The back bedroom in my house had been invaded by Lovecraftian Fungi from Yuggoth and I was starting to think that it was time to do something about it. Black mouldy bits were spreading over the walls and the wallpaper itself was starting to peel.
"I'm worried about the Fungi from Yuggoth in the back room," I said to Robin. "I think they're carnivorous. Have you noticed the strange absence of spiders in the house?"
"Well," she said, "a couple of days ago I cleared up a pile of vomit from the kitchen floor which consisted mostly of diced carrots and spider legs. So I suspect it's much more likely that the cats have been supplementing their food supply. Unless you've gone on a strange diet again?"
"I'm on two diets at the moment," I said. "You don't get enough food on one."
"Let's do an experiment," suggested Robin. "You catch a spider and release it in the back room. I'll take notes."
To hear is to obey. I hunted down a spider and the experiment was conclusive. The spider died a horrible death.
"No, Alan," explained Robin patiently. "You were supposed to feed the spider to the Fungi from Yuggoth, not eat it yourself."
"Sorry," I said. "Anyway, it tasted really nasty without a side dish of diced carrots."
"Let's try the experiment again," said Robin. "And this time do it properly!"
Under Robin's strict supervision, I tried again. The spider screamed horribly as the Fungi from Yuggoth slowly ingested it. There was no doubt in my mind any more. The Fungi from Yuggoth would have to go before they ate all the remaining spiders in the house thus reducing me to only one diet; a thought too terrible to contemplate.
The first step was to remove the wallpaper. That wasn't difficult; large areas were already hanging loose and all I had to do was grab hold of them and peel them off. The top layer came off easily, leaving the backing paper behind. This was stuck firmly to the wall and the Fungi from Yuggoth were well entrenched in it. Hideous chemicals would appear to be required.
I spread the chemicals lavishly and the backing paper came off in great swathes except in the places where it didn't. These were mostly the areas occupied by the Fungi from Yuggoth. Perhaps the Fungi had eaten the original paste and excreted superglue. It seemed likely. I applied chemicals that were even more hideous than before, and I scraped away at the soggy walls. The Fungi from Yuggoth snarled, and bit huge chunks out of my scraping tool with their snaggly, spider-haunted teeth. But eventually I triumphed over them and all the paper was off. What remained of the Fungi from Yuggoth sulked in the plaster. Never mind a chisel would soon take care of them.
Take that, you bastards!
The walls revealed themselves to be deeply pitted with acne scars. Craters abounded, smoking sullenly as the volcanoes beneath them fumed. Various screws and nails had to be removed, and there was a curious hole about a quarter of an inch across that was plugged with blu-tac. I removed the plug and pushed a rusty nail through the hole. It fell down inside the wall and went clink as it landed on something clinky. Hmmm...
For no readily discernible reason the figure 605 was written in pencil just to the right of the window sill. The words 'Porl rote this' had been scribbled below the light switch by somebody who couldn't spell his own christian name and who had learned to spell the word 'this' by rote.
Pollyfilla was obviously the answer, though the question remained obscure. Fill, scrape, sand oh bugger! Every time I sanded down a pollyfilled chunk and smoothed off its edges, a new hole appeared. Large areas of the wall were covered in a thin plastic skin of what appeared to be improperly applied undercoat, and as I sanded across it jagged strips peeled off leaving large and slightly countersunk gaps that had to filled up again. It became clear that I had seriously underestimated the amount of pollyfilla needed to complete the task.
"Robin, let's go to the hardware store."
Robin loves hardware stores. Put her down in front of a wall full of power tools and she won't move for hours. Take her to the gardening section and she starts to dribble and sway. "Shiny," she murmurs as she strokes the solar lights. She grows them from seed and gets a bumper crop every year. One of her many skills.
Eventually all the gaps were filled and smoothly sanded. I'd put so much pollyfilla on the walls that the room was now noticeably smaller than it had been when I started; but at least everything was smooth.
Time to choose the paint. Robin consulted catalogues.
"What colour do you fancy?" she asked.
"Yellow might be nice," I suggested tentatively. I'm not very good at colours so I tend to leave that kind of decision to other people.
"There's mellow yellow from one company," she said, "and flower power from another. I like those names."
"Perfect!" I exclaimed. "I've got a long-haired paint brush with a paisley head band, beads and granny-glasses. It would be just the thing for applying that kind of paint."
Robin was dubious. "What about flares?"
"No, no," I said firmly. "Flares would attract unwelcome attention from the Westpac Rescue Helicopter."
The shop that sold mellow yellow was closed when we visited it in the middle of Sunday afternoon. So we went elsewhere and bought a large can of flower power instead. The man picked up a can of basic white and then consulted a complex recipe sheet. Frowning, he began to inject pigments into the white paint. A bit of this, a bit of that, absolutely heaps of the other. Then he banged the lid firmly on the can and put it into a fascinating machine that twirled, twisted and shook in eight dimensions as it thoroughly mixed my flower power for me. Robin watched open mouthed.
"I want one," she said firmly.
"?" I asked.
"Just imagine the milk shakes you could make with that."
As I applied flower power to the walls, it slowly became clear to me that the simple action of painting over the pollyfilla was causing huge new craters to appear above and below the pollyfilled areas (and sometimes to the right and left as well).
"They weren't there before I started to paint," I insisted to Robin.
"Of course not dear," she said soothingly.
I applied the paint thickly. Perhaps the hollows would fill with paint and vanish from view. It's a theory I formed about thirty years ago, but unfortunately I've never been able to make it work in practice. However I remain optimistic. Maybe this time...
One coat, two coats, three. The cats found the whole thing fascinating. They sat in a row and their heads moved up and down, right and left in unison as they followed the brush strokes.
"That's a pretty colour," said Bess and she poked the yellow wall with a paw. Then she shook her paw violently and began to chew the paint off. "Yuck!" she spat, "that tastes horrid."
"I bet you could do that," said Porgy. "You could paint a wall." He admires his sister and is quite in awe of her brain power and her many skills. He's better than her at eating and sleeping, but she is better than him at everything else.
"Nonsense," said Harpo. "She's useless. She's just a girl. Girls can't do anything." Harpo is not an admirer of Bess and beats her up every time she shows off by doing something he can't do. That's why he's always covered in scabs she's better at fighting than he is, though he refuses to admit it.
I gave Bess a paint brush. "Here you are," I said. "You can do the fourth coat. That will probably be the last one that we need." I left her to it and trotted off to the kitchen for a cup of coffee.
When Robin came home that evening she went to admire the state of the back bedroom, just as she had done every day since I started work on it.
"Wow!" she said. "That looks fantastic. There's no trace of the Fungi from Yuggoth any more. Why is Bess yellow; she was a tabby this morning?"
"She spilled some of the paint," I explained. "She put a bit too much on the brush to begin with. It took her a while to get the hang of it, but once she figured it out, she did an absolutely wonderful job."
"Are you telling me that Bess did this?" asked Robin.
"Yes," I said proudly. "She's inherited a lot of skills from her daddy. I must have really strong genes."
"Inherited?" Robin began to laugh. "She's a cat. She's got a leg at each corner, she's covered in fur and she has a tail. How can you possibly be her father? Sometimes I think you live in a dream world."
"You're forgetting something," I said. "You married me because you think I'm absolutely wonderful and magnificent. You've only ever seen me when I'm wearing my super hero costume. You don't know what I look like without it."
"Yes dear," said Robin and she patted me on the head. I purred, and when she wasn't looking I tickled her with my tail.