Tag Archives: basement remodeling


Jack’s weekly guest blog

One day, dashing into the grocery in Scotland, I met a college colleague who had retired a year earlier. I asked him how we was enjoying his retirement.

“Ah, Jack,” he said, “it was made for a younger man than me!”

I know what he meant, now.

We are approaching the end of the grand basement remodeling (and Wendy swears there will be pictures to follow). If I do say so myself, the place looks lovely and cozy and just like us. The construction work (my part) is done, and we are now in the process of moving stuff down there from our upstairs rooms (mostly Wendy’s job). The last job I had to do was to fit a dog/cat flap in the old door to the outside yard and show our animals how to use it. (I hope Wendy didn’t get a picture of me halfway through the flap, bum sticking out, saying, “See, Zora, see? It’s so easy, just come along there.”

I suppose in the back of my mind, I was thinking that now the building is done, I would relax and take it easy, read my favorite blogs (on Scottish Independence, Folk Musicians, and Reasons not to Care about the Royal Baby – hey, I’m Scottish.)

Not a chance on that relaxation thing….

Before the upstairs turns into the SECOND STORY EATERY we envision (read: Wendy wants) there are things to be done: among others, repainting the staircase and our  upstairs former bedroom, installing heat and air up there (that’ll be fun) and fitting in an extra sink in the kitchen (required by the health inspector).

Then there’s the approaching Big Stone Celtic annual festival (Sept 28; y’all come!) with all the attendant meetings and emailing and phone calling – – –

Meanwhile the bookstore still has to be looked after with all that entails (mostly box after box of trade credit books) and producing programs for my weekly radio show keeps nudging me as well. We won’t even talk about Wendy’s foster cats and their needs.

Retirement? Pshaw!! I’ve never been busier in my life!

For those following the story of Hazel the elderly foster cat, she now has her own Facebook page in  her new home. Keep up with her exploits by liking CLAN HAZEL.


Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, small town USA, Uncategorized

Armatures, Armatures

Long before Wendy and the bookstore ensnared my heart, I was a professional house-painter—from apprentice to master in just twenty long years. I know that when one is properly trained and experienced one knows how to do things easily and correctly. Those who continue to practice their craft keep good skills honed.

I’m an excellent painter. But joiner, plumber, electrician, plasterer? What, is that water or electricity running thru yon pipes? As I continue with the saga of the bookstore basement remodeling I’m struck by the knowledge that I’ve been trespassing in places experienced angels fear to tread.

Did I mention that I was such a good housepainter, I was invited to teach my craft in the local college and then became Head of the Construction Trades Department? In that capacity I regularly observed colleagues teaching all the crafts listed above. I valued their expertise.  I even picked up some tips.

And as the basement work continues I find myself being either incredibly lucky or having to do things three times – once completely wrongly, once the right way, but badly – and finally more or less acceptably.

It would be too easy to blame the idiosyncrasies of a 1903 house, its settling over the years and the work of the DPOs (see my previous blog post) for all my frustrations and miss-steps as I re-measure and re-do, but the reality is that I’m an amateur.

Which reminds me of a joke. An old friend worked as an “armature winder.” The armature is the wiring that winds ‘round parts of motors; rewinding them is a highly skilled job. But given its pronunciation, his standard comment was that he would eventually be a professional. And people who didn’t know what he did would smile and say, “Well good for you, keep learning!”

So I salute the real joiners, plumbers, and electricians in our small community, I thank the ones who have kept me from drowning, frying, and dropping large beams on my head. And if you need your house painted, call someone else.



Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, small town USA, Uncategorized