Monday, 17 October 2011

Accidents will happen......

Something terrible's happened. Really, really awful.

My friend died of cancer in April. She is the closest friend I have lost. So far. I think about it a lot. It's a shock. I am shocked that she's not here. She was married to a French guy. I've known him for 20 years but I don't really know him. They have 2 daughters, 13 and 14. So it's been a tough time. For everyone. For those of us who were her single friends and don't have kids the same age as hers, we are having to find our new place in our dead friend's family's life; for those with a husband who can still chat to him over the BBQ or kids who can hang out with the girls, it's easier, they still do Sunday lunches, Saturday suppers, long weekends and weeks by the sea. But for those of us who mainly hung out with her, we're auditioning for a new position.

So, when I rang to see how the girls were getting on back at school, I was delighted when the eldest asked if I would help her dye a pair of grey shoes, black. This was my new place, I thought. I dye shoes, bags, clothes. I change things, make things, this is what I did with my dead friend when we were teenagers. This is what I would do with her kids now they were teenagers. We fixed an evening, the first time I'd been there without any other friends since the death. Just like when I used to go for supper when my friend was alive. It felt weired. I felt emotional. But it felt good to go. I had found a place in their life. The girls were on their own when I arrived, there is an hour or so between the help leaving and their Dad getting home. We chatted about the summer, their holiday, they were on good form. They are quite remarkable kids.

Their Dad came home, he is obviously very stressed. My friend and he ran their own interior design business: very high end, very high spec. She ran their business, ran their home and raised their kids, he never even saw a phone bill before. Their home was completely renovated and redecorated before my friend died. Working in interior design, they'd never got it sorted. It was something she wanted to do before she was done. We got the shoes. He said don't do it in here, do it outside. We said it'll be fine, it's dark outside, we'll do it here. Don't worry. I dyed the shoes, the girls went to lay the table for supper, I knocked over the black dye on the super-super-bespoke, high-end, ordinary-people-can't-buy-this-floor floor. I ran to get a cloth, my friend's daughter grabbed a pan scourer. She rubbed off the surface of the super-super-bespoke, high-end, ordinary-people-can't-buy-this-floor floor. The French guy went mental. He was screaming at her. I was screaming at him. We were all nearly in tears. I wanted to run out the door and never come back but I couldn't. I'd come to help, to make things better and now it was so much worse. I told him I would contact the floor people and do what ever it took to fix it. Everyone calmed down. And then we had to eat supper. I felt sick.

That was three weeks ago. The floor is of course created by Pygmy-elves in a forest somewhere undiscovered by the modern world and carried through the night only on full-moon before being laid in one deft movement and then all the elves commit ceremonial suicide so this process can never, ever be recreated again. But, for an incredibly high price and Aussie bloke will come round and try to fix it. He sanded it. He applied the stain and it proved a perfect match. Finally I began to breath again. The next day I returned to oversee the finishing oil. The boards did look a little darker but the family was in Paris for the weekend so plenty of time for it to dry. Today I got a call, apparently it's too dark and the offending patch, which was the size of my fist, undetectable unless pointed out and easily concealable beneath the table where it was, now covers half a dozen boards, spread right across the room, because even the tiniest speck had meant a whole board was sanded down. He says it looks terrible. He wants them to come back, they might have to lay new boards. Now I never want to go back again.

Top tip: go see Midnight In Paris....... Woody nails nostalgia and makes us laugh out loud!!


  1. Oh dear sounds terribly sad - but sometimes you have to put things into perspective. What's a splash of shoe dye between friends? (I did something similar many years ago when visiting a friend in London - only it was a cream carpet!) Be strong - you have to go back.

    Looking forward to Midnight in Paris.

  2. You know, the older I get, the more I know about how short life is, the less I give a shit about things like dye on the floor. All part of life. For god's sake.
    I'm sorry. I know you feel terrible.

  3. Awful position for you to be in - and obviously all the anguish he's feeling is coming out here - but has he not got accidental damage cover on the insurance? And yes, perspective - after a huge loss in the family, what the hell does a floor matter?

  4. Oh no your poor love I hope you will still go see those girls tho.and am sure you will.He must be so mega stressed too xx

  5. how terrible for you losing your friend that must have been so for the floor its a piece of wood !!! ....what can I say !!stick a rug over it ??....x

  6. oh God - what a clusterfuck! It's part of the grieving, maybe - just going mental over something external because it's easier to articulate and to be openly angry about, rather than his wife's death.

    Deeply unfortunate that it is his wife's friend who is also grieving that it is being taken out on. Sending you massive hugs and hoping that it will blow over. Does the guy not have insurance that he can claim on?!

    Ali x

  7. This post gave me a knot in my tummy and made me feel like retching over the sheer awfulness of the whole situation. How terrible for you and for the girls.

  8. Perspective is a difficult thing to master at the best of times, all the more tricky under your cicumstances. However hard it is, I too think you will have to persevere for the sake of your friend's girls... and her husband needs your understanding and support too!

  9. I felt a knot in my tummy too, reading this. I'm so sorry.

  10. Oh so sad. The poor man is probably insane with grief. I'm not excusing his outrageously rude and ridiculous behaviour. I'm glad those girls have you to call. You're a good friend. And I'm so sorry for your loss. Big hugs from me.

    Sarah xxx

  11. OH NO !! Why do these things have to happen just when we don't need them to ? It really doesn't matter in the scheme of things. If only he could just embrace your friendship and forget about the silly old flooring but, under the circumstances, he is very fragile and anything that happens to upset the applecart will be magnified a thousand-fold. He is, of course, to be excused but, you mustn't let it worry you. It was an accident....accidents happen. It's just unfortunate that it happened in such dire circumstances.
    Most importantly, I am so sorry to hear of the passing of your close friend. I cannot comprehend what it feels like to lose someone of a similar age. All I can say is that you must have some wonderful memories of her and that you can be happy that she came into your life and that you can help her children and husband. Much love and am thinking of you. XXXX

  12. I agree, it's probably the grief that's made him lose perspective, it's such a fragile time for everyone. And so difficult. My condolences. Hang in there.

  13. I know it's grief making him act like that but it doesn't help anyone, does it? I know that feeling, it's like treading on eggshells and oh, so frought. Never mind, you did the right thing by the girls. Big hugs. x

  14. Oh crikey - next time, invite them round to yours - or buy them a pair of Jimmy Choo's - it'll be cheaper! Can't wait to see Midnight in Paris xxxx

  15. I felt sick when I read this. Hope the poor guy realises what he's doing.

    Want to give you a hug (however inapropriate that may be)and say that dyeing is temporary; dieing is forever.

  16. Maybe he'll come to in a little while and apologise for making such an inordinate fuss over a few planks, or even better, maybe talk about what he's going through rather than diverting it onto something else. Easy for me to say though.

    I bet those girls would love to see you again though.

  17. It must be so hard, when everyone is hurting, but I bet those girls really love and appreciate having you around. Imagine what their mom would want, what a wonderful presence you must be for them. I know how much I love the far too non frequent hugs of my dad's dear friends. Best of luck!

  18. Popped over from Diane's & so glad I did. I love that you went to help your friend's daughter dye her shoes...after all she needed someone to help as her mum isn't there now and you are and you knew her mum.
    What a bugger about the floor !!!
    At my daughter's sixteenth nearly three years ago, a friend came to help me with all the teenagers as my husband was away. I lit a sparkler on her cake & watched it slowly tumble down & land on my brand new kitchen table & burn it. We stood there gobsmacked.

    Then my friend said, " That's the first of many happy memory scars around this table "

    Hope your friend's husband can cope wth the stain & put it down to someone trying desperatly to help !

  19. This is my first time here.

    My mom died 3 weeks ago from cancer and I can understand going off the deep end over silly things like a spot on the floor. I absolutely went ape-shit crazy when I had to pick out the clothes my mom was to be cremated in.

    You know it isn't about the floor right? It is about a man losing his love and never wanting a thing to be moved that she touched. I even thought about keeping a Kleenex I found in my mom's pocket.

    Please go back and see the girls. Even if you have to take them out. They *need* you. You can't make things better but you can be with them as they dye shoes, make mistakes and grieve. Their dad is hurting. Everyone is and it will take a long time for everyone to find their new place in the family.

  20. Jesus Christ what a nightmare. I so feel for you but yes he must have insurance. As for the girls, it would be wonderful for you to keep in touch and as a Mum to 3 girls (and 1 boy) I would love to think that one of my friends would still be in their life, looking out for them, if I wasn't here. There is a film coming out or just out staring Leighton Meester from Gossip Girl, I think its called Monte Carlo, my youngest mentioned it (for fashion purposes only of course), perhaps you could take them for lunch one saturday or sunday a month and take them to the cinema or something.
    I lost an old school friend almost 4 yrs ago, we had been friends since we were 13. She had her first child at 16, he was the first baby I held and is now 30 something, I don't see him or his younger brother and often wonder how they are doing. When they carried her coffin, I swear my heart broke in two.

  21. I'm your newest Welsh follower, maybe your only Welsh follower. This might not be even one of those things you can laugh together about in 20 years. I feel for you but I am sure, if your friend had a sense of humour, she would be up there having a good old chuckle. Hopefully you can see the funny side one day :-)