A Little Bit of Me

Jottings and Writing, miscellanous misgivings

Frank

ImageI should have known that Frank was a disaster waiting to happen when Cornelius, the builder, said that he was one of his drinking buddies who had subcontracted before and always did an excellent job but wanted payment “under the table”. Under the table usually meant about ½ to ¾ the costs of a job and my budget was running tight. I reluctantly agreed. Frank was to replumb the extension, manufacture and fit the new kitchenware, and install the new toilet and bathroom.

“Piece of piss”, exclaimed Frank on looking at the job. He was a big, untidy man. Red-faced, broken veins, big, clumsy hands that I would have thought more suitably matched to a butcher than a Master plumber. He drove a late model pickup with all his credentials listed on the side but both the pickup and Frank reeked of better days.

Oh yes! Frank was Frank Lesley 0- Master Plumber and president of the Master Plumbers Guild. Whatever that meant. I pictured hooded figures meeting in floodlit display rooms with sinks, and kitchen fittings.

So Frank started working for us, or Cornelius, or himself. Some days it was hard to tell. He flitted in at 7.30 am, 10 am, sometimes 3.00pm, sometimes you wouldn’t see him for several days and things started happening that defined Frank and his work ethic. I arrived home on what must have been the second week of the project and walked to what had been the old bathroom area to find, to my horror, bare floors, an enormous hole in the floor with pipes and wires emerging from the cavity like broken teeth prior to root canals and crowns. A new bath shell was propped up against the hallway still resplendent in its factory wrappings.  No sign of Frank. Cornelius hung about the extension looking furtively in my direction.

“What in the hell is going on?” I asked. (it seemed all my communications with Cornelius now took the form of desperate questions, usually about Frank).

“He says that his job is done. It’s the carpenters’ job to fit the bath and toilet. He just plumbs them up.”

I dialled Frank’s number on my cellular and repeated my request and was met with the same response. Cornelius slunk away and I noticed that an hour later the space had been professionally finished and the bath was in-situ.

 

I arrived home the next day tom find Frank just leaving the premises.

“She’s all ready to go” he announced proudly as he threw his motley tools into a big leather holdall and hurriedly left the premises.

“I’ll just turn the Toby on as I leave” he announced, looking back at me.

“An hour later I started preparations for the evening meal in the makeshift area that we now called our kitchen. Cor (as we now called Cornelius) had jerry rigged a sink on an old back door and laid out two planks with a hand basin to function as a crude sink. Did I mention that the sink that Frank was to design and install (two tubs and drain and tap placement to match the plumbing which Frank seemed to have completed?) had arrived and the sinks were at the wrong end and the tap fittings were so mismatched they were just a joke. And a joke Frank made of it.
“We will just run a plastic pipe from here to here” he announced throwing is big arms around the untidy space.

“Why do you want two sinks anyway? My missus only has one.”

I picture Mrs Frank – a meek, submissive woman with hunched shoulder, always looking over those hunched shoulders to keep an eye on Frank and secretly wishing for a better life.

Funny how perceptions sometimes are way wide of the mark. I happened to see Mrs Frank, and Miss Frank (his daughter) at a social function and she was the exact opposite of Frank. Well heeled, mannered, soft voiced. The daughter was almost beautiful and the three of them looked an odd family. As though Frank was the cancerous growth that had come to live with the previously happily functioning pair.

Anyway, back to the sound of running water (this was to be a theme in my/our relationship with Frank and his “master plumbing”)

He descended into the cellar and, to my horror, discovered that Frank had installed a swimming pool. Well not purposefully. The whole cellar was a swirling pool of clay infused. I rushed to the Toby and turned the supply off. Cellular again.

Frank arrived half an hour later. No apologies.

“Gee you seem to have a good job. What do you do?” He eyed the water and I could see his mind running through some Frank- like checklist which was probably now more about avoiding litigation than any sensible explanation as to what had happened.

Turned out that Frank had been more interested in some new scheme to make money that did not involve getting dirty or getting up at 7.00 am and always being at someone’s beck and call, had forgotten to actually piece together any of his various pipes and when the water was turned on it was like the Tivoli Fountain than a fully functioning plumbing installation.

I told him my occupation (I am a psychologist)/
“Hell I reckon I could do that. You seem to have pretty good hours and that sports car looks pretty good. I see you have some nice stuff. I’ve noticed the flat screen TV’s, the stereo, the boys toys.

I had visions of Frank wandering through my house, pulling open drawers, sniffing panties. I immediately started a relaxation exercise but Frank just   would    not  go   away.

His voice broke through my attempt at calmness.

 

 

 

“I have got lots of ideas of how to get out of this game and make some real money. Love to run some of them past you some time. Here’s one.  I had this friend who knew someone important, you know, someone in showbiz, who had a huge mansion that he/she was making money from by eco-tourism. He wanted to stock his natural, eco-friendly pond with all sorts of life, exotic and non-exotic, and he asked my friend if he could help. Well, my friend – let’s call him Cabel – decided that the best piece of wildlife he could supply would be pukekos.”

“But aren’t Pukekos protected?” I asked.

Frank looked at me as though I was one of those little green men who had landed at Roswell.

“Anyway my friend caught a shit load of pukekos and sold to them to this guy – guess how much for?”

I stared at Frank blankly my growing incredulity matched by, yet again’ the sound of running water in the background.

“$250 each. He made enough to finance two overseas holidays for him and the missus”

 

Needless to say our ‘ travails’ with Frank did not stop with his departure from the building site. We always wondered why, when it rained, our spouting overflowed. Turns out that Frank had no idea of downpipe placement or the concepts of runs. He just nailed (and I mean nailed- some six inch nails just split the wooden facia) the spouting together, did not glue joints and the water just had nowhere else to go but over the edges of the spouting. 

Then today I notice water bubbling up outside the newly installed kitchen. I suspected this was another Frank moment. Ever tried to get a plumber for an ‘emergency’? They are worse than GP’s who stopped doing home emergency visits just after man emerged from caves. I spent the next two days watching anxiously as water levels rose and the sound of running water (by Day 2 this was akin to an out of control Niagara Falls in the bathroom as the sound of a water leak was amplified through the mixer in the shower stall (which also broke after six months use).  Finally the plumber arrives. Young, looks like he has just been weaned. Turns out that Frank had not installed new plumbing from street to new kitchen but has “spliced” into the old water system which was a complex rural supply arrangement. This left a whole, active water supply which had finally given up the ghost and now had exploded, flooding the property. The young (and thoroughly professional) plumber looked at me apologetically and explained what had happened.

“Probably not the worst I’ve seen but it definitely makes the record book”

And that says it all.

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