Bobby the Sparky

A while ago my husband and I noticed that our oven/stove combo (called a “cooker” here) was starting to fail. One side of anything that went into the oven would be burnt nearly to a crisp, while the other side was fine – or undercooked. So we bought a new one, which good old Aunty Amazon delivered right to our doorstep. It’s shiny and sleek, which excited Sem more than it did me, as he is the house chef (and a very good one, too – lucky me!). We stood there admiring it for a while and then started wondering who was going to install it, as Sem wisely stays away from electrical wiring projects. We called Bobby the Sparky.

You know you’re in the Highlands when you call the (one) electrician on what turns out to be his home phone number, and find yourself having a chat with his sister. Sem is friendly with her, so after a few minutes of catching up with each other she advised that Bobby was out on a job, and that she would ask him to call us back.

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Bobby and his sister live on their family croft up on the hill. Until recently their ancient auntie (no relation to Auntie Amazon) lived with them as well. It’s less and less common for siblings and extended family to live together, but it used to happen here all the time. Either they never got married or they were widowed, and they ended up living out their days together in the family home. As for Bobby and his sister, as far as I know they have never been married. They are fine individuals, though quite quirky in their way. The sister suffers terribly from arthritis but she is tough and sharp-witted, with a sparkle in her eye. There is real warmth there but she does not suffer fools gladly. Bobby, besides being a very good electrician, is a little shy, quite smiley, and quick to do his work so he can get to the next job. His hair is like the curly, fine, slightly-sweaty hair of a sleeping baby, and he’s an all-around nice guy who speaks in quick asides, punctuating his observations with somewhat nervous chuckles. I like him immensely, as does pretty much everyone else around here. He drives an ancient Range Rover which has had so many replacement parts that the chassis is probably the only original bit left. “Make do and mend” is still a watchword for many here, especially in crofting communities. Why get a new one when the old one can be patched up?

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Bobby phoned us at 7:00 the next evening asking if it was okay to come over in a quarter of an hour or so. When he arrived he had a look at the old cooker after pulling it away from the wall, his bright eyes taking it all in. Scratching his curls with grubby fingers, he asked who had installed it. Sem said that as far as he remembered, it had been his son-in-law. “Hmm… then I won’t say anything!” said the sparky diplomatically, flashing a grin that spoke volumes. It appears we were rather lucky that our “cooker” didn’t cook the kitchen, the house, the cat, us… Yikes!

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Bobby wrestled the old cooker outside after carefully disconnecting it, and wired in the new one with well-practiced ease. He was very thorough, testing everything while keeping up running commentary in his funny way, and when all was said and done only half an hour had gone by. When we asked him how much we owed him he thought for a moment and then said, “Och I don’t know… a fiver?”

A fiver?! Five pounds for coming out to our house – in the evening, the day after we phoned – hauling our old cooker out, meticulously wiring the new one in, making sure everything was working properly, and even helping to set the clock to the right time? Preposterous. We gave him a fairer amount and still felt like we were coming out of the exchange too far ahead, but he wouldn’t accept more. He tucked the money away and went out into the night, apparently off to wire up another cooker nearby. He’d told us that he works from 9am to 9pm, doing the smaller jobs in the evening. I don’t know where he gets the energy.

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Up here in the far north it can be difficult to get tradesmen in to fix things because generally they would rather work for the big hunting and fishing estates, and the smaller jobs don’t interest them. Bobby is the opposite of all of them, in every good way. It’s not surprising he works twelve-hour days – everyone knows they can count on him. I see him often when I’m out and about as he clatters past in his trusty old Range Rover. He’s always rushing from place to place, but he never fails to give a wave and a grin. Bobby the Sparky is one of the many gems in the village, and we are lucky to have him!

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Deb Segelitz
Deb Segelitz was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and is astounded to find herself living in the Scottish Highlands. Equally surprising to her is that she now has a small business restoring and selling old fountain pens. These two facts have convinced Deb that life is either beautifully random, or filled with destiny created by someone with a sense of humor. She hopes the fine north state residents will accept her as an honorary member, since she has some cousins in California who she visited once, but even more importantly because the north state folks she actually knows are fabulous people, who are also the reason for her presence here on anewscafe.com. An enthusiastic amateur photographer, Deb is grateful that she lives in a place that's about as point-and-shoot as it gets. Her tortoiseshell cat, Smartie, rates her as an average minion, too slow with the door-opening but not too bad on the food-dish-refilling, and her husband hasn't had her deported back to the States yet, so things must be going all right there, as well.
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26 Responses

  1. Mary Adamson says:

    What a lovely story about Bobby the Sparky. There should more people like Bobby out there. And thank goodness for Auntie Amazon. 

    • Deb says:

      Thanks, Mary!  We all need a Bobby!  Auntie Amazon has been very good to us – she delivered a fridge/freezer and a lawnmower once, too.  🙂

  2. Matthew Grigsby says:

    Does he swing by Northern California?  Because there are lots of people here who could use a efficient and affordable electrician!

    Yet another beautiful crafted and illustrated piece. I feel like I know Bobby, and indeed your village, just by your words. Brava!

    • Deb says:

      Glad you enjoyed the article, Matt!  Bobby is definitely a gem, no wonder he’s kept so busy around here – sorry we can’t loan him to you fine folks in Northern California!  Of course if we did, within a week all of our appliances would fail and we’d probably all be sitting here in the dark.  And his Range Rover would fall to rusty bits.  You don’t want that on your conscience, do you?  😀

  3. R.Segelitz says:

    Thank you for another interesting article. It’s nice to know that there are still a few people like Bobby the Sparky around. How I wish I’d known one for the small repairs that come up when you have a house.  I’m already looking forward to your next story.

     

  4. Kathleen says:

    Hi Deb, I LOVE your stories and always look forward to them!! Sure wish Bobby was closer. He sounds wonderful as do most of the characters you’ve introduced us to. Thank you for sharing your community and life with us all.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you, Kathleen!  I’m glad you enjoy them.  I think Bobby would have a lot of work waiting for him if he ever came out to Northern California 🙂

       

      Hmmm… I wonder if I should introduce all of you to a few of our more unsavory characters?  We have a few of those too!

  5. Cathy says:

    Hi Deb,   Your stories of the people and events in your town are just wonderful! I also love your photographs. It makes me want to come and explore the highlands. I’m glad you were able to get a new cooker so quickly. It’s so amazing how Amazon can deliver such things in no time at all. Best wishes from northern California.

    • Deb says:

      I’m glad you enjoy the stories and photos, Cathy!  One of the lovely things about the Highlands is the scenery – so picturesque, it’s definitely a “point and shoot” kind of place for photographers.

       

      Auntie Amazon has been very good to us – living way up here it can be hard to get things like appliances, but Amazon handles it all quite well.   Rugs, a fridge/freezer, a lawnmower… that plus dozens of small, everyday things come winging their way to us at the click of a mouse.  It does make life a lot easier, here!

  6. AJ says:

    What Kathleen said.  .  . Me too.   But,  but . . . where is the picture of the latest addition to your household?

    And, as a single, old lady home owner, I could certainly wish for a few Sparkies n my world.

    Love the people pictures you paint!

    • Deb says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, AJ!  I never even thought of including a photo of the cooker – silly me!

       

      We will all be pretty lost when Bobby retires – maybe he’ll work a few extra years 🙂

  7. Janet says:

    I look forward to your pieces, thank you so much. I love reading about the people and  learning about your village and here in the about to be hot again part of Northern California I can feel your lovely sea weather. I so have climate envy this time of year.

    • Deb says:

      Thank you, Janet, I’m glad you enjoy them!  I wish I could send you some cool Highland breezes!  Today it’s beautiful and sunny and there’s a hint of autumn in the air… a perfect day in my book!  But I’d be willing to bet that quite a few of my fellow-villagers would love some of the Northern California heat!  And then they would complain about it immediately – that’s one thing I’ve noticed here.  When it’s been rainy, people complain about the wet and the cold.  Then we’ll get a few warm, sunny days – and they complain it’s too hot!  These Highlanders are hard to please!

  8. Anne Gibbons (a Glesca lass) says:

    Such warm and delicate language you choose to write about your wonderful neighbors, Deb. And I’m loving the photos (did you photoshop the sunny skies?)

    • Deb says:

      Thank you, Anne!  Those skies are all authentic to how the days were when they were taken 🙂  In fact, today the sky is much like the last photo in the article – it’s glorious and sunny, and they say we’ll have this all week.  Rare bliss!

  9. Marc P. Stanley says:

    You are One, of the Best Benefits, of Jennifer Mitchell! I have some Highland Roots, myself, and your bringing Scotland, to We, North Americans is delightful, and highly entertaining! Take very good care, Marc.

  10. Grammy says:

    Love tales about how people make due.  Replace when only necessary.

    Right now we are dealing with our Jennie.  Jennie is short for Jenn-aire.  D not know how in the world I did it but I broke the middle glass in the oven part of the stove.  Husband went to replace it and found out that $2500 would be needed.  WHAT!  That is the only thing wrong with it.  The top still looks like new even though it has cooked thousands of meals (we do NOT eat out.)  I make everything from scratch except for flour tortillas and an occasional chicken from Costco.

    With our toaster oven now doing most of the work we are making due.

    Now why do we need to replace Jennie for $2500?  Before us some wise person decided that a vented oven was the way to go.  Only Jenn makes one that is vented.

    We have been scouring Craig’s list hoping for one of a reasonable price.  But for five months nothing.  So we wait.

    I am of a generation that does not let that kind of money go easily.

     

    • Deb says:

      Oh dear, I think my eyes would water a bit at a $2500 price tag, too!  No wonder you are instead giving the toaster oven a workout.  I hope that you’ll find a more reasonable replacement soon!

  11. Dick says:

    I too miss the era of repairablity. I do my best but so many things are now built to never be repaired 🙁

    You can keep the picture of the cooker, but I would like one of the Range Rover 🙂

     

     

     

    • Deb says:

      *Grin* I’ll try to get a picture of the Range Rover, Dick!  Bobby moves pretty fast, though, so it might be nothing but a rusty blur 🙂

  12. Ginny says:

    Thank you for another good read and photos.  Love your stores.  More stores on the interesting people is a good idea you came up with.  ;o)

     

     

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