with plum flowers – was installed a few weeks later.

My brother and I duly rolled in it. This was the fourth room to get carpeted and, each time, we were like dogs in fox shit the moment the fitters went out the door.

We were disappointed when the two giant blue Chesterfield sofas arrived. But the relative completion of this special family room was something of a milestone. We celebrated with a Chinese takeaway and a video, wondering whether a Victorian-esque cabinet was needed to conceal that monstrous modern telly. Dad lit a fire. It was bliss.

The following morning, Dad surreptitiously finished off his fireplace – with some burgundy tiles.

Mum said he couldn’t help it – he was colour-blind. That’s why he didn’t get to be a pilot in the RAF.

I suppose this didn’t much help my early appreciation of people seeing the world differently to me. There was no such thing as a different perspective. You were either right – or you were seeing red.

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