Moving House Improves Your Vocabulary
by Joyce Walker




Freda stood in the living room surrounded by boxes and crates of varying sizes and looked about her.  After all her years of moving from one army quarter to another, she was about to embark on what she felt must be the biggest adventure of her life.  Bigger even than leaving her home town for the first time and moving to a foreign country. For the home she had just walked into was the first place she could truly call home.


No longer would she be forced into living surrounded by magnolia walls and standard furniture and crockery packs with arrows and dates stamped on them, that at the time were a staple of all forces family living.  She and her husband Harvey would be able to choose their own and Harvey, who had always claimed to be good at DIY, but seldom had the opportunity to prove it, would be able to show her just how good he was.


Oh, he’d hung pictures each time they’d moved and knocked up the odd bookcase for the kid’s bedrooms, but most other repairs and renovations were strictly off limits, and handled by contractors employed by the Army under the direction of the housing officer.


She, herself, having been brought up in a rented home, with very little spare cash, by parents who were very good at supplying her daily needs on a limited budget, but were not skilled in home repairs, had never mastered them at all, so when their homemaking started, found herself with the jobs she could do, tidying up after him and making endless cups of tea and coffee.


What she hadn’t realised was how the move would open up a whole new language.  Words like anaglypta and artex were the first of many, some of which she learned about the hard way.  Grouting became a bugbear when Harvey tiled the kitchen walls because no matter how many times she wiped them, the fine white powder that successfully filled the gaps between them lingered on the surface long after the work was completed.


It wasn’t until they had an electrician to do some rewiring she learned what a conduit was.


Next came the word coving, the strip that goes around the top of the walls where it joins the ceiling.  When Harvey was doing that job and tried to put too big a piece of the plaster variety up, despite all the polyfilla type paste he put on the back that oozed around the edges as he pressed it into place, when he pushed one side up and tried to get tacks either side of it, the end furthest away from him kept pulling away from the wall.


It was at the point he nearly put his hammer through the double glazed window and dropped it not an inch from her toe, that she also learned a few new swear words.  Ones he’d used in barracks regularly, no doubt, but never in front of her and the children.


Eventually common sense prevailed and he enlisted a friend’s help and used smaller pieces of the offending item; the result, a resounding success even though he was working with walls that weren’t as straight as they should be. Until, that is, he came to put up the corners and found that he had two internal and two external ones and because they curve different ways, didn’t fit. This dilemma meant a hurried trip to the local DIY store just before it closed to try and get some more. 


It was at this point that Murphy’s Law came into play, as the store were out of stock, so work was stopped till the following day, when a trip into town secured him the correct ones.  It was while he was there he spotted some very nice polystyrene coving, light and easy to put up with wallpaper paste.  Freda couldn’t help but laugh when he told her and poor Harvey just had to mark that one down as a prospect for when they started the next room.


Her knowledge of tools and various other items improved too, for every time Harvey mislaid things she’d find herself searching for not only the familiar ones, such as pencils and Stanley knives, but also the more unusual counter sinks and electrician’s screwdrivers, that she might have been able to find more easily had she known what they looked like.


She also spent endless hours in Do it All, Wickes, and Homebase, searching for varying sizes of rawl plug, which led her to believe, that although her vocabulary was improving, the house move was doing nothing for her sanity or shoe leather.


Next came new doors and the word of the week was architrave.  Oh how Freda yearned for it all to be finished.


One evening friends arrived to see how things were progressing bringing with them an orchid as a house warming present and she installed it in the kitchen window, watching and waiting for it to flower.


The repairs and renovations to the house were finished long before that happened, but when she looked at how beautiful it was and surveyed her equally beautiful surroundings some two years later, she couldn’t help wondering that, if all she’d wanted to do was improve her vocabulary, a dictionary would have been a much cheaper thing to buy than a house, but she also couldn’t help thinking, that flower had been worth waiting for, and so, now that all the hard work was finished, had the house. 



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