*Bob the builder is back. He appears to have an apprentice now which you’d think would have sped up the process, but it hasn’t.
Our landlord lives in regional victoria. A landed gentleman with a scattering of investment properties he had been a delight to deal with when we first moved in. Eschewing an agent and negotiating directly we had all been very happy with the arrangement.
“Anything you need, any problems, anything at all, just give us a bell and I’ll get onto it for you”
So we let him know about the en suite ceiling.
“I’ll get Bob straight on to that.”
The concept of time in regional Victoria appears to have a more relaxed impetus to our permanent city-slicker hustle, for it was several months before the builder got ‘straight onto it’. Eventually an appointment was made and I arranged to be home.
Expecting a robust chappie wearing yakkas, a pair of blundstones and a tool belt, imagine my disappointment surprise when I opened the door to the builder. Here was a stooped, emphysemic senior wearing a brown cardigan and corduroy shoes. In fact, come to think of it, he bore a striking resemblance to O’Reilly the incompetent builder in Fawlty Towers.
He shuffled up the stairs and without direction from me, headed straight into the bedroom.
“You appear to know your way around.” I commented, slightly unnerved.
“Yep. All these places have been a real bastard. Leaks in every one of them. Built quick, built cheap. Shonky alright.”
“So you’ve fixed leaks at our neighbours’?”
He erupted in a fit of coughing and disappeared onto the balcony for a cigarette.
I read that as a yes and left him to it.
Apparently Bob’s first visit was for the purposes of reconnaissance, which explained the lack of tools and the fact that other than three cigarette breaks on the balcony and one cup of tea, nothing actually got done.
“Well, I’ve found the problem and I’ll be back tomorrow morning at eight.”
Thus established a month long routine whereby Bob would arrive some hours after the stated 8am start, ascend the stairs with alarmingly labored breathing and contemplate the street below as he smoked on our balcony, pausing occasionally to daub the guttering area with rubber paint.
Eventually he declared the problem solved.
The beginning of autumn heralded the first of the serious rainstorms. Our en suite ceiling damp patch had spread further and we had a new watermark on the bedroom ceiling.
We called the landlord.
“I’ll get Bob straight onto that.”
Apparently it was too wet to work but we were assured the job would be done as soon as the weather fined up. Meanwhile our entire en suite ceiling was mottled and water was dripping from the three- in- one light fitting.
Another month passed and the plaster surrounding the light had crumbled away entirely. Dangling from exposed wiring, the light cast uneasy shadows across the walls and mirror. The exhaust fan had ceased to work at all and our mould colony was mounting an attack across the venetian blinds.
“Hi Jane, Bob Murphy here. I’ll be there at eight tomorrow morning.”
The doorbell rang at 8am on the dot. Well, I thought, this is a turn up for the books; maybe the Bob-meister is finally on it. I opened the door to a man in his mid thirties who may well have been the country’s oldest apprentice builder.
Fortunately he hadn’t modelled himself on Bob’s Friday night at the RSL look and was clad in serviceable Bisley cargo pants and a Ramones tee shirt – functional and edgy.
Bob’s assistant (whose name I never bothered to memorise) waited, tea in hand, on the offending balcony for Bob to arrive a good hour later.
I left them to it.
Returning later in the day I discovered that several sheets of plywood had replaced the decrepit ceiling and a blanket of sodden plaster chips carpeted the en suite floor and half our bedroom.
A series of diagonal grid lines had been etched on the stone tiles of the leaky balcony floor above and I reasonably assumed they would return to finish the job.
Six weeks later, I got the call.
“Hi Jane, Bob Murphy here. I’ll be there on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week”.
“Let me guess, you’ll be here at eight?”
Bob evidently had a ferocious bout of Monday-itis and didn’t rally until Tuesday at 9.23am. His assistant didn’t manifest at all. Any wonder he was the world’s oldest apprentice, if our particular job was anything to go by, he probably had to work for ten years just to learn how to use a hammer.
By days end on the Tuesday our entire balcony area had been retiled.
Bob called that night to advise that he would be back in the morning to finally complete the job. Seriously, all 485,000 square meters of the Sydney Harbour Bridge could have been painted in the time it had taken this man to fix our measly leak.
Wednesday came and went. No Bob. A week passed and the first of his tiles were already falling off.
Our ensuite still has a temporary plywood ceiling and a new leak has appeared in the garage. We sent a photographic compendium of Bob’s less than stellar work to our landlord, who, in light of the imminent repairs this time last year, had optimistically increased our rent. There will be a further rent increase OVER MY DEAD BODY.
Frankly, I can live with the temporary ceiling and am happy to hide the patchy tiles with pot plants; and while our landlord has paid for work that has never actually been completed I am perfectly happy not to be waiting for Bob -
(like) EVER AGAIN.
*Not his real name.
**Which is actually Chris, but I prefer Bob.