Home Improvements in Scotland, Part 1

Hello, friends & family –

Well, we’re finally in the throes of major home improvements, Scottish style: A true lesson in life throughout the ages. The bathroom has been gutted, and John the Plumber is now cutting and laying new tiles, drinking vast amounts of coffee (where does he pee? The toilet is gone…), and affectionately calling me either “Pal” or “Hen,” two Scottish terms of endearment used frequently by plumbers who realize they are making a mess of your home while at the same time refurbishing it.

Yesterday was really interesting. After the wee bathroom had been totally gutted, I went to inspect, and it was as if I were stepping into another century. In fact, I was. Ancient brick walls were exposed, floorboards peeled back to reveal two toy soldiers circa 1850 – an amazing find, akin to an archaeological dig. Once the shower had been pulled out, layer upon layer of 19th century paint was revealed, still vibrant in color: yellows, greens, bright reds. I get very excited about these things! I’m very excited at the prospect of the spanking clean new tiled bathroom, but in the interim I keep lurching out of the bedroom or living-room to ask John the Plumber various questions regarding, in general, the history of Scottish plumbing.

He is most obliging, gauging the age of certain pipes and structures for me, taking the odd break, saying, “Eh, Hen, tha’ makes grea’ coffee, an’ yeer a bonnie wee thing fer makin’ it an’ all, Pal, so ya are. I’ll jest tak a wee break thanoo an’ eat me sangwiches, awright, Hen?” Flippin’ hilarious guy! What a hoot this is! The house is a bloody wreck, but who cares when you’ve got a character like John the Plumber to entertain you throughout the day?

Rick calls periodically for progress reports, like an expectant father. I’ve got the Rolling Stones blaring throughout the entire apartment house, but everyone is at work and it doesn’t matter, John the Plumber and I drinking coffee, inspecting pipes, oohing and aahing over the transformation taking place, whoops, that tile isn’t very straight, is it? “Nae bother atall, Hen, you’ve got a squint floor, ya’ see, an’ these buildings were here before God hisself, an’ ya’ hav tae mak allowances for the odd shift of the ages, by Christ, so ya’ hav, but nae tae worry, I’ve lots ae stickum, and ya’ see how I pile it here an’ there, makin’ the hills an’ valleys all even an’ sharp tae th’ eye? Ken wha’ I mean, Hen? Aye, nae bother atall, och aye.” So that’s half a day at 5 Orwell Terrace for you! I’m away to the market for more milk for the coffee, and before you know it I’ll be speakin’ like John the Plumber hisself, och aye, so I will. Gotta run to the church across the road and pee!

Love to all,


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