Thursday, October 27, 2011

Standing up for sitting down

The five of us in happier days

Seventeen years ago, give or take, we took possession of a three piece suite in our little artisan cottage off Oxmantown Road to replace the one that had come with the house seven years previously.
I believe that we bought it in a furniture shop in Capel Street and that it cost a tidy sum. It was a brown, fabric three seater couch (that seated four) and two deep incredibly comfortable armchairs and when I say we took possession of it, it did not have an easy entrance into our lives.
The hall door of our house led directly onto the sitting room door to the right and the delivery men must have spent the guts of two hours squeezing it in through the two doors, reversing it back out, trying it a different way, sitting on it, squashing it, cursing it, before finally getting it into our tiny sitting room, while my wife sat and watched, afraid at every second that the door frame was going to give way.
When it was finally in, it completely filled the room, providing a great obstacle course for our two small children. I hasten to point out in my wife’s defence, as she has total control over all matters furniture, that we were about to move into a slightly larger house four hundred yards away and she had bought the suite, not for the artisan cottage, but for the new house and had been worried that it might have been sold if we’d have waited.
So, two months later, we squeezed and squashed it back out of the cottage and squeezed and squashed it into the new house. Then six years later, we repeated the whole process, as we moved up here to the newly developed estate of Hazelbury Green, where finally we had a sitting room large enough not to be dwarfed by the suite.
Recently my wife, who watches far too many interior design programmes on the television, decided the house needed a bit of a shake up after ten years and an intensive painting and decorating programme was put in place. Ceilings, walls and skirting boards were all painted, beds changed, new curtains bought, furniture rearranged, new carpets purchased and so on and so forth.
All this I went along with, if not willingly, then at least grudgingly. And, to be fair, the house has been totally transformed and is looking really well.
And then she decided that she wanted to change the three piece suite. Her argument was that the suite is old-fashioned, seventeen years old and totally out of keeping with the decor in the sitting room.
I announced, with a degree of heroism that surprised even myself, that I was opposed to the idea. My reasons were that it just happened to be the most comfortable three piece suite that had ever been manufactured; that there was absolutely nothing wrong with it physically; and that just because something was old didn’t mean it was fit for the scrapheap (I said, looking at her, pointedly) Furthermore, I added magnanimously, if she wanted to change the whole decor in the sitting room to make the three piece suite fit in, I had no objection.
I am not exaggerating when I say that it is the most comfortable suite ever. It really is. So much so that I long for us to have loads of visitors, so I have an excuse to sleep on the couch. When the children had sleepovers, many of their friends only agreed to stay over, if they could put the two armchairs together and sleep there. I myself have spent many delicious evenings asleep in the armchair, oblivious to the X Factor or Big Brother. In its day, it was a great couch for wrestling on and I can’t wait for my grandchildren to grow up a bit, so the bouts can resume.
Faced with my resolute opposition to changing the suite, my wife then altered her tactics. Instead of trying to steamroller her fiendish plan through, she became more subtle about it. She offered to look into the possibility of having the suite reupholstered, to which I replied that I had no objection. However, when we looked into it a bit further, we found that it was actually cheaper to buy a new suite. Oh no, I said, nice try, no potatoes.
Since then, she has been trying to inveigle everybody else into making me see the pig-headedness of my opposition. When members of the family come around to call, the talk invariably turns to how outdated the suite looks and how we’ve been struggling along with it for seventeen years, all because of my obstinacy and I have to endure reproachful glances for the wicked way I treat my loving wife.
And not just members of the family neither. People who come around trying to sell us Eircom Phonewatch or Sky are startled when she drags them into the sitting room to ask them, honestly, don’t they think the suite takes away from the whole look of the room?
Every time one of those ubiquitous advertisements for DFS comes on the telly, showing decidedly strange families having a great time sitting around on furniture (“Can we go and sit on the couch today, Dad? Can we? Can we? Please!”) remarks about how much she’d love a new suite are made and a period of brooding begins when my assent is not forthcoming.
Thankfully, my cause has been helped by the practically total dereliction of Dublin 15 by the major furniture stores. Classic Furniture has gone, as has Read’s and there are no suites in Clery’s Home Furnishings or Des Kelly’s. The only one is the Furniture Liquidation Store over in West End and I think she feels its wrong to shop in there, as you might be profiting from other people’s misfortunes.
For a while, though, in the face of this unrelenting attack, I began to waver. Maybe, I conceded privately to myself, maybe we could find another suite equally as comfortable. Anything for an easy life. And maybe I was being a tad selfish in placing my demands ahead of hers.
But, whispers the little devil on my shoulder, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the suite we have, despite its age.
Finally, and to put an end to the subject once and for all, I gave her an ultimatum. Either the suite goes, I said, or I do.
She is currently rummaging in the attic for a suitcase, whistling a happy tune.

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