Never being able to stick at any one project for its full duration, many of the random happenings of my imagination are disjointed, totally at odds with anything going on in my real world and entirely without a root source of reference.
There are few people with whom I would ever bother to share some of the more ridiculous ideas that form, unbidden by rational thought, inside my nonsensical head. My sister is one of them. She, too, is given to whims and fancies for which there is no ultimate purpose in her real life. For example, in an email today, she informed me that she'd spent part of Saturday night measuring her bathroom floor and pricing up fancy tiles.
Not so weird, really. I'm sure many people have had cause to use the expansive capability of the internet for such common-or-garden tasks. However, I'm willing to bet that not many people who live in a rented flat and have no intention of actually re-tiling their landlord's bathroom floor have gone to the odd extreme of spending several hours pondering the various merits of a jazzy Spanish geometric pattern versus something reminiscent of a Grecian temple.
My sister's assertion that she probably needs to, "...get out more..." reminded me of a similar, and somewhat over-imaginative in-depth DiY planning project of my own which I embarked upon in a (largely futile) effort to rid myself of the pervasive threat of a bout of depression some seven years ago.
I had recently split from the man I am now very happy to call my husband. Our early foray into a relationship did not go completely according to my prescribed plan of a) meet suitable man on dating website, b) marry him. He, being fresh out of a thirteen-year marriage and keen for some of the more robust forms of physical entertainment sans strings was probably not my best bet for instant and everlasting monogamy. Needless to say, our fledgling love affair hit the skids pretty darn rapidly and I was left doing a more than passable impersonation of the archetypal sobbing, broken-hearted maiden (my previous twenty-year career of dating and relationships notwithstanding).
I had to find a way of getting through the heartache which didn't involve alcohol, drugs, sleeping with someone even less emotionally available or, equally, sleeping with someone just as ready as I for a long-term relationship (because obviously I would only be using them and would subsequently break their heart in precisely the same way my own thudding organ was currently being internally wrenched) or turning to any form of spirituality or religion.
I should say, at this point, that I did briefly consider going into a church to pray for the revival of my romantic fortunes. In a twist of luck, however, there was a wedding rehearsal going on in my chosen place of worship, and I felt my whining declarations of unrequited love might put the mockers on the hopeful mood of the soon-to-be-betrothed couple. I'm not Catholic either, by the way. It's just that too many years of watching Madonna videos gave me the idea that they were the best bet for glamour when it comes to paying homage to a non-existent deity - all that incense and gold leaf is sure to turn a girl's head eventually.
So, I sat at home, smoked too many cigarettes (my final nasty habit and one which I've been able to ditch in favour of putting on three stone and moaning constantly about how much I miss smoking) and decided there was only one way to drag myself out of the mire: to plan some DiY.
Yes! Out with the old, in with the new, that was the ticket! During this time, I was living in the same rented flat in which my sister now resides, she having taking over the fine tradition of McHattie women re-settling in Berkshire for a quieter pace of life once the treadmill of corporate life becomes too much.
Nevertheless, the genial Landlord, the ever-affable Neil who looks like Terry Venables and is himself an absolute stranger to the notion of "if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing well", was agreeable to my sprucing up the place as long as it didn't cost him anything, nor compromise any of his own previous professionally-bodged efforts.
I could paint my bedroom! I thought, excitedly contemplating a vulval blush pink where I could return to the womb and swear off the responsibility of love forever. Or, perhaps the lounge would respond well to a couple of coats of mocha?
Nah, what REALLY got my sap rising was the idea of building a lodge in the garden. Of course! There was no way a feeble tin of paint was going to bring me out of my reverie. What I needed was a log cabin affair, complete with a pitched, tiled roof and a verandah where I could sit in a rocking chair, dressed in florals, crocheting a lampshade and finding ultimate solace from this cruel world that had so blighted my hopes in the ungraspable philosophy of “happy ever after”.
I got to work at once by creating a spreadsheet simply entitled "Garden Lodge" which was obviously only ever a working title, and the final edifice would have a suitably quaint name to go with its idyllic stature.
I scoured the internet for hours, gradually building an extensive list of suppliers for everything from the cabin itself to plumbing fittings (my retreat of rustic luxe would have its own bathroom and kitchenette, as well as a comfortable lounge area and a small study), furniture, bed linen, cushions, mirrors and lamps.
I found the perfect local contractor, with great references, who had built beautiful, cosy lodges in the gardens of everyone from Sarah Brightman to Kirstie Allsopp (my own personal heroine of chintz). His quote made all the blood run from my limbs, but I reasoned that there was no price too high for my own slice of heaven: the lodge encapsulated everything that represented a safe retreat from the harsh reality of my crushing single life.
I spent sleepless nights, hunched over my laptop, sourcing those most de rigueur of domestic ideals: plantation shutters. These innocuous window coverings have, in recent years, replaced the white plastic conservatory with the big pointy finial on top as the discerning homeowner's most lustful item. I had absolutely no idea that they are, pound for pound, more expensive than diamonds which have been crushed under the feet of every crowned head of Europe, digested by a white rhino, then picked out his subsequent doings by Bill Gates.
“Hmm,” I pondered, late one night, polishing my spectacles in the warm glow of my laptop screen. “Perhaps curtains haven’t quite had their day, after all”.
Within four weeks, I had the full costings in place. The princely sum of (and I have to spell it out in letters rather than numbers because looking at that huge number still makes my head spin) forty-three thousand, five hundred and twelve pounds and sixty pence was the final price of my eternal and fully substantiated happiness.
Thus, I would be the proud owner of an elegantly furnished Caribbean-themed lodge, complete with one of those four-poster fruitwood beds swathed in a snow-white mosquito net and layered with six-hundred thread count Egyptian cotton heaven.
I would drink my morning coffee from antique Limoges china, and take my evening claret from William Yeoward crystal. Surrounding myself with all that luxury would cosset me from the reality of being without a mate with whom to share all the real riches of life: shared hopes, worries and dreams and the ability to nudge the braver half of the partnership awake on a stormy night to check that the back door really was locked and there were no werewolves hiding in the broom cupboard.
Released from the studious machinations of mentally developing a glorified garden shed that would turn Marie Antoinette green with envy, I rested: depleted by the sheer exhaustion of the administrative exercise and reeling from the shocking revelation of exactly how much real American walnut flooring costs.
If, I reasoned, it’s this tiring just doing the sums, imagine how stressful the process of actually getting the thing built is going to be!
But that was not the only folly of my exertions. In seeking to create my ideal retreat, I had neglected to address one tiny consideration. My flat didn’t even have a garden.
My imagination had well and truly run away with me this time.