GRAHAM CARTER: It was the end of an era

Graham Carter - the voice of age and experience

Graham Carter - the voice of age and experience

First published in Adver Columnists

It drives me up the wall when I think about wallpaper. At precisely 8.35pm last Tuesday, I removed the steamer from the wall of our front room and aimed my scraper at the chimney breast. Half a second later, the last little scrap of wallpaper in our house came away and fell on the floor.

It was the end of an era.

Within a couple of days, fresh new plaster had been applied, ready to be coated in paint. Magnolia, probably.

The end was swift, eventually, but it was a long time coming, because that wallpaper had been up there for no less than 21 years. It came down because it got old, not because I tired of it.

In fact, I argued for it to be replaced with new wallpaper, only to be dismissed by my wife and children as hopelessly sentimental or simply old-fashioned.

I took this as a compliment, but could not win the argument. It was finally lost when we rolled up at the DIY shops to check out the price of wallpaper and realised that, since we last bought some, it has become a luxury item.

All those years ago we could have papered the whole house for the price of one roll today.

I blame the trendy people who have created the fad for papering just one wall, and then painting the other three.

They only need a roll or two at a time, so the paper makers, in order to make it worth their while, have sent the price through the ceiling.

Don’t they realise that wallpaper is part of my life story?

Take out your old family albums and you’ll see what I mean. The walls in the background are as much a part of growing up as the events being photographed, and the patterns date them better than the hairstyles.

Even better was when you peeled off recent wallpaper to find older patterns below – bringing back a flood of memories.

And if you stripped it off down to the bare wall, you often found an intriguing message underneath, again connecting you with the past – and not necessarily your own – such as the ‘Decorated 1976’ that was scribbled on our wall, 14 years before we moved in.

No such time capsules will be able to planted for ours or anybody else’s future now as the new regime of painting and then overpainting the walls has now been set.

If you’ve seen one plain wall, you’ve seen them all.

I did make one last-ditch appeal against the decision to abolish wallpaper by pointing out that our house was built in the 1950s, and arguing that, in keeping with the style of the time, paper was a must.

Unfortunately, my wife saw it coming, countering that if we want to live in a museum, we should also tear out the central heating, replace the carpet with lino and swap the telly for a wireless.

The only concession to my incurable nostalgia was being allowed to keep a scrap of the old paper, which the family think will be kept in a drawer and brought out for viewing, every now and then. In fact, I am planning to put it in a frame and hang it on the new wall as a final reminder of days gone by.

I know I am just papering over cracks in the face of relentless so-called ‘progress’, and there is an insult to add to the injury too, because the word ‘wallpaper’ survives – as the name for the background of a computer screen.

But it’s game over for wallpaper as we knew it.

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