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Monday, 11 March 2019


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We need to talk about grouting, you know, your basic stuff that holds tiles together on kitchen and bathroom walls and floors.

Two years ago, we had a new bathroom installed. Everything was ripped out back to the bare walls and floor. One man, in his late-20s, installed everything, a bath, sink, toilet, shower, plumbing, electricity, the whole shebang, on his own. His name was Ash.

The whole job took nearly two weeks and, although Ash was getting pressure from his boss to speed things up, he took his time because he was meticulous. Everything had to be perfect or, as he told me: 'I couldn't sleep at night if I ever did a shoddy job.'

After being impressed with every aspect of his work, my attention was drawn to the grouting on the wall and floor tiles. It was and still is flawless, a work of art, not a sign of a bodge anywhere. No mistakes. No howlers. Nada. Magnificent.

But, the side effect of this exactness, this precision, this achievement, is that it has given me a bit of an obsession. In pubs, restaurants, hotels, motorway service stations and other places of public convenience, I check the grouting. I stand at a urinal and scrutinise the handiwork and, after dozens and dozens of examinations, Ash reigns supreme. He is the Master. No one comes close.

The amount of clumsy, rushed work is there for all to see and some of it is astonishingly bad, awful and a disgrace to the tiling community. In one not-too-cheap hotel bathroom, I saw a patch of grouting that looked like one of my own rare efforts. My grouting work always looked as if I used porridge.

So, thank you Ash for your meticulousness and brilliance, for having a standard and for caring about the work you do.


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