Friday, February 25, 2005

Shut Up and Bring Your Own Vaseline

The man who came to repair the washing machine today is one of several such people that I have used for years. Competent, honest, reliable and not expensive, such craftsmen (I won't use the Victorian term 'tradesmen') are as difficult to find as the perfect life partner and when they retire it's almost like a bereavement.
He patted my ancient washing machine affectionately and said it had done well. I say 'ancient' but in human terms it's only just past puberty. It doesn't however scan a garment's barcode and download the appropriate washing program from the internet or announce in an American accent "your washing is ready!". If it did, I would put my foot through its little glass porthole.

There are two principal types of repair men who visit your home. The first type are taciturn to the point of rudeness. If you hang around to see what they're doing they give you one of those 'Who are you looking at?' looks that you get in the dodgier kind of pubs. One plumber went into my bathroom and as I followed to ask if he'd like a cup of tea he slammed the door shut in my face - behaviour that would only have been justified if I'd been dressed as Marlene Dietrich and brandishing a ten inch vibrator.

A different plumber summoned me to the bathroom where he was lying on his stomach with his head under the bath. "Have you got any vaseline?" he said. There was a long pause while I reflected that perhaps he should take me out to dinner first. I'm rather old fashioned like that. But he wanted it to grease some washers and was too lazy to go back to his van.

The second type never stop talking and if you manage to escape for a moment will ring their wife/girlfriend on their mobile rather than work in silence. Sometimes they want to give you a detailed explanation of what they are doing so that you feel you're on a City and Guilds plumbing course at the local college.
But there are others who, like some barbers, pursue an intrusive and relentless line of questioning about your life - your marital status, your occupation, your hobbies and interests. If, like me, you resent this, saying you're a VAT Inspector usually shuts them up.

A sub-category of this group adopt a critical tone and make you feel a complete failure as a human being. They use phrases like "you could have done this yourself - all you need is an allen key" and "Christ, you haven't cleaned behind there for a long time."
One man gave me a most ferocious telling-off about the clutter in the cupboard under the sink. "How would people like you ever find the stop-cock in an emergency?" he demanded. I replied that I knew precisely where the stop-cock was - just to the left of the litre of anti-freeze from the days when I owned a car. I could have added that I could locate the stop-cock blindfolded in a power cut while wearing handcuffs and turn it off with my teeth but as you know I don't do sarcasm.
Another plumber became furious because I left the bathroom light on when we went downstairs and implied that global warming could be traced back to my personal profligacy with energy supplies.

Yet some of these people leave a lasting impression on your life and are remembered with affection. I sometimes say "I must prune the Honeysuckle round the Mother".
The Mother is a wooden arch in my garden and was so christened by the man who installed it. It put up a lot of resistance to being installed and he cursed it loudly for over an hour. When he'd finished I asked him if it would survive winter gales. He took a flying kick at it and struck it heavily with his boot. I jumped back, fearing I might be next for the kick-boxing treatment. But he gave a satisfied smile and started rolling a cigarette.
"That fucking Mother's not going anywhere", he said.
And it never has. It wouldn't dare. And it will always be the Mother in his honour.


At 11:09 PM, Blogger Cut-Rate Parasite said...

Very good stuff. I just showed a movie in one of my classes (The Commitments) where your title almost gets used verbatim.

I had a handyman come to my house for a job that should have taken an hour. He pretty much stayed the weekend, going as far as the come to the bathroom as I was shaving to go out for the evening so he could get my opinion on some political issues he was pondering. When he arrived it was hot, the air conditioning was off, and he took off his shirt to work. Two words: nipple rings. I cranked up the air conditioning, but that just seemed to perk him up without encouraging him to get dressed again.

At 2:29 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

I can just about tolerate nipple rings but if I see piercings any further south I run a mile.


Post a Comment

<< Home