My dad can do anything. He created the house I’m sat in right now. He didn’t build it, but he gradually over three decades and shifting trends removed each wall, each ceiling and each floor, replaced them or moved them, sometimes by just inches. The mid-eighties ground floor had an uninterupted view from the front to the rear via archways and a worrying absence of load-bearing walls.
No wall or floor in the house is level, but that’s no surprise as it’s a late Victorian-period house without foundations and it moves regularly.
My dad worked with – in fact relished – these quirks. He was constantly changing and extending out of a passion for doing, or maybe just boredom. It wasn’t his profession but he could construct, demolish and plumb water, gas and electric.
My passion for electrics came from him. He made me a plug-board to play with at the age of 18 months to stop me toddling around the house plugging in appliances. The final straw was my mum waking up boiling hot because I’d plugged in the electric blanket while she slept.
Back to the quirks of this house. I have professionals in replacing the bathroom. In the process of correcting a far from straight wall, they are battening and boarding and shaving a few inches of precious space away, but I understand. The previous incarnation of the bathroom was fascinating in the tiles arrangement due to my dad working with what he had. Hind leg of a dog more than plumb line.
The work under way will take two weeks, and rightly so, it will be a professional and quality job. I joked with my dad as the team clocked off at the end of the first day of work, at 2:30pm I have a stream of memories of dad working on the house until midnight. Once he’d started, he couldn’t stop. I walked into the kitchen one Sunday evening at the age of twelve to see dad in the bathroom above, balancing carefully on the joists because the floor-boards had been removed. “Just replacing the floor, won’t be long, you’ll still have your Sunday bath.”
As we joked about the 2:30pm finish, dad got his serious face on and said to me: “Make sure they use marine ply in that bathroom. It must be marine to withstand moisture. That’s what I used.” Through the early stage of dementia comes recollection, good sense, experience and care. Lots of care.