I learned a new word yesterday. It was strange to have learned it when I did, because for the past week or so, off and on, I’ve been repainting the window frames of our house; the old, old sashes. Spent most of last weekend on it. When I get around to decorating jobs like this, especially on a weekend, I reconnect with sport – specifically the football and the Premiership – because of the day’s long companionship with the radio. And this way the repainted or assembled thing is eternally paired in my mind with a match or a scoreline or an item of breaking news. Powerful weldings.
At a previous house a skirting board became a constant round-the-room re-telling of the Queen Mother’s death, and is additionally now, however left-behind, a tracking also of the tragic loss of Gary Speed, because when the Queen Mother’s death was announced, Gary had just begun his ‘alongside me in the commentary box’ debut on a match on Radio Five Live; and I remember willing him on whilst reloading a brush; though by then long-gone from Leeds, he was one of that midfield, and our pin-up, and I wanted him always to do well. I don’t recall the game, just that Gary’s first job was cut short for the ready obituaries. The windows at the weekend, here, are not so sadly matched; in their reflection just the sacking of the Chelsea boss. But it’s not a competition.
Amazed how, midst decorating duties, how much of the old Five Live lot remain. That Alan Green is still at it, for one. I like Alan Green. I know he’s not everyone’s bag, but his steel-strung voice has been a backing track for long, or unusual, periods in my life. Saturdays in my past with the station on from eleven til two the next morning. Didn’t mean idle days. Little lost, maybe, but busily being so.
The word, evident from the title, was ‘muntins’. Nice, isn’t it? Means the pieces of wood between panes of glass in windows. The little interludes that hold the light in place.
As I typed the word ‘windows’, the sun, which is, as far as I know, making its afternoon way around our neighbours’ house, sprung at me, just, in a white shock reflected from a tilted-open Velux window two streets away, and now as I type I have a furry cursor of Tiffany blue-green on the white-screen page, obliterating this word. Then this.
I’ve just googled “Tiffany Bluegreen”, in those exact commas, and saddened to find there’s no drag act or fictional spy of that name.
What was odd – strange to have learned it when I did, I said – about the ‘muntins’ find, was that it was in the book I’m reading, and in the bit I read last night; the book, A Box of Matches, by Nicholson Baker. I am a big Nicholson Baker fan. Every spell of wintery weather I re-read A Box of Matches. It’s a good NB to start with, if you’re interested. Maybe don’t start with Vox, or The Fermata, or, seriously, House of Holes. I have House of Holes here in this room, and to check if its title had a ‘The’, I only had to tilt back and slide aside a tall, pump container (really) of Elemis Something, which was obscuring precisely that spine; like a mullion in a window of books. Satisfying to have things in leaning reach; it’s cockpit-esque. Don’t go for them as starters, is my advice. Actually, go nuts. But A Box of Matches will make you want to get up earlier next winter and make coffee in the dark. Maybe get a duck. (I defend my right to be besotted with its surface themes.) I’m late to the re-reading this year. Spring light.
Well, there was the word ‘muntins’, which I’d never before in re-reading taken in, but it appeared now with our own window pane negatives blinked upon the bedtime page. I underlined it with a paint-struck fingernail and, holding the book open, showed it to B. who was reading beside me.
“Isn’t that a great word?” I said. And I repeated it under my breath.
© Copyright, Steve Mitchell and Fisher Lane, 2012