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Well, when Gill told me about the phenomenon of the sink bucket, it sounded like a nursery rhyme to me. It may as well have been since it, like fairy tales, makes no sense at all…or at least to a North American mind. Now I have nothing against the U.K. — at least until the idiocy that is Brexit happened– but even knowing the strange things that can occur with regard to the plumbing, electric and various other household things in the quaint little country, even I was astonished when Gill explained…or explained as well as she could.

It happened when we  were doing the dishes and Gill randomly mentioned that she had been surprised, when renting flats in England, that they usually come with a plastic bucket in the kitchen sink. “What’s that for?” I questioned.

“Did the last tenant simply leave it behind as a house-warming gift?” I asked. “A bit odd, but, you know, I recall some strange things I’ve left behind when moving from a house…things I either couldn’t be bothered lifting, or it was late in the day and I was losing the will to live, or, in the case of Your Father’s lovely  pine workbench that he’d built himself and I wanted to take for Crazy D for when he learned (Ha!) to do handy households things, had to leave behind since he’d built it after we moved in and it wouldn’t fit through the door! Oops…”

“Well I thought initially it was a bucket for cleaning the floors…I mean why would you need a bucket in the sink? You have the sink in which to wash the dishes. To use it for washing the floors, down on your hands and knees, would make sense …except that I have arthritis and can’t get down on my knees even if I wanted to achieve that level of household cleanliness…” Gill hypothesized.

She continued: “I even know a couple in the U.K., newly married, who’d been given a bucket — a lovely ceramic one — as a wedding gift! ”

“Wow…I recall receiving some odd wedding gifts back in the day — including one so odd I didn’t know what to call it when I wrote the thank you note for it! Turns out, I discovered years later, it was a silver pair of scissors with which to cut boiled eggs into dainty slices! Now I admit things were traditional and weird back then in the Dark Ages, but that one blew me away. First of all, I hate boiled eggs. Second, if anyone thought I was going to cook them for my new husband when the smell made me barf, they had another think coming. June Cleaver could go f— herself. Anyway, using all of my talents as a writer with an M.A. in English, I somehow managed to write a touching thank you letter without actually naming the thing! That, I dare say, was a high point in my writing career!”

“Wow, Ma! I see now how your interest in creative writing began…”

So we never did get a proper explanation as to the purpose of the bucket in the sink…or at least WHY it is a thing. One of the puzzles of the universe, I guess.

I recall, when I returned after my short visit to Gill in the U.K. back in September, that I was struck by how new (and lacking in character) the modern North American city is. Where are the beautiful stone churches of yesteryear (I know there are few, but you really have to search for them), the cobblestone streets, the quaint country laneways edged by lovely hedges? Our world here feels sterile in comparison. But I have to say, I do appreciate that when renting or buying a home, they come complete with kitchen sinks that are meant to do dishes in, there are unified taps, hot water does not take an hour (if you’re lucky) for a bath, and ‘central heating’ does not mean a series of bricks in the wall that keep your flat toasty warm during the day when you’re not home and freezing cold when you are and trying to stay warm in bed. For those conveniences, I’d gladly give up the bucket…