In Which Our Hero, While Holding Plasterboard against the Ceiling, begins to feel unwell

The main trouble with me is that when presented with something I've never done before, I don't really tend to assume that I will be unable to do it. People often mistake this for self confidence. It is not self confidence. I have the self confidence of a very depressed rock. It is just that when there is a task to be done, the part of your brain that would normally kick in to say "In order to do this successfully you are going to need to be strong/agile/wearing a radiation suit" with me remains silent.

So it was that when I needed to plasterboard the ceiling as a fire-stop before cladding it, I assumed I wouldn't have any problems. Granted I'm only 5ft 7ish and granted, I don't have a great deal of upper body strength but I figured it would be like shifting furniture; with an adequate grip it would all work out okay. Once I had managed to lift the plasterboard over my head, I would be able to brace my body against the step ladder and take the weight in my legs. Which was fine for the first two sheets.

Plasterboard is heavy. Really heavy. We manhandled the third sheet up to the ceiling and once it was in position, I took the weight while He Who Knows Everything went to pick the drill up from the floor where he had managed to kick it.

He looked at the drill thoughtfully. "You know, this battery is knackered. I think I'll nail it in place with plasterboard nails then put the screws in when this has had a chance to charge. They're in the other room," He said, "I think." And wanders off.

By now my arms are beginning to hurt. It's only been about 15 seconds. It doesn't sound like a long time but when you are standing on a stepladder with your arms above your head it seems longer. I try concentrating on the radio to take my mind off the pain but it is the news which is full of war, death, murder and French boats failing to sink so instead I concentrate on playing How Bad Is My Pain.

If 10 is the Worst Pain Ever (an occasion when I was left hyperventilating and dry retching by forces beyond my control) and a really bad migraine about an 8, this was only clocking in at about a 4 or 5. Not much then. About the same as whacking your head on an open cupboard door. Plus, as a girl, I am designed to cope with pain.

All the same, I'm beginning to wish he would hurry up.

It is about the time he returns that I notice my hands are feeling cold and there is an odd trickling sensation in my arms. He climbs the other step ladder and hammers a nail into the beam. And misses.

By now the news bulletin has finished and somebody is going on about the Wexford Footballers. I don't understand Gaelic Football. I don't even know what the scores mean. It's why all the locals secretly hate me. Because I don't like GAA and I'm not Catholic.

He continues to hammer the nails in. I have become very aware of breathing out. Pins and needles dance in my vision and I experimentally loosen my hold to see if the nails will take the weight. They won't.

"Hang on, I'll try again." He says.

"Can you just put a couple of screws in?" I ask. He is oblivious to my discomfort.

"These will work fine. Let me put more than a dozen in this time before you let go" He gets off the ladder to get some more nails.

"Could you come and take the weight of this a moment?" I ask weakly. A song has come onto the radio. It is Paddy Casey. This makes me deeply unhappy.

He Who Knows Everything looks at me. "I'll get the piece of wood." He offers. He means the piece of wood with the brace along the top designed to jam in place and hold the plasterboard up. The one that is a stupid idea in practise because as you jam it in place, the plasterboard shifts out of position. Plus it broke earlier when we tried using on the first piece.

While he repairs it I take stock of my situation. I freely admit that when it comes to certain things I am a big wussy girl and as a big wussy girl, have a tendency to faint in the presence of medical procedures (or the Derren Brown Live Stage Show from the Old Vic). I recognise the symptoms of imminent unconsciousness.

At my present angle, I am most likely to fall straight back onto the stair banister, no doubt cracking my spine in the process. I previously have managed to break my spine three places so I'm quite sure I don't want to repeat the experience. If I take careful aim I can probably get away with a dislocated elbow/broken arm combination on the concrete floor but there is no telling where the plasterboard I'm holding will land other than on top of me and the uncertainty is worrying.

He Who Knows Everything has got the piece of wood. He kicks it into place. He misses. He tries again.

"Can I let go of this yet?" I ask, my natural Britishness unwilling to add the melodramatic "I rather think I'm about to faint." Instead I settle for "Can you take the weight a moment? I just need to shift my grip."

He obliges and I lower my arms and take a couple of deep breaths. The relief is instant. Until I raise my arms again.

He begins to try the nails while I grit my teeth and close my eyes to avoid seeing the wonderful headache-grey clouds which are floating across my vision. My arm muscles are shaking. Paddy Casey is ending and I am very, very grateful. He is replaced by Scouting For Girls. I cannot bring myself to mention my pending condition.

It is only when I breathe out and don't breathe in again that I decide it would be very sensible to get off the ladder and put my head between my knees. It is a very odd sensation that seems to last years.

I stand with my arms stretched above me, muscles burning, eyes closed and head drooping. I breathe out. It is a long breath as though my lungs are emptying themselves entirely. With no air left, it is as though I float. There is no desire to refill them. The job my body has managed successfully of its own volition for the last 27 years is no longer happening and I must make the conscious decision to breathe in again.

Vaguely I tell He Who Knows Everything that I must sit down for a second and he takes the weight from me. I grip the step ladder but the sensation of touch is dulled. I can barely see. Moving things out of my way, they have no weight or form discernable to me although my hearing is still working perfectly. I carefully sit on the stairs and put my head down.

He Who Knows everything puts a couple of screws in. "Since you're stopped you can make a cup of tea" He says cheerfully.

So I do, all the while ruminating on the fact that this never would have happened if I had stayed in and watched Top Gear repeats on Dave. But then, I wouldn't have had much to write about, would I?

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