Tony Curtis painted our house in Castelo Branco one beautiful, hot day last month. O.K. a Tony Curtis looky likey called Manuel. To the British of a certain age, and my children who we have made sit through all episodes, willingly I hasten to add, the name Manuel conjures up visions of Fawlty Towers and an incompetent waiter. It was therefore with a certain unjustified doubt that when our neighbour, a very helpful Portuguese and English speaking lady from Mozambique, suggested that a guy called Manuel paint our house, I agreed. The prejudices of a TV programme have been indoctrinated into our culture, as have the images of Tony Curtis in his prime. What we got was a Tony Curtis look alike aka 1963, wielding a paint brush. It was good enough for me. The quality of his work remained to be seen.
We had opted to paint the house a hot, deep, yellow, which we had admired on several other houses. I had bought 15 litres of white paint at 15 euros from Max Mat, the big DIY store in Castelo Branco, and 6 tubes of concentrated colour. It was an unprofessional guess. We could have asked the store to mix it for us but were advised against it by a guy from the next village, on the basis that from his experience it would cost a lot more. He also pointed out that if we didn’t have enough colour we wouldn’t know the amounts to get the exact same shade again. So we followed this advice. Maybe we should have checked the colour of his house first though.
Manuel washed the building wielding a high pressure water gun. Water seeped in through the old, leaky windows. No, not seep, it gushed in, actually. The house was white washed at amazing speed. Meanwhile, Mr Indoors and I squirted six tubes of concentrated yellow paint of various shades, at 6 euros a tube, into the pot of white and stirred. A pale, yellowy cream emerged. I raced off to the DIY store twenty minutes drive away to buy more. We were well away from a hot, deep, yellow.
When I returned with another six tubes Manuel was chipping away at the render underneath the balcony. Mr Indoors and Manuel looked at me with worried expressions. Antique, white render and dust were all over the place.
“Manuel couldn’t paint over it so we thought we would expose some of the stonework”, said Mr Indoors. I blinked. Pale brown stone was emerging. It was exactly what we had discussed. It was fabulous. It was genuine. It was old. No false, stone cladding for us, we had the real thing. Hurrah!
We mixed the rest of the paint up. I had bought some brown to darken it, a red and a bright orange too. We chucked them all into the mix with the yellows. An insipid, custardy yellow emerged. Manuel meanwhile, who had taken a very short lunch break, was almost ready to start with the yellow. I raced back to town and bought another half dozen tubes which we threw into the mix again, slowly realising that no matter how many tubes we put in we weren’t going to get that deep, hot, golden shade we had imagined. What we came up with however, was a sunny custard. Certainly heaps better than the shabby white with plants growing out of the paintwork that we had started off with when Manuel had turned up half an early to start work that morning at 7.30pm, while I was still curled up in bed and wondering what day it was.
The neighbours had gathered round at various points of the day to watch. Others walked up and down the street as word got around that there was ‘a painting’ happening in the village. We were now proud of our lovely house. Custard or rich gold, it was hot. And as the Tony Curtis’ most popular film goes ‘Some Like It Hot’.