Richard the Plumber
In the late fifties and early sixties one of the worst addresses one could possibly live at was Balmain. One of the best was Pott’s Point. We first lived in Pott’s Point and then moved to Balmain. The bank manager warned us, said, “It’s an area of cut throats and commie wharfies”. He gave us grudgingly a $7000. – – loan which to buy a $12.500 weatherboard home with. This home was situated almost on the harbour’s edge with glorious views.
Last Saturday we, as we often do, went to Sydney to see a movie combined with a visit for a possible bargain to the famous Rozelle markets. As we sauntered around, a man kept looking at me. He had a Chinese face and seemed vaguely familiar. We had just bought a potato and bean salad ‘combo’. We know that this Turkish food stall would be there as always, another reason to also go there. As well as the Turkish food stall there was the same band that I had admired before. They go through a lot of work just to set-up. Amplifiers, crossover units, microphones and stands, sound mixers and massive power boards, miles of leads. Boy can they play, and not for money either. No empty guitar& violin case. A drummer, guitarist, mouth organ and sax, and they let it all just rip. They are in their late forties and must just play for the heck of it.
The Chinese man kept looking and said,” Gerard”,” I am Richard, do you remember?”
Turned out is Richard Chiu, the plumber. He would be the most reliable plumber, always on time, always within the quote, always civil. That pesky old terracotta drain used to get blocked with the thirsty eucalypt roots. Richard would turn up with the electric eel, clear it in no-time.
He was the perfect reflection of us having aged, except in his case he was some years younger, still working but taking it easier, “just a couple of days a week”’, he said.” I am a bit crook, got a few health things”, “cancer”, he added. He looked sideways, for just a quick moment. I felt he did not want to elaborate. It explained his rather jaundiced look. He keenly talked about his plans, had bought some land up north, planned to retire there with his wife. His son had grown up as all our kids had. So and so, had moved, another mutual long ago friend had died, someone else had divorced. We went down the list of mutual acquaintances and history of years ago.
Now Balmain is gone. I mean the houses are 2 million plus and chockers with lawyers and other type of cut throats, different crooks.
Everything changes. I suspect we might have moved into the era of saying goodbye to pasts and friends. Still, we won’t need the electric eel here, all brand new drainage.
Richard the plumber is hanging in there still.