THE HOUSE OF THE MASTER CRAFTSMAN
OUTSIDE everything was perfect, dead perfect. The precise red ranks of roof-tiles
sloping steeply to shake off snow, a high Germanic pitch untinged by any decadent
modern Jewish flatness.
Below this, all trace of brick covered, its warmth and imperfections hidden
by mathematically exact smooth cream tiles; some streets are so surrounded
by tiles you get the uncomfortable feeling of having strayed into some giant's
The facade exact and symmetrical with identical net curtains hiding the plants
in each window. Every surface, even the gardens with their carefully laid
paving and neat rectangles of flower bed and lawn, is an exercise in tessellation.
One imagines German crazy paving would be carefully laid from specially cut
sets of numbered different shaped pieces supplied with a plan for use.
The borders are sharp edged, the trees regularly conical; even the grass
seems to ask for permission and then grow only in the allotted sites to regulation
height. If any weeds grow they were certainly-keeping carefully out of view.
Everything was in place, in order. Everything was so perfect I shuddered.
Inside the same story continues. Nothing old or untidy or worn or out-of-date;
no dust, dirt or clutter. Even the children neat and clean and tidy, shouting
for a cloth to wipe the least crumb dropped or sticky finger during mealtimes,
their clothes protected by aprons to stay bright and new.
The house is a setting for consumption, not for living in. It calls to mind
those room interiors in adverts where the smiling mother serves steaming casseroles
to her executive husband and spotless regulation boy and girl.
Out of sight of casual visitors in the private regions of the house things
are occasionally less well ordered. Sitting in the bath I can see a cable.
My eyes trace its path, up, looping through an occasional clip it enters a
swollen gland of insulating tape joining the loose wires from the mirror light
and shaver socket before passing limply into a roughly finished hole near
the top of the wall. The lower end of the cable supports a two-pin socket,
held loosely to the wall by a single screw, just inches from my wet hands.
It was like watching a film. (They always say that). Somehow it didn't seem to be me when that hand stretched out. It was my hand but there didn't seem to be any way that I could stop it or control it as it reached out and grabbed...
As I grabbed my towel I shuddered again, thinking of the different ending
this story might have had. A story, which, like the house in which I now sit
writing, reflects a different ordering of priorities.
All pictures and text © Peter Marshall, 1985, 1997