So, there am, stuck on top of the new kitchen counter. I can’t believe this. For fifty years I, less often Jon, have climbed ladders. He has no head for heights – a very serious fall put paid to that. Young and dumb (and ready for some), he was being a show-off and swung from a vine high in a tree. The vine broke, he landed on the lethal pointed end of a sturdy, recently cut sapling and ended up with an enormous, deep laceration on his thigh. It required three layers of stitches, about seventy in all, a short hospitalization, crutches, and a considerable recuperation period. He tells me it involved ‘fairly convoluted sexual positions that nobody should ever try.’
I have happily climbed ladders – to hang exhibitions, wash windows, clear gutters, bang in nails to hang pictures at home etc. However, since my hip replacement almost a year ago, the strength has not (yet) fully returned to that leg, and the left hip awaits replacement in six- weeks. It is sore and like the other, is somewhat deficient in strength. Thus, I decided it best to avoid ladders, not the taller ones at any rate. The little 2-and 3-step ladders we have in the house I deemed sufficiently safe.
After our recent kitchen renovation, a few items required re-hanging – the indispensable red clock, one of my drawings, a new magnetic knife rack and a perspex-boxed artwork. I am particularly enamored of the idea of a knife rack as, until this refurbish, there was no available wall space for such a (practical) item. However, it looks a little tricky to attach and so I asked a friend if he would kindly help me out when time allowed.
I have now been without my kitchen clock for many months while the work proceeded. Doesn’t everyone who refuses to wear a watch, rely, as do I, on a kitchen clock? This morning my impatience got the better of me. I decided to tackle the re-hang of the drawing above the new, taller fridge, as well as the clock, (leaving the knife rack until my friend returns from holiday and the remaining artwork for another occasion as it presents its own challenges.) So, Jon fetches the 2-step ladder from a nearby cupboard as I gather the required tools – electric drill, the appropriately sized drill bits, screwdrivers, a choice of nails/screws, measuring tape and pencil. I always had a good eye for horizontality but long-ago developed skills to measure accurately so, easy peasy. Why have I put it off for so long, the vacant spots beckoning daily.
We share the first job, the drawing on top of the fridge. Up he goes on the two-step ladder, takes the picture off its hook and, under my instruction, raises it to the new appropriate height (Stop there, she cries) and he marks where the top of the frame should sit. He hands the picture down to me and I carefully measure and calculate where the screw must go on the wall to achieve the desired hanging height. Down he comes and up I go, no problem. I happily drill the hole and try one, then a second Phillips-head screwdriver. Job done!
Come and stand next to me, says I, suddenly not quite sure about stepping down onto the ladder, stepping up being one prospect, down quite another, it emerges. And then the circus begins. I can’t believe myself. The distance down onto the 2-step ladder is, of course far greater than a normal step and as I try, I lose confidence immediately. This wont work! I try placing the other foot first. It should be the physio’s ‘up to heaven/down to hell ‘rule regarding which foot is placed first for the lame/lamer/lamest. However, it becomes apparent that neither heaven nor hell will assist. I try by other means a) holding onto the edge of the fridge (elegant half twist); b) holding both Jon’s hands (friendly) and, giving both those away as failures, c) the last gasp, supporting myself with both hands on his shoulders (perhaps a little demeaning?!?) Well, crikey, as they say, that aint gonna work either! I’m stuffed.
I watch myself amused-suddenly I have become a cartoon character trying out these knee beds and foot dangling exercises. Here I am at seventy-six, looking a million dollars in my ¾ jeans, lippy, Zuni Indian ring and my new dangly earrings, a present from a recent visitor, stuck forever on top of the new kitchen benchtop! I start laughing and can’t stop. This appears to surprise Jon! What did he expect? That I would be upset, angry, frustrated, irritated-yep, tick any box but sometimes I surprise him still. Suddenly, me still giggling, in a moment of great insight and consideration, His Lordship helpfully says, how about the 3-step ladder from the studio? How brillie, I cry, that’ll work and off he goes, trundling downstairs to the studio. He brings it back upstairs, unfolds it, places it against the bench. The top rung is now a very manageable step down and voilà, elegantly Bonney steps down onto it and one, two, three my feet are safely on the wooden floor.
The other mission is to re-hang the gorgeous artwork of my late Vietnamese art-collaborator friend, Vu Dan Tan which is contained within a Perspex box. The narrow, vertical box was designed to hang on the wall with two small nails. Its previous position is now covered with a new cupboard, the end of which is perfectly proportioned and inviting. Ah, so many thoughts on how to now attach it – no way will I drill into virgin laminate. That will be a ladder job too!
Anyway, today’s adventure was, as they say, quite a ‘trip’ and a salient reminder that yes, I really DO need to get that other hip fixed and maybe in another year I will have recovered full strength in both hips, sufficient to tackle the 2-step ladder confidently. Perhaps even somewhat taller ladders. Hip, hip hooray!!! …or maybe, as with one of my girlfriends, the hips will never gain full strength, and today’s jolly folly will have been another lesson in ageing gracefully and with humour, reminding me of my darling father who, aged one hundred, once remarked that he had ‘so many spare parts’ ( false teeth, hip, pacemaker, hearing aids). I’ve a way to go yet!