Most of us have items of clothing that we only wear indoors. I have an Andrew Marr t-shirt which always cheers me up, but I wouldn't wear it in public. I'm always suspicious of people who sport attention-seeking 'comedy' t-shirts.
I also have old Waterstone's t-shirts that I use for doing the decorating. One of them is a very unflattering bright red XL top that says "Can I help you find the perfect present?". We had to wear them one Christmas - the idea was that they would make the staff easy to identify and seem more approachable.
I wasn't convinced. When I go into shops, I identify staff as the people standing behind the till or the ones who aren't wearing coats.
And since when did retail companies have the right to regard their staff as advertising space?
The t-shirts were very annoying. When I popped out to buy sandwiches at M&S, I'd forget I had the t-shirt on and wonder why strangers kept accosting me with questions about books.
Yesterday, I had to paint a flat and found an old t-shirt that said "Ask me about the Waterstone's card". After putting on the first coat of emulsion, I drove home and popped into the corner shop to buy some wine. Raj, the owner, looked at my chest and said "Just back from work then?"
Outside the shop, a neighbour looked me up and down and said "You're early today". I suddenly realised that, as far as my neighbours were concerned, I still work at Waterstone's. Perhaps I should talk to people more.
I had been decorating the flat for my mother. On Friday, she will leave the Teddington house that she has lived in for 48 years and move into a block of sheltered accommodation flats for the elderly, less than a mile from where I live. It will be a huge wrench, I know, but at 81 my mother is finding living alone in a three-bedroom house increasingly hard.
I've been trying to persuade her to sell the house for years. Aside from the fact that it has no central heating and needs a huge amount of work done, my mother's house is also too far from the shops or local doctor, so every outing requires a bus journey. Until recently this wasn't a problem, but a near-brush with death last October made my mother realise how vulnerable she is.
On Sunday I went to say goodbye to the house that I called home for more than half of my life.
It is part of a long road of Victorian, semi-detached redbrick houses, in a sleepy, dull London suburb that is now incredibly popular with house buyers. Teddington may not be very exciting, but the combination of the River Thames, a wealth of parks and some good transport links to central London have made it desirable for those people who find other parts of the metropolis a little too 'urban'.
In spite of the popularity of Teddington, I thought that my mother would struggle to sell the house, as in 1981 my parents decided to rip out the period sash windows and pebbledash the walls (I think I once pompously accused them of "architectural vandalism"). To my surprise, she found a buyer within 10 days. If ever anyone needed proof that selling houses was all about location, here was a prime example.
My mother has left her electric fire for the new owners, as she won't need it in her flat. I had to bite my tongue. I know that the new owners will completely gut the house, extend it and add period touches that were probably never there in the first place. They certainly won't want a naff electric fire.
Somehow I don't think they'll want this carpet either:
My parents bought it in 1963. The carpet is still in good condition after nearly half a century. Apparently the firm that made it went into receivership, as their products were too well made and retailers didn't want to sell carpets that never wore out. The top left-hand corner used to be covered by a rug.
During my final visit I decided to take photos of mundane objects, like the carpet, that hadn't changed since I was a child. The items included a barometer that never worked, some candlelabra light fittings, two 1970s lampshades and this clock, which chimes every quarter of an hour:
When I was sent away to a sanitorium as a child, I was only allowed to see my parents once a month, so telephone calls were very important. I remember the almost unbearable feeling of homesickness that swept over me when I heard this clock chime in the background.
(Later, I became less fond of the clock. When I brought girlfriends home after the pubs had closed, I realised what a passion killer the Westminster chimes were).
After taking the photos, we had our last lunch in the house: fillet steak with new potatoes and peas. As a special concession to my middle-class sensibilities, my mother didn't call it dinner and only boiled the peas for three minutes instead of the usual ten. Otherwise, everything was the same as it had always been: the table, the chairs and the cutlery, which had been bought with petrol-station coupons some time in the 1970s.
In two days time it would all be gone.
There was one thing left to do. My mother picked up her stick and put her other arm in mine. Together, we slowly walked to the local cemetery where my father is buried. "I don't think he's really here" my mother said, meaning "This might be the last time I visit my husband's grave".
We stood in front of the grave and I suppose it should have been a very emotional moment, but in the distance someone was holding an outdoor event and all we could hear was a man delivering a very bad performance of David Bowie's 'Rebel Rebel'.
I looked at the words on the gravestone: "He was a good man and did good things" - inspired by the final sentence of 'The Woodlanders'. I hope that Dad would have approved.
I have finished painting the flat, but tomorrow is going to be a day of flatpack hell, where I will have to work out whether Part A is the short screw or the slightly longer one, followed by the realisation that Part C is in fact Part E. I'm dreading it.
But hopefully, when my mother walks through the door on Friday afternoon and sees a warm, welcoming, comfortable home, she will feel relief rather than regret.