Tag Archives: plumber

1986. Pulling a few strings

Today is the Feast of All Hallows or All Saints; hence yesterday’s Halloween (All Hallows’ Evening). It is my favourite day of the year to remember the dead. It is the feast day of all who have gone before us. It’s a pity that the first two days of November, which used to be reserved to recall everyone who has died, has been smothered in candy and reduced to a previous evening of pretend ghouls. I want to commemorate the real first of November by telling you a personal story – simply because it’s a coincidence that happened in my life that I’ve always marvelled at. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence at all. I hope you don’t find it too long and boring!

I’m not sure how most university systems work overseas, but in New Zealand it goes Bachelor’s degree, Bachelor’s Honours, Master’s, Master’s Honours, Doctorate. I had long finished my Bachelor’s degree in English and Music. As many of you know, I was a monk at the time and after ten years of teaching I was sent back to university in Wellington, New Zealand, to get an Honours degree in Music. That went very well, and not simply because the mother of the Professor of Music had been my piano teacher when I was a kid at school!

During that year my father had died and in between assignments and the like I had an hour’s drive every day to visit him at home. My father had been an Anglican and was from a very VERY anti-Catholic family. He was also a plumber and among his plumbing clients was the local convent of nuns (known as the Leper Sisters for their work throughout the Pacific). Dad got on especially well with the Mother Superior, Mother Camilla, who was an American. This is long before I was even thought of. Anyway, Dad died and I did the funeral.

At the end of the academic year I was visited by “the head monk” who asked if I had anything to say. I said two things: The community’s fridge is broken and we need another one, and secondly if I got an extra year at university I could complete a Master’s degree. The next day a new fridge arrived! I thought, Aha! he did listen after all. Some weeks later I got a message: we think you should go ahead and complete your Masters, BUT you should do it in Boston, USA!!!! Boston America!!!! Me? In Boston America!!! Little me from the backblocks of New Zealand?!!

The first thing to do after being accepted at the university was to find somewhere to live. I wrote to a number of catholic parishes in Boston asking if I could live there in exchange for weekend services. St Joseph’s Parish in Waltham in Boston answered. They were a French-speaking parish but that didn’t matter. I was very welcome to stay and help out! Off I went!

After a couple of weeks there was a phone call one evening. It was the local convent. The visiting priest’s car had broken down and could someone come around and take the church service. I said I would go. When I walked into the room an old nun said “Goodman from New Zealand? Do you know a Frank Goodman?” I said he was my father. The nun, called Sister Basil, had been in charge of the convent buildings in New Zealand. She said, “I have spent more time in the toilet with your father than I have with any other man!” Mother Camilla (Dad’s friend) had died around the same time as Dad. She had donated her body to Harvard Medical School. When the bones come back, could I do the burial?

A few weeks later I did the burial. Her name before becoming a nun had been Mary Borke. I told the pastor of St Joseph’s. He said that the rectory was the old Borke Family homestead. Mother Camilla would have been born in this house, possibly in the very room I was sleeping in.

Anyway, on this Feast Day of All Saints, I cannot help but think that perhaps Dad and Mother Camilla had been pulling a few strings.

1884. How to succeed

(Apologies today for two postings; this monologue here, and then a poem in an hour’s time. I normally like to do only one posting a day, but I’m “slightly” neurotic about not messing up my story numbering system and wanted to get the poem out of my head… anyway… thanks for your patience!)

You can’t pamper to everyone’s needs. You can’t pussyfoot around. You’ve got to be bloody-minded and go for it. Remember, if you want to make money, you’re number one.

Let me illustrate this with a story. There was this guy I knew called Dale. He was a plumber. He came to me and said, “Look Lincoln,” he said, “I’ve got this little old lady who’s not getting any hot water in the house. Probably she has accidentally flicked a switch off or something. She asked if I could come and look at it, but she said she couldn’t pay until next week when the pension comes in. What should I do?”

I said to him, to this guy Dale, you tell her to jump in the lake. It’s a dog eat dog world out there and if she can’t cough up then she can’t get the job done.

Later my mate, Dale, he said he did just that and she went for a week without hot water. And when the pension came in he contacted the lady to ask if she still needed the job getting done. She said it was getting urgent so he went round to her place two days later and charged her double for hounding him. Of course he didn’t say the hounding bit; he said he was charging double because the job was urgent. Also, it was just the switch turned off but he wasn’t going to tell her that. So he fiddled around for a while with some tools.

That’s the way to go about things if you want to earn a living – in fact more than a living – that’s the way to go about things if you want to live reasonably comfortably.

My motto for my business is KINDNESS LIVES HERE. People love it.

1689. Gadgetry

Alva was one of those slightly past-middle-age rich people who lived alone and entertained themselves with every new gadget that came on the market. Her garden gate opened by remote control just by pressing a button on her diamond watch. The front and back doors to the house had locks with number pads. Her television on the wall could turn slightly to the left and right depending on where she was in the house. For example, if she was in the kitchen the television screen could turn slightly to the left. Gadget after gadget…

Alva had a large house which she shared with a lodger called Howard. Howard was a promising plumber. He had an apprenticeship. A practical hands-on job with some mathematics suited Howard down to the ground. Alva let him stay for a song. It was her way of helping someone young get a start in life. Of course, Howard the Plumber was as into gadgetry as Alva – and a handy gadget fixer as well!

“What I dislike most of all about modern things,” said Howard to Alva, “is having to remember all these different passwords and pin numbers.”

“Oh, I just use the same one for everything,” said Alva.

“That’s a good idea,” said Howard.

A week later, Howard had a brand new car, and Alva had no money in her bank account.

1504: Prenuptial agreement

It was the ravishing, rich film star who insisted on a prenuptial agreement. I’m not having an ordinary plumber, such as the person I’m engaged to, running off with most of my money just because he married into wealth, said the ravishing, rich film star. As far as I’m concerned he can keep the car and boat, and get quarter of the cash. The rest will be mine.

The plumber was not at all happy with the prospect of a prenuptial agreement. It implies, he said, that you don’t think the marriage will last. I’d prefer to get nothing at all in the unlikely event of a divorce, rather than have a prenuptial agreement.

But the ravishing, rich film star had her way. Ten months later, when the marriage collapsed in a heap of rubble, the plumber (whose name was Jack) got the car, the boat, and quarter of the cash.

Fair is fair, said the ravishing, rich film star. What she didn’t know was that before the marriage the plumber had piles and piles of filthy lucre. He was ten times richer than the ravishing, rich film star. The difference was, he’d never thought to tell the ravishing, rich film star.

It was the plumber’s fourth marriage.