Saturday, July 01, 2006

Hell is made of yellow pine

It has been a day of rising temperatures on more than one front: 31 degrees officially, but you can add to that another five straight away thanks to a pair of overheated infants and the same again, at least, on account of a brain-damaging kitchen project. Clammy isn’t the word. I was slowly becoming more dehydrated as I worked, my bare body coated in just enough sweat to mix with the fine sawdust into a sticky, pine-scented and maddeningly itchy glue. I was turning into a human fly-paper. With each botched cut and clumsily drilled hole my patience wore thinner, as did my interest in making a decent job of it. I began to want to fuck it up out of badness, which led to more genuine accidents in a virtuous circle.

The project was doomed before I even tooled up. I didn’t get started until at least two o’clock on account of the trip to the Shop and another to pick up some more wood. Then the place had to be cleaned; then there was some child-related crisis or other; then another half an hour to get set up, the place getting steadily hotter all the while as the Sun reached its peak. To top it off I had a pot of stinking fish frames bubbling away on the hob for a stock, the idea being to quickly throw a green curry together at the end of my modest day’s work. I had visions of sitting down outside in the cooler evening air to a fresh fish curry, admiring the brand-new, hand-made wooden dresser within.

But it never works out that way, does it. Instead we finally sat down to eat at half past ten, the Wife barely able to keep her eyes open and nothing but one solitary and cowboy-inflicted shelf in view. And with the usual relentless demands of Tomorrow Morning looming much larger than they should have been at mealtime, the usual “conversation” about the importance of eating early ensued. So we sat outside in the near dark and partial silence of a still 22 degree summer night and chomped down the angrily-thrown together coconut curry. It was full of prime ingredients -- fresh tiger prawns, fat juicy mussels and a thick chunk of ‘stone bass’ – simmered briefly in a refreshing sauce of blitzed ginger, lemongrass, coriander and chilli with fresh stock and coconut. But there was a slightly nasty bitterness to it, which may have come from too much slightly woody lemongrass, too many lime leaves, or perhaps the millions of sweat-coated wood-dust particles that felt as if they had reached every nook and cranny inside and out.

The Wife wasn’t really interested in discussing the finer points of the meal. And all I could think about was the ice-cold cylinder of Grolsch that would have taken all the pains of the day away, the first few fizzy hard gulps neutralizing the itch in my parched throat and the can filling me in its capacity as a reward with a sense of achievement that was otherwise sorely absent. This is only the beginning. But a hot summer of alcohol-free kitchen renovation is going to fucking wreck my family life.

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