Domestic Learner

31 May 2024
by Nicola Manasseh

The idea to have curtains in my bedroom first came to me back in January. I spent a couple of weeks casually debating with myself if curtains would allow me to roll up the blinds and have the two windows open at night for some air, and yet keep my bedroom dark enough, like I like it. The blinds had to stay – yup, I’m a renter – but they weren’t allowing me to have the windows ajar because wind makes them do this annoying clashing sound as metal rods meet window frames.

After getting a thumbs up from my landlord to install a curtain track, I went to John Lewis (which has something for nearly everyone!) and it was lovely to have a sales assistant take me by the hand, so to speak, and talk me through all my options. Lovely until sitting at a desk, a computer between us, the kind man told me the ballpark final price, which for me was a “beg your pardon? Is that an IT error?” But I stayed calm and whilst I was calculating how I could trim those pounds, my new friend told me that the John Lewis estimator would come to my home for free and no decision needed to be made until afterwards. Merrily I went home on the bus with a pair of winter curtains that would do the trick to block the night streetlight.

Meantime I’ve been brought up to shop around. I rang a few tradesmen and consulted by conversation with a local one who called me back. When I told him how much I was potentially being charged for a curtain track, he instantly sent me a photo of one from Argos – supposedly four times cheaper. Once you’ve seen it, it can’t be unseen! Cut to me heading to my nearest Argos to get a two-metre track. And this tradesman was going to put up the track for a cushty fifty pounds which felt easier to ask my landlord to reimburse. The job was penned into my diary but then this handyman hurt his back and we needed to postpone and somewhere in the delay he disappeared. I found another man in overalls but I was unsure – when he arrived in my home and offered his price, something felt off.

Unfazed, because I have the Nextdoor app, I found myself another tradesman who came over and confirmed that with my concrete ceiling it would be an easy job, and the blinds could stay in place too, and once again fifty squids would do. It was all hooray and smiley emojis until the day that the job was supposed to happen. Tradesman number two was a no show. I texted, I dared to voice call and there was no answer. I was flummoxed. We had had more than enough encouraging Whatsapp chat and of course I’d read his reviews. He’d been to my home to evaluate the job and not only did he feel like the real deal, but I had looked into his eyes and had a gut feeling that I could trust him. He was Irish too – always a good sign for me.

In the first instance when he stood me up, I thought either he’s lost his phone or he’s had an accident and so I waited a few days. Yet still no word from him. In the end I concluded that a bigger, better job must have come his way. I felt deflated with my failed third attempt to get curtains put up in my bedroom. I’ll admit that at some point in February (or was it March?) this grown woman was crying over this ‘interiors issue’ and the double pain was that a) I felt incapable and b) I felt ashamed to be crying over it.

Then a ray of light – a recommendation from a neighbour in my block of a tried and trusted tradesman, and after a few days of patient waiting he came to assess the job. He told me that the track I had would not take the weight of the curtains I’d purchased. As he delivered this update I sat down on the edge of the bed, face in my hands, and imagined I’d landed on a snake, when what I really needed was a ladder. A couple of days later, I went back to John Lewis to exchange the unopened winter curtains for summer ones – no problem that more than 28 days had passed, and I was beyond caring whether these lighter curtains were thick enough. To help me get to John Lewis, I splashed on a taxi and awarded myself a new top from Uniqlo across the road.

On the day that my fourth ‘chance’ was arriving, I woke up like it was an auspicious day. Not only did this fellow arrive on time but he brought with him a helper; and it turned out that he needed another pair of hands. As I watched them work confidently, not understanding the language they spoke with each other, I felt reassured. And when I heard the swish of the curtains in place, I felt like I’d passed the last furlong of a long steeple chase and wow! I could finally end this tedious furnishing stress. And having had the curtains for over a month now, I’m happy to say that I do need them and they have improved my home life.

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