Small jobs

There’s a bit of a problem with the continuous drip drip of a tap on the bathroom sink. I know I’ll need new taps because I’m pretty sure the current ones are originals. The bathroom suite is a sort of dull apricot colour – probably avant-garde back in the seventies when the middle classes were fleeing avocado, but not on trend now even in these retro days. And a replacement washer is so ‘yesterday’.

B & Q sent me a friendly email. It said, ‘you don’t visit, you don’t call so here’s £5 off your next purchase’. I think they’ve confused me with someone else as I’m always in the joint , especially on Diamond Day when old people can get 10% deducted from purchases just for being ancient. It’s a bloody nightmare there on Wednesdays when all of us withered folk stumble into each other with the wrong trolleys and spend an extra tedious hour trying to remember where we abandoned our cars. Still, £5 is £5 when all’s said and done so off I go to get the taps. Naturally, they don’t have the taps I’m after.

I phone twenty five plumbers and no-one wants to know because the job’s too small. It’s the same with fence panels: nobody wants to replace one solitary fence panel – the job’s too small. Tradespeople don’t realise or care that you might recommend them to your neighbours. In any case, they always persuade you that something else needs urgent attention. Anyway, Malcolm got back to me. Several times. Once he phoned when I was wandering round a churchyard looking at some dead people. Previous jobs will take longer and can he come a week next Wednesday depending on the rain.

I’m not even convinced he is a plumber. I found him via a voicemail that said, ‘I’m on holiday, can you call Malcolm’. He arrives at 7.30pm and says, ‘well Judith, I need to get into the loft’. But it’s a tap Malcolm – can’t you just turn the water off? I show him where the stop cock is. ‘Oh, nasty leak under the kitchen sink’, says Malcolm. ‘I could put a bit of tape on it’. Well, there’s a surprise. Malcolm looks under the bathroom basin. ‘Oh, nasty leak under there. I could put a bit of tape on it’.

I leave him to it. I can hear him grunting and puffing and talking to himself: ‘oh dear, oh dear’.

‘Any luck?’ I call out optimistically.

Eventually, it’s fixed. ‘I might have to come back, Judith’, he says. ‘Malcolm’, I say, ‘who is Judith? Anyway, how much do I owe you?’

‘Well how much do you want to pay?’ he says and I am stumped. It’s not a big job but he’s been with me for such a huge part of my life that I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t upstairs grunting. We settle on twenty quid and a bowl under the sink. ‘See you next week then’.


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