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Western Oz Words: The Great Painters

So when it came to choosing someone to decorate the house should it be the Greeks or the Irishman? Margaret Dunn, a lady of Scottish descent, faces a decision in her Australian home.

It was one of those decisions that just couldn’t be put off any longer. I had been living in the house for 13 years and there was a certain shabbiness in the décor. When my family came to visit they would say “So, when are the painter’s coming?” or “That ceiling’s turning grey!”

Xmas was fast approaching when I would be entertaining family and friends on warm summer days with the bright sun showing up all defects. It was time for action.

Friends of mine had just had their home redecorated by local painters and were delighted with the result. They insisted I could find no better tradesmen to do my house, so I invited these miracle workers to come and give me a quote. At the arranged time, two friendly Greeks arrived at my door, father and son, happy to look over the work site. Dad was a short, sturdy man with curly greying hair and a cute Greek accent. His son was tall, slim and fair and sounded totally Australian.

They wandered around, chatting amiably, and discussing colour schemes and types of paint. I trotted out my few words of Greek remembered from my holidays there, and we were getting on famously. Then they did some quick calculations on the back of an envelope and casually mentioned how much the work would cost me. I controlled a quick spasm of panic and despair, and smiled in a vague sort of way. Dad patted my shoulder and said with great sincerity
“Unfortunately, we are too busy to do the work before Xmas.”

With great relief I murmured there was no hurry – it could easily wait till next year.”

They departed, smiling and charming, and telling me to contact them any time in the New Year.

My usual policy in house matters is to get two or three quotes, so I called another painter advertising in the local newspaper. This one turned up promptly – an affable Irishman who was most businesslike. He arrived with a notebook and proceeded to jot down comments all the way round the house. At one point he stopped and looked at me severely “You’ve been burning candles – I can see traces of the smoke on the ceiling.”

I was impressed. I had thought it just looked like ordinary grime.

He put away the book and explained that he would make out a quote and send it to me by post. Three days later the beautifully typed document arrived – a much lower quote than that of the Greeks. I had been favourably impressed by both parties, but now it was decision time – would I have the Greeks or the Irish.

Irrationally I pondered: I once had a Greek boyfriend, had enjoyed great holidays in Greece, and loved Greek Music. They were recommended by friends. On the other hand, my Mother’s family came from Ireland and I’d always felt a great affinity with that race, I loved the country and the music. It occurred to me that my reasoning in this matter might be described as Irish.

The decision was made by my Scottish nature which tries to save on the price of things. The Irishman also agreed to do the job 3 days before Xmas. He arrived with his Irish mate and they carefully prepared the work sites, chatting happily in their Cork accents. It’s the easiest accent to fall into, which I did at times as we talked, much to their amusement. But most of the time I took myself off to other places and let them get on with the job.

Two days it took them, and sure ‘twas a wonderful transformation they did achieve. Highest quality workmanship with no mess or bother. Before they left, the Man himself looked at me seriously and said “Now Margaret, no more candles!”

I smiled sedately and thought of all the lovely candles I had already bought for my Xmas decoration. I could always call him back in a couple of years to do a repair job. Family and friends praised the new décor when they arrived. I was well pleased.

Perhaps it was an unkind thought, but didn’t Virgil say something like: “Beware of Greeks bringing High Quotes!”


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