A MONTH after they started, our painters have finally finished the job. It’s not that we live in a sprawling pile like Versailles, but that August has been the wettest people around here can remember for years. What ought to have been a one-week task has stretched over four, the reason being that if the whitewash hasn’t dried before the rain begins, it runs off like greasepaint under the lights.

Throughout last month, days would pass when we would wake to a brightish morning with only a few threatening clouds, and cheerfully imagine this augured well for work to continue. Meanwhile, several miles away, the painters opened their curtains, foresaw potential disaster, and wisely bided their time. By lunchtime, when the floodgates opened, we acknowledged their superior powers of prediction.

Since they hail from Selkirk, they were always a forecasting step ahead of us. I used to wonder why Hooleteers were so accurate in predicting rain or sun, when my weather app was frequently off the mark. I discovered that the trick is to look towards Selkirk. If the sky thereabouts is fair, it is safe to hang out the washing. If it glowers, the elements will soon close in on us as well.

As we’ve come to realise, there is ordinary weather, as understood by you and me, and then there is painters’ weather. A couple of decent hours in which to walk the dog or mow the lawn is no good to them. Until the walls had been slathered in two coats, they were constantly looking hours ahead, factoring in setting time before the next downpour. They winced when recalling a job where they had been caught out by an unexpected cloudburst, and watched as the morning’s work slid off the walls like ice cream melting down a cone.

Since Hoolet is a conservation village, many of its older harled houses are painted white. If anyone had the temerity to venture into candy stripes, as a house-owner famously did in Kensington to infuriate her neighbours, they’d have the council on their doorstep before the paint dried, or the rains came, whichever was sooner. That was the fate of Marco Pierre White when his restaurant, The Angel in Lavenham, was deemed by the authorities to be the wrong shade of Suffolk Pink, and he had to get the whole place redone.

Such is the strictness of planning rules that we had to get permission not only for the type of front door we installed, but also the colour. It sounds a hassle, but the well-kept look of Hoolet was one of the things that attracted us to it. You might think that being the same shade would make a place less characterful but, for me, it enhances its charm and personality. The gathering of whitewashed houses around the green reminds me of a Hebridean clachan or a Highland estate village. I don’t know if Hoolet ever was a hotbed of Jacobites – given its proximity to the Stuart stronghold of Traquair it is entirely possible – but if the producers of Outlander ever need a new backdrop, it would fit the bill.

Our cottage was built in the wake of the 1745 rebellion. Its first inhabitant, said to be the elder son of the farmhouse across the green, might well as a boy have followed the news of Prince Charles Edward Stuart’s fortunes, and wondered where it would all end. At the very least he would surely have remembered the tales his parents told of those unsettling, passionate times.

Photos of the cottage a century ago show its walls were grey and dull, the limewash grubbied with age. Considering how many years it lasts whitewash is not ridiculously expensive, but when times were hard, and rural life not the stuff of glossy magazines, any extra expense would have been unwelcome. It would be interesting to know when whitewashing became widespread.

I used to love terracotta and rose-pink Mediterranean houses until I read that the colour was originally made by stirring in the blood of cattle. Elderberries, blackberries or sloes could also be added to paint to give a brighter reddish tint. That sounds much more appealing than having the equivalent of a beef gravy daubed on your house. Passing dogs would doubtless lick the lower walls clean.

They say modern masonry paint needs to be refreshed every 10 years, but I know of one nearby house that is on a five-year cycle, since that is when the paint’s guaranteed life runs out. According to neighbours, meanwhile, our own has not seen a brush in ages. Now it can hold up its head again, thanks to the decorators who, when the skies cleared, worked with the concentration and speed of a news reporter pounding the keyboard when the deadline has long since passed.

To help us choose a colour for the lintels and their surrounds, they gave us a trade chart containing a dizzying range of options. I spent a long hour picking out those that might work. By evening I was colour blind and warming to the idea of keeping everything white. That way, in winter the house would be invisible beneath the blizzards and snow.

That, however, was too easy. When the tester pots arrived, the painters obligingly coated several lintels so we could compare. One was pistachio green, so sugary my teeth almost ached. In the end, the palest of neutrals won. Reminiscent of a cafe latte, it is the nearest we’re going to get to Italy this year.

The difference this makes is transforming. With its fresh facade and enhanced lintels and window surrounds, the house has put on its face, as my mother used to say when she got out her foundation and mascara. Now all that remains is for the plants to rewind themselves up the drainpipes, and for the banished snails to return.

Shortly before painting began I picked about a dozen off the lower walls, where they had been hiding behind lavender bushes and roses, and carried them out into the field. A scientist has discovered that, like pigeons and salmon, snails have a homing instinct. She proved this by dotting nail polish on their shells before relocating them. One by one they made it back. Ours must be due any day now.