Melissa Kite Melissa Kite

The trials and tribulations of getting a plumber


‘Please, I’ll do anything,’ I told the plumber. ‘I’ll give you all the money I have if you just come back here for one day and connect the new hot water system.’

The plumber said no bother, he would come this weekend. But he says that every week, and every weekend when he doesn’t come he says he’ll come the next week. And the next week he says he’ll come at the weekend, and so on. And this has been going on for months. Which is nothing, apparently.

Frankly, the builder boyfriend could go to college and get a degree in plumbing faster than we could get a plumber

It is well known, and was made quite clear to us before we bought this beautiful old rundown Georgian house, that you cannot get a plumber in Ireland.

There are people here who have been waiting for years for a plumber. Two years is standard. An English artist up the lane has brown water coming out of her taps, no washing machine, no shower, and claims she hasn’t had any heating for five years. ‘Darling, it’s just the way it is round here.’

‘Yes, well, it’s not going to be the way it is for us,’ I told the builder boyfriend, who sadly cannot do plumbing. It’s the only thing he can’t do, but he has promised that if this goes on he will watch some plumbing tutorials on YouTube and teach himself how to install a hot-water system. ‘I just need to buy a pipe crimper,’ he declared the other day. ‘Yes, well, you do that,’ I said, tartly, for having no hot water can push a woman to the point of sarcasm.

Frankly, he could go to college and get a degree in plumbing quicker than we could get a plumber to do it.

Some months ago we found a very good commercial heating engineer who we somehow persuaded, with lavish promises of piles of money, to drive the two hours down the peninsula to us from the other side of Cork city. For a while, it was working just fine. He installed a new central heating system and brought a van-load of men to help him make the bathrooms.

They hammered and clattered away for weeks, and sat in the kitchen chain-smoking on their breaks, and we all bonded. We especially bonded with Michael, our very own plumber, a thing more valuable and sought-after than gold in the west of Ireland.

The fact that we had a plumber became the talk of the townland.

A lady who lives down the lane from us, with whom we have become great friends, kept boasting to anyone who would listen to her, ‘They’ve got a plumber you know!’ It was a hot topic of conversation down at the Centra supermarket in the village. ‘How’s your plumber?’ random people would ask us, for word had gone out far and wide that the English couple up the hill had found a plumber. ‘From Cork city you say?’ And they would shake their heads in wonder, as though they had to hand it to us, it was a masterstroke we had pulled off, for a couple of blow-ins.

‘This plumber you’ve got,’ our next-door neighbour said to us one day, ‘do you think he would look at that leak down the back of my bath?’

The builder boyfriend said no, he’d look at that for her himself. We couldn’t possibly divert the plumber from his work for such a small thing as a loose pipe. And she nodded. ‘Oh God no, of course not. What was I thinking…’ And we all fell silent in awe of Michael, and the miracle of his presence.

‘It must be good – the locals eat here.’

But came the day when Michael disappeared. He told us he’d be there the next day, but he didn’t come. And when I rang it was clear he had been pulled in by someone else, with promises of bigger piles of money.

Spring turned into summer with no hot tap. The gardens burst into exotic bloom. Azaleas so pink and so red they dazzled. Lilac rhodis and dog roses of every colour between giant cordylines and a majestic eucalyptus tree.

I’ve been wandering about for weeks quite mesmerised by the splendour of it all. The builder b has been mowing the lawns, pruning and weeding. I’ve been filling the antique garden urns with geraniums. The place is enchanting.

We’re having a lovely time. It’s just that every evening, we’re showering in a makeshift electric shower with a pressureless drizzle of water coming from the natural spring up the hillside, and I’m washing pots and pans by boiling the kettle. Sheer luxury, according to my artist friend. But I can’t be doing with it. ‘Please,’ I told Michael. ‘Please. Whatever they’re paying you I’ll double it.’ He said no bother, he’d be with me this weekend.

And who knows, maybe he will.