The Plumber’s Tale

Well. My first night shift over, and a few tales to tell already. I’d sort of expected to be sitting around half the night, waiting for a phone call, but it wasn’t like that at all. We must have answered a dozen calls. I’d always imagined that plumbing was all about fixing burst pipes, but there was only one of those.

In a filthy kitchen showing all the signs of a recent “domestic”, a sink had been pushed a good six inches out of place, and a mist of water sprayed out from the twisted joint under the tap. Peter found the supply valve and turned the water off. We wrestled the sink back into place and Peter fixed the connection.

There were two blocked toilets, utterly ghastly. What a stink, I tell you. Peter says they always leave it too long before calling him. He has a strange flexible plunger sort of thing that he rams down the loo. It worked both times last night, but Peter says it doesn’t always. He didn’t mention what he does if the plunger doesn’t work, but I hate to think.

In most cases it was a blocked sink and involved taking out the trap and clearing it. One of these was truly silly – someone had poured jelly down the sink and it had set solid.

Despite the fact that Peter is my cousin, I don’t really know him very well. He was very nice, explaining everything he was doing, and letting me pull the spanner from time to time. In between jobs, we talked a lot, and he seemed very interested in my archaeology, saying I should stick to my guns and not be bullied into some dead-end profession.

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Waiting

It was a quieter night from the plumbing point of view and Peter and I spent a couple of hours sitting in his kitchen waiting for another call. When we’d talked about plumbing for a while, he asked me about archaeology, that’s the second time he’s done that – and he’s the first member of my family to listen to the answer. I think he was really interested. Then we got another call and it was madness again for an hour or two.

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The Customers

I’m beginning to recognise the various customer types that Peter services. There are the terribly poor ones who can hardly afford Peter’s rather expensive rates. They tend to be in the council flats and only call Peter when it becomes obvious that the council are not going to turn up and make the repair for them. And when the situation is almost out of hand. Then there are the estate management people, including, sometimes, the council themselves, who are looking after a building. They are usually spending someone else’s money, so they don’t care and they’ll call out Peter for a trivial job and pay the full callout fee and exorbitant hourly rate without a blink. Finally there are the well-off people in these Docklands developments, with fancy interior decor and what Peter calls ‘slick’ plumbing.

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A Whiff of Archaeology

Got a whisper of a job on an ancient site in the Greek islands this morning. Dave, one of my classmates from final year is going on it, and he says he’ll try to wangle a place on it for me. I’d never really noticed Dave before. He’s a big red-haired guy who I didn’t think I liked very much, but if he can get a job for me he’ll be my hero. Seems it’s been planned for ages but there have been a few drop-outs because it’s at an awkward time and it’s not a very interesting site. But, hey, any real archaeological work will do me, especially when it’s in the sunshine. Please let it work out! Some of the students in my class have had zero difficulty getting jobs. I wonder if it’s racial or sexual discrimination despite I got a better degree than most of them. No point in worrying about that, though, because I’ll never know. Dave seems to think that a beard is part of an archaologist’s uniform, so he’s growing one, he says. I don’t think I’ll bother.

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Slick Plumbing

One of these Docklands jobs in a stylish new apartment was worth a laugh. We were called in by this guy who had discovered that when he flushed his loo several times in succession, on the second flush the flushing water was warm, on the third it was hot, and on subsequent occasions it arrived steaming. I didn’t get it at first, any more than the punter, who had been in the brand-new flat for months without noticing, so it seemed to him that it had only just started to happen. Of course, Peter got it right away. The cistern was connected to the hot water system instead of the cold. It came in cold the first time because it had had time to cool before the next flush. If it had been in our house, it would have been boiling the whole time. The loo doesn’t feature much idle time at the Campbells.

Another problem at one of the new apartments in the same block was the mysterious stream of scalding water that shot from the overflow pipe of the central heating. This geyser could erupt at almost any time of day, and the pipe was directed into a little courtyard behind the flats. Everyone was terrified to cross the yard in case it was time for Old Faithful. Even the local cats avoided the place. It almost stumped Peter, because everything seemed connected up OK. It turned out that the inlet and outlet pipes on the boiler had been reversed, and it was a miracle that it worked at all, which it seemed to mostly.

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No Date

No definite news about the trip to Greece yet, but D said today he was sure it’d be OK. Then he invited me out this Saturday. I’m working the midnight to eight shift with P, so I told him I had a night shift starting midnight. I didn’t tell him what my other job is. I’m not sure that’d be wise! It’s not a very feminine occupation, nor a particularly scholarly one. He gave me a strange look and didn’t suggest another alternative, so I hope I haven’t shot myself in the foot on this one. What if he finds someone else to wangle on the trip? But then I don’t really fancy this assignment being dependent on dating D.

I suddenly realised that I was going to use initials instead of names here, but I’ve mentioned Peter and Dave by name, and my own name’s real. So much for discretion. I’ll revert to P and D now, and revise the other entries some other time.

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A Date with D

Well, D finally got his date last night. It was OK really, he didn’t force himself on me or anything but I can’t say I’m smitten or impressed in any way. I made sure I dressed tidily but not too alluring. We went to Carlotta’s and had spaghetti bolognese. I insisted on going Dutch, but he bought the wine, which was one of those tourist-trap Italian bottles with straw wrapped round it that taste like dishwater. I mostly drank water so he had most of it himself. Then we hit the Fancy Tart – a pub named after some admiral or other. We had a few drinks. We talked archaeology a bit which wasn’t too bad. It seems this dig in Greece is at any rate quite new and undocumented.Then he walked me home. By this time I’d made sure he knew I lived with my family, so there was no nonsense there. I quite enjoyed the evening because I haven’t been getting out much but I didn’t think he did.

So I was quite surprised when he txtd me this morning to say he’d enjoyed our date and we must do it again. Maybe he was just being polite, but he doesn’t seem that kind of person.

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