Mr Peate the odd-job man

The cast waiting in the wings of my as yet unplanned unwritten book is growing. The Lidd family live in a very nice but modest red brick home in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century town of Strand. Strand itself is a fiction although it is the location of most of my novels. A small town, later to become a city is by the sea and at the time of the Lidds the port was busy with both fishing boats and cargo ships. The Lidd parents are a pleasant but typical Victorian couple and they have at least two sons, Percy and Reginald, and maybe more children will arrive. These characters happened when I made a confused reply to my daughter and after much laughter I was left with Reginald and Percy Lidd. A few days ago the Lidds acquire a little maid servant called Maisy or Milly Beans, an odd child, slightly eccentric but always did her best in her quiet way. Now the family has an odd-job man who they call in to do minor repairs and work on their house.

Peter Peate is a funny little man who always wear the same clothes, summer and winter, when he comes to attend to the little jobs for his customers. He keeps his old trousers up with both braces and a belt and for some reason a length of bailer twine – his work trousers of course, his Sunday best comprises of a black rather shiny suit with improbable metal buttons with anchors on. His trousers must have once belonged to a larger, taller man, because the legs are rolled up at the bottom but rest on his sturdy old work boots. He wears long sleeved shirts, a waistcoat and a neckerchief, usually red but sometimes blue. His pockets seem bottomless as he often produces small tools, balls of string, varieties of nails, screws, hasps, catches, latches, pinions, nuts and  bolts. He has an elderly horse which draws his cart/wagon with the materials he needs for the job, the horse is Captain Nelson (not Admiral) and is treated kindly and well looked after – a lucky horse compared to many draught animals. He always weara a bowler hat – Mr Peate that is, not Captain Nelson; the horse has a straw hat for the summer.

Peter Peate (known locally as Pete-Peate) is a taciturn man, and often stands silently scratching his head as he thinks of how to answer. He is by no means stupid, nor ill-educated and reads voraciously – his favoured author is Wilkie Collins, but he thinks he has a new favourite in Joseph Conrad, whose first book, Almayer’s Folly,  was published recently in 1895. He has some extraordinary expressions – for example instead of ‘what the deuce?’ he says ‘what the beagle?’ However, Percy and Reginald’s favourite by far is ‘You can’t sue a goose’. which he applies to a variety of situations.

“How long will it take to fix the gutter, Mr Peate?” “Well, m’am, hard to say, you can’t sue a goose you know.”
“This weather has taken a turn for the worse, Mr Peate, will you be able to finish the paving?” “I will indeed, sir, it’s a hard frost we have to fear, then you can’s sue a goose in weather like that!”
“You’ve done a fine job there, Mr Peate.” “Thank you Mr Lidd, thank you sir, I always say, you can’t sue a goose!”

Mr Peate is always willing to lend a hand in the Lidd garden – as the featured image shows.


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