The Pelmet War

Longrider’s novel is now at the stage where editing the text is complete, the cover image just needs to be assembled and then the picky bits like ‘about the author’ and we’re up. My time has been taken up with that, with writing my own story for the Easter anthology and with decorating the office/guest room.

The room designated as office/guest room was in a pretty bad state. It’s a spacious room on the ground floor and that’s important. It’s important for guests because the bathroom is on the ground floor, important for the office because the kitchen is on the ground floor, and important for both because none of the upstairs rooms have heating.There’s a fantastic view from upstairs but it’s best enjoyed in warm weather.

The room had suffered damp, probably because of a hastily covered-over fireplace. The vent was just a hole in the wall (it now has a proper vent). It’s improving now the house is actually occupied by someone who turns the heating on at least once a day. The room was painted magnolia, it’s gradually turning light blue but there were already a few blue features. I’ll keep most of them.

The walls are thick here. They didn’t piddle about with breeze blocks and red bricks in those days. The walls are made of random lumps of rock cemented together. It means there are deep alcoves in to the windows. It also means mobile phones only work near the windows.

Most of the place has more-or-less tried to keep up with the times but this room stopped in about 1960, perhaps earlier. It still has a pelmet. I remember those from my childhood but they faded away with the advent of curtain rails that held the curtain in front of the rail, not under it. Pelmets were the things that hid the unsightly way the curtains hung from the curtain rails.

This is the one in my office –

pelmetYes, that’s the top of a stepladder at the bottom of the picture. The room is 10 feet high. I am not painting the ceiling. No point, nobody can see it anyway.

The plan was simple. Take the pelmet down, fit a more modern curtain rail in the window, put the pelmet (without its rail) back up as a fun feature and a shelf to store models on. Since there were only three screws holding it up, it sounded easy.

I’ve been battling with it all day. There are still two screws holding it up.

This is not like the pelmets I recall as a child. They were made of hardboard and when it came time to ditch them, you could snap them in two with your hands. This thing is made of a dark hardwood. A posh pelmet. It’s well made and was securely fixed by someone who never imagined pelmets would be a thing of the past.

Judging by the brass fittings and the fact that it’s a goddamn pelmet, it must have been there well over 50 years and it’s in no hurry to leave.

I have tried to Dremel the screw heads off, drill them through, crowbar the damn brackets off and have come very close to the ‘Huulk… Smaaash’ style of redecoration. That, experience tells me, only leads to a longer decorating job while I fix something that didn’t need fixing before. There’s already a lot of filling, sanding and painting to do. I don’t need rebuilding jobs on top.

The brackets are near the corners. The screws are the old flat-blade screwdriver screws and they didn’t go in straight originally. Clearly whoever put it up didn’t pre-drill screw holes. They are well sealed into the wood.

I have considered just pulling but if I do, I’ll likely pull the whole frame off. I have also considered reinstating the window shutters but the modern windows overlap the hinges so they can’t possibly be opened now.

Tomorrow I will take the ends off so I can access the brackets more easily. I had hoped to get it down intact but it’s just not possible. I can fix it, but tomorrow I will be at the top of a stepladder wielding an electric jigsaw.

If it goes quiet here for a while, don’t worry.

It all grows back.

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19 thoughts on “The Pelmet War

  1. It sounds like the house was built in a similar age to mine. So, one thing to have a look for is old lead pipework in odd places. Some of this will be water, some will be gas for gas-lights. Be cautious when removing old lead gas pipe, because you never know if the previous generations of bodge builders actually bothered to turn off the gas supply (ditto old household wiring and ditto old lead water pipe).

    The rooms were that tall to cope with using fuel-burning things for light sources. You needed the height back then for airspace, so smoke had somewhere to go before it got sucked up the chimney. The other thing to look for are old air inlet systems into the house; people often used to plaster over these (in defiance of the health & safety regulations) to stop draughts. If you find these, unblocking them and fitting a mechanism to open and close them yourself is a good idea, to keep the house aired out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No gas supply out here. There is all the pipework for a previous central heating system though. They put in the new one and left the old pipes all in place. Including the radiator pipes sticking out of some skirting boards!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Missive From ‘Merica: Sum Weight ‘Ugo – Library of Libraries

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