Joe Corrie

PAPERIN THE ROOM

There's a time o the year for everything, Natur mak's that plain eneuch to us a". An paperin' a room, like the writin o poetry, should be duin in the Spring o the year, when a man's inspired to dae his best. But the ither Setterday mornin, when there was a win' blawin frae the east that wad hae frozen the nose aff a cheenie dug, an a snaw-storm brewin. Maggie, a wumman o sudden an determined notions, wipes her mooth efter hivin her brakfast, rises to her feet, an says, "We'll paper this kitchen the day".

"But this is Setterday," says I, "an it's no very Christian to be messtn' aboot wi paper on the Sabbath".

"The Sabbath!" says she, "Huh ! you'll hae the job feenished before supper time the nicht, Tam, or I'll no be very pleased".

There's nae guid in arguin' win' Maggie, sae I juist said, "Very weel, then, get the paper an I'll slap it on".

"You'll dae the job properly," said she, "an nae slappin' aboot it!" An not she went to the penter's in a tremendous hurry. She must hae boucht the paper in a tremendous hurry, tae, for I never saw sic a complicated pattern a' my born days. I leuked at it this wey, then that wey, an couldna mak up my mind when it was upsides doon or doonsides up. Hooever, I didna say a wird, for I kent frae past experience that we'd hae plenty o wirds before the job was feenished. Sae I juist put my pipe on the mantle-piece, teuk aff my jaikit, an rowed up my shirt sleeves.

Efter the necessary preliminaries - shiftin' the dresser to the middle o the fluir, takin doon the picturs, an gettin' rid o the cobwebs, I sat doon on the stool wi a pair o blunt sheers to cut aff the selvedge. I was hauf wey throu the bolt when Maggie leuks ower my shouther an says, "Here! you're cuttin' the wrang side o that!" I kent that was comin for we hae a row ewer it every time. Sae I juist kept my temper, rose slowly to my feet, teuk the bolt to the waa an held it no. "Wha's richt an wha's wrang?" said I. But a' she could say was, "Is it no upsides doon?" I juist ignored her, went calmly hack to my sate an cairried on. But nae wonder I whiles tak to the dram.

Noo paperin' a room is a job for combined operations, nae maiter hoo expert a man is at the job. She made the paste, which o course, was ower thin then said she gaun to the shop but wad be back before I was ready to start. Hooever, she wisna back before I was ready to put the first bit on, but expectin' her back ony minute, for the shop is juist next dou. I got up on the table, got the tap o the paper at th eproper angle, then shouted oot, "Maggie ! I need a hand here !" But there was nae Maggie there. An there I was, streetched like a piece o elastic, haudin' up that paper wi my twa thoums, an the rheumatics in my elbas shootin' like the toothache. An to mak things worse, haed she no left a pun o sausage on the dresser, an there was the cat hivin the feed o its life An while I was dain' my best vocally an physically to put the fear o terror in the bruit, did the paper no brak awa leavin me wi twa wee bits like postage stamps stickin' to my thoums. An that was when Maggie cam back. sayin. "Isn't it terrible, Mrs Dunlap, roon' in Minnigaff, haes three weans doon wi the measles."

"An dis measles in Minnigaff come afore paperin this room !" says I, speakin' throu my teeth. Then she says, "What's that paper lyin On the fluir for?" I jumped doon frae the table wi a terrible noise, but before I could say a wird she saw her mangled sausage on the dresser. "My guidness," she yelled oot, "my sausage. Did you dae that !" "No," says I, "I'm no a cannibal -yet! It was your beloved possums cat." An I said it wi satisfaction for she thinks a dashed sicht mair o wee pooshums-wooshums than she dis o me whiles. I waited till she haed put the sausage inside the dresser then I said, quite calmly, "Maggie, if this room haes to papered the-day I must hae concentrated help." Sae she tied an apron roon' her middle, girnin' when she tied the knot, an rowed up the sleeves o her blouse, wi grim determination. "I'm ready!" says she.

"But I'm no," says I, "for I've got to paste this ower again." Sae I teuk my time an did it thoroughly, the while she kept tappin' the fluir as if she was gettin' in trim for the sword dance. Sae I got up on the table again an got it fixed as before, then I said "Pou it a wee bit to the left - at the bottom." O course she haed to pou it the wrang wey ; an when she did pou it to the left she pou'd it ower far, then she pou'd it back, ower far again, an by the time it was richt the paste was that dry that it wadna stick. An ye talk aboot the pain in my back.

Hooever, we got it richt the saicont try. Then, efter twenty meenits o silence I got up to put on anither bit. We did that yin a bit better, but when it was fixed she says. "That's no matched, did ye no see that !" I put on my spec's an I went furrit for a proper examination an, true eneuch, it wisna. "An what wey did ye no tell me that before it was stuck?" said I. "Because," says she, "you're the man that dis naething wrang." D'ye ken, I could hae murdered her, but insteed o dain' that I louped, aye, I louped up on the table an I tore that paper doon wi a' the strength an temper I haed.

"What did ye dae that for I" says she. "it wad hae duin weel eneuch !" There was naething else for it, I exploded on her an raked up her family's past frae the days o her great-great grandfather. She started to greet, then she tore aff her apron, put on her coat, an said she was gaun doon to her sister Leezie's an wad never come back to me again. To which I said, "Mey the Lord be thankit." She went oot the hoose an gae the door sic a bang that she made my false teeth clatter in my mooth.

But as I haed the rest o my lifetime noo to put that paper on there was nae hurry. Sae I juist put on my jaikit an sauntered doon the street to hae a dram in peace an quiet. Wee Jimmy Galbraith was in the bar, penter Jimmy, sae I telt him what haed been happenin'. He's a very obleegin' wee chap sae he says, "I'm dain' naething this mornin, Tam, I'll come an put it on for ye if ye like." Sae I accepted his offer, but before we did get awa we'd haed a wheen o drams, an I could see that he was in fine fettle.

Weal. Jimmy went roon' that room juist like lichtnin' an a' I haed to dee was to stand back an say, "Fine, Jimmy, fine man, you're a fair artist at the job." There's naething like a wee thing o encouragement for gettin' the best oot o a man. Within' the oor we haed the dresser back in its place, an the picturs back on the wa's as weel. Then Jimmy said, "We've time for anither dram if we hurry up." Which we did.

The first thing I did when I got back hame was to start fryin' the sausage, for paperin' a room is hungry work. Then wha should come back but Maggie. She got the surprise o her life when she saw the room finished. "You've been very quick, Tam," said she, as nice as could be. "Juist pruif." said I, "that when a man kens hoo a job should be duin ha can dee it when he gets peace."

We never opened oor mooths to each ither till efter we'd haed oor' tea then, to my great suprise she went to her purse an haunit me twa hauf croons. "There, Tam," says she, "an I m sorry for interferin'." An, wad ye believe it. I kissed her, the first time for mony a day. An she started to greet again.

But she'll no hae mony tears to shed when she hears that wee Jimmy did the job. But by that time there'll no be much left o her twa hauf croons.