Maude and I called to see Benny this afternoon. Benny was keen to show Maude the progress he has made in his DIY efforts. His living room has improved tenfold – with shelving, a rug – even a new pouffe with internal storage.
Maude flattered Benny on his achievements, but I could tell that she was unsure about some of Benny’s general approach to décor.
‘You’ve done remarkably well Benny….in the circumstances. I do think the place could do with a few small touches though. For instance, what about the fire?’
Benny has a new fireplace. A local carpenter made the surround and a new hearth was fitted at great expense. Benny, however, has shied away from setting a fire since his elderly neighbour, Florence, expressed her fears for the safety of his property and of hers. In fact, when she spied Benny with a box of matches at hand she called the Fire Service.
Maude suggested that Benny made a pot of tea. As he left the room Maude caught his heel as she closed the door behind him and held it shut with the pouffe.
I could hear Benny’s voice in the hall – it had the quality of a cry from someone trapped down a well.
‘What are you doing Maude? It is my house you know.’
‘Don’t worry Benny – you’ll thank me.’
Maude likes to hang pictures and keeps a small stock of tacks in her purse. Benny had received a couple of small landscape prints from a well-meaning sister at Christmas. He had been using them as tea trays, so Maude took the opportunity to make them focal points on either side of the dormant fireplace. Using a heel as an improvised hammer, she made light work of the job.
I then helped Maude as she repositioned most of the furniture. Benny could hear the movement from the hall.
‘Tea’s ready. Can I come back in now?’
‘Not just yet dear.’ Maude pressed on and found a new spot for more or less everything in the room. The movement of the furniture revealed lost socks and mislaid Y-fronts. Maude looked away. I felt obliged to protect Benny’s dignity and swiftly found a temporary home for the smalls in the new pouffe.
I was then sent out into the hall to prepare Benny for the ‘reveal’. My friend was sat on the bottom step of his own staircase like a banished naughty child. I reassured him that there was nothing to worry about and he agreed to wear my cravat as a blindfold as I led him back into his living room.
‘Ta-da!’ cried Maude as I uncovered Benny’s eyes.
Benny was a little disoriented and remained silent for a minute as he surveyed the changed environment. His expression was inscrutable, until his face gradually warmed into a smile.
‘It’s wonderful Maude. I needed a woman’s touch.’
‘Quite,’ said Maude.’I also thought that it was time for you to ‘put away childish things’ – so I got your fire going with that balsa wood Messerschmitt from the shelf. It really didn’t go with those books anyway.’
Benny looked a little stunned. We heard the model crackle in the grate and I could see the flames reflected in Benny’s glasses.
‘You just need to keep it tidy dear – we found lots of newspapers and ‘bits and bobs’. If the place gets untidy, you don’t necessarily need a woman’s touch, you could just dump your mess in the pouffe.’