I went to a wedding at Southover Grange at the weekend. We sat down in our smart clothes for the ceremony, and then we filed down the stairs afterwards for the photographs in the garden. Passing the loo at the bottom of the stairs, I said, ‘Oh my God, it’s…’ The loo was clean. The last time I’d seen it, 28 years earlier, it hadn’t been. That had been my main problem. On an afternoon in 1978, I had walked down these same stairs. The caretaker was behind me. My tenure as assistant caretaker, a position I’d held for 32 hours, had another three or four minutes to run.
I couldn’t blame him for sacking me. When I arrived on my first day, the place was empty. I hung around for a while, and went to the Swan when it opened at eleven. Later I’d popped in at the Grange, drunk, to assess the situation. Again, it was empty, so I went home. My second day had followed exactly the same course, with one difference. When I popped in that afternoon, I bumped into the caretaker.
He asked me what I’d been doing. I tried to persuade him that, contrary to appearances, I had spent my day cleaning the Grange. But he wasn’t buying it, partly, I suppose, because he had been there and I hadn’t. And I’d been drinking heavily. Also, the loo was dirty. Just my luck, I thought. 28 years later, my wedding companion tugged at my arm. ‘I could tell you a story about that loo,’ I said. But people were beginning to take photographs in the garden, and the moment passed. WL


Bog standard: Leith’s toilet cleaning career was shortlived