"Wading neck deep in a swamp, your revolver is neither use nor ornament until you have had time to clean it" Mary H. Kingsley (1897)

The Thing In The Corner

When I first viewed the home I now own, I took this picture:

It was impossible to miss one particular feature of the house – the thing in the corner.

Into the bay corner of the sitting room, a walled pool had been sunk. About three feet deep and five feet wide, covered in swimming-pool blue, mosaic tiles, the base resembled a health club jacuzzi.

From the centre of the pool, on a short sturdy column, rose a white concrete, lotus-shaped fountain base. Above the lotus, a golden drum.

Crowning the folly, perched at a rather jaunty angle, sat a massive silver jug.

From the jug’s spout, water could be cascaded to deafening effect.

This fantasy of concrete, ceramics and colour rose about seven feet above a marble floor.


Somehow, I never felt quite at home with such Levantine exuberance.

On gazing at my newly acquired water feature, it seemed I might have taken a wrong turn and wandered perhaps into an Abu Dhabi shopping mall.

When friends or family visited from Europe or the States, as they said their goodbyes,  I was invariably advised, “If I were you, I would do something about that thing in the corner”.

The problem was, knowing quite what to do.


For several months, with more urgent renovations needing attention, I turned my back on the thing in the corner, and tried to ignore it.

But one morning, in a paroxysm of decisive action, I made my wishes known to Shaji, my house-manager. The silver jug and golden drum were to be amputated – with immediate effect.

Workers were hastily summoned. A pneumatic drill and hand-held chisels were requisitioned. Emergency surgery was performed.

The feature was now definitely smaller but its crudely pruned form and garish colours still offended.

The walls of the “jacuzzi” were occasionally handy for craftsmen to sit on but the thing in the corner had little function and no aesthetic appeal.

It was neither use nor ornament.


Three months ago, with the impending arrival of more guests, I was finally spurred into having the pool re-tiled in more suitable colours.

The fountain was tamed: just a quiet trickle of water now falls gently from the white lotus top to the pool below.

Plants were purchased to soften its geometry.

Fish were introduced to its waters.


Shaji has taken the project to his heart. He is rapidly becoming an expert on aquarium management.

Dalila, my cook, and Anu, my house-boy, are entranced by the various fish.

Babu, my plumber and electrician, now calls by each week, to check on the pump and the piping.

As for me, I have more ambitious developments in mind:



But for now, I am content to continue sitting with my back to the thing in the corner.


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5 responses

  1. looks like a little corner of Eden tucked away in the corner now …

    October 31, 2010 at 5:19 am

  2. Lucille

    The capacity of the human race to seek out ways to divert and amuse itself is mind boggling. Now, did you think to ebay the massive silver jug? Because I have just the corner for it.

    October 31, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    • I thought everyone aspired to a little Busby Berkeley in the lounge?!
      But anyway, I’m sorry, I have promised Cherie Blair first refusal..

      October 31, 2010 at 7:10 pm

  3. Pingback: Hard Labour « Neither Use Nor Ornament

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