Note: Background images in December 2002 and January 2003 journal entries are selected from Frances Ku's collection of her original watercolours.
The son of a carpenter told me that he grew up in houses that needed major fixing. He was used to the construction site of a house. His dad built three of the houses he lived in. He and his brothers helped out. And he, the second son, learned the tricks of the trade.
His hands were rough from the manual labour. This experience of building and renovating houses gave him the confidence to change his house.
Soon after he moved into this house, he ripped out the grey plastic walls that the former owners erected. One had died in his forties, probably from chain smoking-induced disease. The ceilings were yellow from the smoke. There was nothing this carpenter's son liked about the former owners' tastes. He didn't like the wallpaper, the colour combination, and even the new vanity unit in the bathroom.
I am a novice at doing the renovations myself. I've always sought and employed outside help. But this time, I decided to apprentice under him to see if I can cut through the mystique.
Yesterday, I started ripping out the wallpaper. My right hand became numb from holding the scraper for too longer. It was hard work - tedious, repetitive, physical, manual, and mind-numbing. After scraping the walls clean, my next step is to fill the holes and then paint the ceiling.
Unlike the carpenter's son, I didn't grow up in houses that needed work. We didn't own the houses we lived in. We didn't renovate. We didn't need to maintain. It was someone else's responsibility. And now, as builder's apprentice, I'm learning just what "owning" your house means --- making it your own responsibility.
7 December 2002 Saturday
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