Using Up The Paint

Canadians of a ” Certain Age ” will remember painting the back porch. It was in the days before plastic or aluminium siding with built-in colour and finish. The back porch was made of wood and eventually the seasons took their toll of the surface. You put it off as long as you could, but – like resurfacing the frost-heaved driveway – eventually you had to give in and waste a summer week.

It was a week, too – because you had to scrape the old finish off to some extent before covering it with the new. Like painting a ship – rust knocking first. After you finished and the yard looked like three varieties of hell, it came time to get the paint.

No Canadian worth their salt ever went to the hardware store and bought new paint. It just wasn’t done, eh?

You went into the garage and got all the old tins of paint that had been used to do other jobs around the place and tipped them into the biggest can. This was mixed with a big stick or a screwdriver chucked into an electric drill and the result thinned with something that may well have been turpentine originally. Then out with the brushes ( two sizes; too big and too small…) and up on apple crate scaffolding to start the painting.

Three days and two falls later it was done. And one could put the remains of the porch paint back into the big can in the garage. And this is where the Canadian Miracle occurred. We never knew how and no scientist could ever explain it, but when the Canadian porch was painted:

a. No-one ever remembered buying paint…ever. Where the half-full tins came from was a mystery. Paint faeries were mooted but we were too old for that sort of thing.

b. It was either salmon pink or medium grey. That is the only two colours you can make when you mix leftovers – no matter what you started with.

c. There was more paint after you finished than when you started.

d. The brushes were always carefully saved for the next time. Not cleaned, mind – just saved. Rigid, misshapen, disgusting, but saved. We were frugal, eh?

Doesn’t Matter If It Is A Front Porsche Or A Back Porsche…

It’ll still be grey…

That’s an old Canadian joke, and I’m qualified to tell it. In North America there are three colours for the front or back porch of a private dwelling; unpainted  ( and weathering badly…), grey, or salmon pink.

The unpainted ones are seen in the hillbilly states where money is tight and in the New England states where there is more money but the people are tight. They are also traditional in the maritime provinces and out in the bush in B.C. Doukhobors take it further and never paint anything else on the house – it means they blend into the landscape better when the Mounties come searching.

The grey ones painted with a special mixture that consists of any paint in the garage that has not entirely dried out and is contained in a tin that can be prised open. All the blacks, whites, greys, and lesser colours are poured into a tub and mixed up – this gets slathered over the porch. Sometimes it is glossy and sometimes it is matte, and if you don’t get it all done in one day you risk getting both finishes at the same time. No-one ever cleans and saves their brushes after a porch job – it is generally considered hygienic enough to throw them in the nearest bushes.

The salmon pink is also a mixture made from all the brightly coloured tins that have been left over after painting bathtubs, soap box racers, and Finnish houses. It is distinctive and memorable, and no-one ever really thinks it is going to turn out that shade. Not even the salmon. Note that one car maker actually made a car – a small Hyundai sedan – in this exact shade, and they made them deliberately…at least I think it was deliberate. I can say I have seen them about 10 years ago here in Perth. Short-lived, unfortunately.

These vehicles are enthusiast’s cars seen in Sydney and Perth at car shows – though there are certainly a number of Porsche vehicles on the road at any one time – including a somewhat unexplained SUV with curves named after a variety of pepper. My contact with the marque has been very fleeting – an associate of my late father owned a bathtub Porsche in 1966 and there were some occasions when it was repaired enough to go on the main roads. I believe it had prestige value at the time, though the real value may have lain in the pile of receipts from the mechanics. I remember he had the rubber shock mounts between the body and chassis replaced at one stage of the game and the cost equalled the price of my new Renault sedan.

Have I ever wanted to own or drive one? Not really. I do covet the Audi TT and I would love an early 1960’s Volkswagen Beetle in perfect condition, but the sporty Porsche has never rung my bells. I remember James Dean.