Conversations with a Portuguese Tiler

My father had a Portuguese tiler working for him at the time of the main expansions of our house.

“Patria”, he would shout as he passed the tiler, and the tiler would give him a broad smile. There was a labourer or two, but they were always in the background.  The tiler did all the laying, each tile placed to perfection and on the veranda, edged with a perfect cement frame.

I used to love watching them work. As a young boy I was fascinated but the trades; carpenters, tillers, electricians, even plumbers. These were men who created something every day. They were also story tellers and dreamers.

The tiler was particularly happy doing the front veranda. He had recently completed the floor and veranda of my father’s tavern at the back, in the same style as the church. He didn’t enjoy that job so much, because there was no cement border for him to show his skill. Although I am sure he enjoyed the idea of the open entertainment area. My contribution to the tavern was to hand the pelmets with my friend Reggie. We used large iron brackets and placed 3 planks of split pole to add to the rustic atmosphere.

I think I used to irritate the tradesman. Perhaps they thought I was spying on them for my father. I was not. My father often had the work at the house done when he was away in Greece, so he avoided all the tension of renovations!That’s why I hate renovations.

The one year I did get involved was when my father decided to redo the brick driveway. It was an Afrikaner that had done some work on the houses, but I wouldn’t class him as a regular contractor for my father. He did the most awful job of laying bricks, with no eye for detail or level. In fact, I remember he just dropped his labourers off to do the work and went off to another job. No pride! So he and I had a big fight, and eventually the bricks were relaid.

Unlike “Patria”.

When he finished the front veranda with the perfect cement rim he added his trade mark. Not a signature nor imprint, but a coin.

This time I remember he put three coins in, one of each of the corners. For more good luck? For good luck for each of the children?

“Just good luck” he said.

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