Rebecca Tyrrel: Days Like Those

After eight interviews we ended up employing the laziest plumber in the world - again
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The long search for a plumber to sort out the part of the house that estate agents would call the utility room and we call a loo with a washing machine and tumble dryer crammed into it, is finally over. The process of selecting the winner, which began in the new year, has made the rigours of The Apprentice look like an application to pick strawberries on a Pick Your Own Strawberry Farm and Matthew has contrived to make Sir Alan Sugar look like Nicholas Parsons.

Eight candidate plumbers have been interviewed and eight candidates have been rejected, two on the grounds that they failed to produce a passport. This morning, however, Matthew triumphantly announced, having gathered Louis, me and the dogs in the kitchen in order to do so, that the search is over.

* It is now midnight and I am still repeating the phrase, "I just can't believe what you've done." Sometimes I add supplementary phrases, "What on earth got into you?" or "Are you entirely mad?" Ten years ago Matthew said that if this man he now deems suitable ever set foot in our house again he would kill him and then me and then turn the gun on himself.

"I know that William was maddening. But we loved him really," said Matthew, employing an expression I have never seen before - somewhere between winsome and threatening. "He's the nicest man in the world."

William is the nicest man in the world, but he is also the laziest. In 1996 we arrived home from a holiday in Las Vegas to find him asleep on the sofa. We had been away for a fortnight and on our return the power shower that should have been fitted had not been fitted. It wasn't even half fitted. But William had not been completely idle. He had managed to disconnect the water supply. Matthew didn't know this before he told him to "Bugger orf aht of it" (I have no idea why he occasionally adopts an Ealing Comedy accent), and kicked him off the sofa and into the street.

The following two days were spent interviewing plumbers in order find someone who could come and turn the water back on. Matthew could find no suitable candidate so William was granted access one final time. "But Never Again!"

I put this to Matthew. "Admittedly," he said, sounding like a cabinet minister, "there were issues with William's work ethic. However, I ran into him in the newsagent the other day, and we got chatting, and he told me he's given up smoking dope and he is a new man. This is a Christian country and we believe in the possibility of redemption. That is why our Lord died for us."

I pointed out that he wasn't Matthew's Lord at all, Matthew being an aggressively atheistic Jew whose motto regarding plumbers is "No second chances". Matthew smiled and said he forgave me for I knew not what I said and told me all would be well if only I would have a little faith.

* I have to admit it is a pleasure having William around. He is charming and for the last three days he has arrived at 8am sharp and worked without a break until 7pm. If he carries on like this for another two days, the job will be done and I am thinking of asking him to stay on and fix a few other things. Matthew is a little too smug; whenever he wanders into the kitchen he cups his ear, looks at me reprovingly and says, "Hark, the busy clanking of spanners. A little faith. That's all it takes."

*The inevitable has happened. It is now early evening and William has yet to appear. A tile pile sits in the middle of the kitchen. Matthew, who started the day sheepish, is now melancholy. I ask him for William's phone number if only to stop the incessant pacing and groaning. He tells me that it is a bit soon to start harassing William and that for all we know he could be ill.

"You haven't got his phone number have you?"


So that's that. We have a half finished utility room with a disconnected washing machine and no way of finding the perpetrator.

I wondered out loud why William might have suffered this sudden relapse. "I haven't a clue," said Matthew. "When I paid him for the job in total last night he said he'd be back first thing this morning."

The following evening, Matthew was re-assembling his plumber interviewing desk - a poker table - when I went out to collect a take-away and bumped into William.

"Hello darlin'," he said. "I was just on my way round to you to tell you I will be back to finish the job on Tuesday the 7th."

"Brilliant," I said. "See you then."

When I arrived home I told Matthew of this exchange and he went to his calendar, whereupon he relayed the news that the next 7th to fall on a Tuesday is in November - seven months away.

And then he asked me if I had thought to get William's number.