Jayne Dawson: Wiping out your past is easy – just grab a pot of paint

FRESH START: It's decorating - but it's also rewriting history.
FRESH START: It's decorating - but it's also rewriting history.
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Live in a house long enough and you will erase many past lives. Your children grow, styles change, your stuff gets old fashioned, or it just plain wears out.

All these things leave a mark. I could be fanciful and say they mark the very fabric of your home - but what I mean is they leave the evidence in dirt and daft decorating on your walls.

I’ve erased a past life this last week. It felt a bit like fly-swatting - cruel, but very necessary.

It was the wardrobe, the daughter’s teenage wardrobe.

Some twenty years ago, when the daughter was little, the brother-in-law knocked up the carcass of a wardrobe for her. It was a cheap thing though it maxed out the budget at the time, and put together so long ago that the brother-in-law doesn’t even live on this continent anymore.

But it did the job, did it so well that we never got around to painting all of it. What with jobs, kids, life; worries, debt and, always, the washing we were pretty much fully occupied.The doors got a coat of white but the plywood frame stayed naked, until now.

Now, fully two decades after it was begun, I have completed the task of the wardrobe. It is now white all over, every centimetre of it. Even the floor. It has been so long that I believe it qualifies as Putting My Affairs in order but still, I am proud.

Except for that past life, the one I have wiped out.

At the back of the wardrobe, once it was emptied of its many coats, jackets, winter boots, bags and the spare duvet, was the daughter’s early teenage life.

Scrawled all over the back wall were her young thoughts: lyrics from Britney Spears’ songs; slogans that were sassy as could be for a girl child in the early ‘90s; messages from other girl children who had joined her to write on the back of the wardrobe.

Also, underneath the teenage wall art - all in thick black felt tip by the way - I discovered an example of early-90s rag rolling (orange) and a matching orange wallpaper border. I took some photographs. Then I obliterated the lot with many coats of paint.

Those who know me will be surprised by my ruthlessness because I am all about the nostalgia. But not this time. This time I needed bright and white more than I needed my child’s teenage handwriting.

Besides, I have form. When my son left home for the first time - there were other times - I painted his bedroom pink the very next day and moved his poster of Uma Thurman in Reservoir Dogs into the loft. I confess that was by way of a punishment for leaving me.

But time moves on and the marks of past lives have to go. You will have done it yourself.

Those lines marking the heights of your growing offspring are the hardest to part with, but they can’t stay forever. We had those when I was growing up , though we also had the dates of when the guppy fish were born scrawled on the same wall and given equal importance - a legacy of my mother’s brief interest in tropical fish.

Those scuffs and scratches that tell the story of when you got that table stuck on the bend of the stairs, the burn mark that marks the day your candlelit winter evening went wrong, the dent in the ceiling from the day that can exploded and nearly took grandma’s eye out, they all have to be wiped out eventually.

Behind the radiators, painted as far as you could reach, you will find evidence of your changing tastes in many different colours; as the old kitchen cupboards are ripped out you will remember the you who saw that kitchen and then slapped in an offer on the house with less deliberation than you would give to buying a pair of shoes.

And as you strip the little bedroom of its babyish wallpaper, you will remember the day you stood there, all pregnant and full of excitement and fear, looking at a newly-assembled cot.

I don’t know if walls have ears, but they can definitely tell stories.


Oh this lust for vinyl music is doing my head in. At every turn I am confronted by that which I had and have lost.

I had a lovely little record collection - not huge because by the age of 22 I was spending my money on keeping the baby fed and clothed - but there were a few gems in there: Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, the Sex Pistols, that kind of thing.

But, wouldn’t you know, I lost it. Somewhere on the bumpy path through life things were put into storage during the difficult process of a house move, and then the record collection was mostly gone. Maybe by accident, maybe by someone’s design, the result was the same.

So now I gnash my teeth at the thought of treasures lost whenever the stories surface about the soaring sales of vinyl - millions a year are now sold.

Worse than that, old record players are now being snapped up. Record players! So many have slipped through my fingers. Well, three of them.

There was the portable Bush one that my dad brought home one day, a big grey box intended purely for him but eventually I managed to make it my own; there was the one I bought with my own money from Woolworths and played loud in my flat-sharing years; and there was the one in a handsome piece of furniture owned by my mother-in-law, which could have been mine. Instead, it went to the tip.

It’s agony. Can people please stop making these things desirable again?


Time to check down the sides of your sofa, inside the pockets of that jacket you haven’t worn for ages, in the back of that drawer where you keep keys and miscellaneous items.

You are searching for pound coins. You know, the ones that some people still think of as the new and unwelcome replacement for pound notes.

In a relatively short time, these coins will no longer be currency. You need to hunt them down and spend them quick because after October 15 they will be spendable no more.

This month of July marks the turning point, when there will be more of the new pound coins in circulation than the old style.

Luckily, these new coins are multi-sided and remind we who have been around for some time of the old-fashioned threepenny bit, which we used to spend on sweets on the way home from school.

So we like that, and are okay with this particular change.