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Saved by a plaster saint

ere's another tale of summer holiday woe with a heart-warming ending.

Fracturing my arm was not the only blight on my recent break. Our house, in the sought-after "near the brickworks" district of Carluke, was graced with a living-room that had a large stone fireplace and Artexed walls.

Smart, perhaps even de rigueur in their day (whenever that was), Mrs Steele and I had now tired of them. In any case, teenage daughter is a Colin and Justin fan and would doubtless soon have felt obliged to gasp, "oh . . . my . . . goodness", at such 1980s kitsch.

Conveniently, a local builder put a flyer through the door just when we decided to do something about our passe decor. The builder made a good job of removing the stonework and arrived the following day with a small bantam cock of a plasterer.

SBCP plastered over the Artex in jig time, pausing only to smoke without asking permission and to boast of his 40 years of experience with gypsum.

He advised me to coat the walls with dilute PVA bonder before painting them.

As the walls dried, my dodgy close-up vision detected a hairline crack. It was so thin I reckoned that it might even fill with paint. Opting for two base coats of matt white rather than PVA, I began painting (single-handedly) after a week when the walls turned from brown to dusty pink.

More cracks. I applied fine surface filler. One side of a crack moved relative to the other. Jaws music. I picked at the crack with a fingernail, expecting the paint to come off. It did, complete with a chunk of plaster.

In a minute, I had removed an area larger than myself.

The plasterer blamed me for not using PVA. The builder believed the plasterer. I called a new plasterer who agreed to come out and assess the job. When he arrived, he turned out to be a former pupil and, it has to be said, former scunner who only in his fourth year settled down.

FS reckoned the problem did indeed lie with PVA. The plasterer should have put lots on before plastering. He applied a couple of test patches to prove the point, did a beautiful job on the rest of the walls and helped us get a refund from the builder.

Ultimately, I felt it was almost worth the hassle of wasted time, wasted paint and assertive telephone calls to reacquaint myself with someone who had matured into such a personable adult, an adult who took great pride in his own professionalism.

Well done, the boy who had his seat moved until he was right under my nose, in the class of '92.

Gregor Steele was often asked if his broken arm had been in plaster over the holidays. This really set him off.

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