Brush strokes – good enough – sometimes

Blue Mistress is slowly coming together.

Because we won’t be back in the water before Easter, I have had time to tackle the planned jobs and some unplanned ones as well – like painting the floors of the quarter berths.

I now know why I avoided this for so long. It meant forcing my 42 inch chest five feet down two 38 inch holes – cleaning, sanding and then one, two, three coats – shoulders hunched, arms outstretched, pushing an open paint-pot before me, having to work out how to use my right hand accurately and then how to worm my way backwards without touching the fresh paint.

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Bruised ribs – (and a surreal moment when I discovered I had leaned on the car key in my pocket and opened all four car windows – 25 feet away).

Now comes the problem of “The Finish”. My paintwork butts up against paintwork done by a professional – my brush strokes against no brush strokes. No matter that I took my time, struggling and squirming and decorating my gloves, my overalls and somehow my mask with white paint, my result just doesn’t match up.

Who was it who said that people don’t know how long it takes you to do something, they only know what the result looks like?

Steve Earley calls his paint-job a workboat finish which is a good description. But it looks to me as if his finish is a compliment to workboats, I’m not sure mine is. Whatever else, it’s living proof that I’m not as good as I think I am.

Get over it? Of course, I will. Both quarter berths will disappear under a load of gear, the entrance to the port side will be blocked by the new ship’s library – (more later).

I painted the galley too.


Maybe I should have used a small roller rather than a brush . . . ?


It was early evening, end of the week. We were a small group sitting in an ancient pub, enjoying a beer, when someone said “I really like this pub, it’s still growing”.  No makeover here. The decor was old, dark wood randomly hung with an eclectic mix of souvenirs added to over many decades by visiting sailors. The room was three-quarters full, the after-work crowd slowly being replaced by those out for an evening with friends. There was a warmth, a timeless conviviality about it. The people were all ages, some talking, some listening, some laughing, some serious, some just sitting – fellow human beings sharing a room, all harbouring that delicate balance between paragon and scoundrel. Imperfect beings, leading imperfect lives in an imperfect world. My companion was right, there wasn’t a finished object, animate or inanimate, in the building, but somehow it all worked. We were all still growing.

Paradoxically, the perfection of the pub was in its imperfection. If Duke Ellington was asked to play a piano  tuned at perfect pitch he would get his tuner to alter it to get the sound that he wanted. There is, by definition, nothing wrong with perfect pitch . . . but that’s the point, there is nothing wrong.

A book that caught my attention in the eighties – A Good Enough Parent by Bruno Bettelheim. It was the ‘good enough’ that grabbed me – a release from the pressure to be perfect. I would never be a perfect parent but I might be able to achieve ‘good enough’, (if only I could discover what that was), and perhaps work up from there.

Perfection is a worthy goal but we don’t need to reach it. The energy is in the aspiration. Some say that perfection leads to a higher level of being, but higher level or not, life carries on – the winds blow, the tides flow, and we have to deal with life daily. Seeking that last awkward step to perfection can become a distraction.

And when and if we reach perfection . . . ? Well, I’m sorry, that’s all there is, it’s perfect. But please feel free to sit and look at it.


Driving home from the boatyard, on the radio a man talking about herbal remedies, “some things work for some people sometimes”.

(Images by Bill Whateley)