Monday, March 3, 2008 

Home Improvement - Switches and Hitches

Building renovation and home improvement has certainly undergone a makeover since the days when granny sloshed a pot of whitewash over the cottage walls in the spring. Thirty years ago, a man was forgiven for being completely unable to change a light bulb or hang a picture. Nowadays, a man who cannot rebuild his house single handed is considered a bit of a wimp and not much of a catch.

I remember being the victim of a colorful landladys attempt at profit optimization in Hong Kong in the late seventies. She had decided to convert one apartment into two tiny units, thinking she would coin in double the rent just for building a few partition walls. The problem was; that was all she did.

The Irish policeman who had taken the unit next door discovered he had a bathroom but no space in which to turn around from the space where his toilet was sited. He therefore had to reverse into his toilet and vacate the room without turning. He was an extremely large person with no sense of humor and the result was volatile language at all hours of the day and night.

I, on the other hand, had the best of the deal, or so I thought, as my bathroom was very much larger with plenty of space to move around the bath, the wash basin and the toilet. By six oclock on my first day in the apartment I had changed my mind about my advantage over my friend next door, however, when I discovered that the light switches for both apartments were on the wall in his sitting room. Outraged, I rang the landlady to complain.

Dont be a sirry girl, she said (her Cantonese accent was very broad.) You have to put hand froo da hole.

Sure enough, there was a hole in the wall in the master bedroom, beautifully edged with decorative beading, through which it was possible to fit one hand and reach the light switch in the Irish policemans sitting room. Needless to say, we insisted the arrangement was changed as a matter of some urgency.

Jan Gamm writes reflections on life with an emphasis on world travel. She has lived in many countries and traveled extensively in the Far East, the Middle East, America, South America and throughout the South Pacific. She writes for fun and for money whenever she can manage it.

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