Friday, 26 April 2013

Bathroom blues

Home renovations aren't my thing, but a friend needed a hand . . . He's refitting a bathroom and I helped carry in the new bath, loo and washbasin, and dispose of the old. That done, I spent hours stripping paper from the bathroom walls. Those of you who've tackled this know it's no easy job. The best method, I was assured, is to make long slashes in the paper with a Stanley knife, first one way then the other, creating a diamond pattern of cuts. Next you spray water into the cracks. Using a scraper, you can then get the paper off in bits and strips. Of course, as any DIYer will tell you, it's never as straightforward as it sounds. There are stubborn patches which haven't read the script.

And if, as we found, the flooring under the bath is wet and needs replacing, then the job takes on a new dimension. More time and money before that dream bathroom becomes a reality.

Day two - today - I woke with tired arms from overworked muscles. But, as we worked, the mood was positive. My friend has done many such jobs and remains unfazed by problems. He has the know-how and the tools. He works at a steady pace, never rushing. He takes coffee and cigarette breaks. The transformation progressed: each floor sweeping, each wall screw, a step nearer the end. When I left he was connecting water pipes, his radio tuned to a golden oldies station.

He doesn't do it just for the money. He gets a buzz from a job well done. And he's in demand - word gets around.

Anyone dreaming of a new-look bathroom? Area: west London and out to the airport. Leave a comment. I'll get back to you.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Boston: what goes around comes around

To anyone who has studied international acts of terror, events in Boston over the past few days will have made interesting viewing and reading. And for many of the city's more senior citizens, the twin bomb blasts, fatalities and horrific injuries will have provided much food for thought.

Over a thirty-year period, Boston was a prime fund-raising area for the Irish Republican Army. Organizations like Noraid and Clan na Gael collected millions of dollars from the city's large Irish community. While it's accepted that funds reached needy families in Northern Ireland (read: families of imprisoned IRA men), it's also accepted that money collected in the US helped pay for weapons and explosives and led directly to the deaths of many innocent people.

IRA apologists will argue that telephone warnings were given before bombs went off. Not always. Did PM Margaret Thatcher get a call before the explosion which partly demolished the Brighton hotel where she was sleeping? Some warnings were unclear - like with the Omagh bomb that killed twenty-five people. They will argue that the IRA never packed bombs with nails and metal fragments. No, they had a better idea. At the La Mon hotel they attached cans of petrol mixed with sugar to the bomb, creating a napalm-like fireball which incinerating its victims beyond recognition.

The signs are that terrorism in Ireland is on the rise once more. We can only hope that, after Boston, Americans will keep their hands tightly in their pockets when the collection boxes are passed around.