Strife of the sparkie

When I telephoned a local electrician’s home yesterday, a small child answered.

I was taken aback.

I needed an electrician to check out the wiring on some light fittings, and I had got that number from the telephone directory — E for Electricians.

five bulb lights
Photo by Rodolfo Clix on

I was not expecting someone so young to answer.

“Um … hello … is your mummy or daddy there?” I asked hesitantly.

“Yes, mummy is here,” the child said.

“Good, can I talk to her?” I said.

“No, she is in the toilet. Call back tonight.”


Er … it was lunchtime! Just how long do electricians’ wives spend in the loo?

I called another electrician. One without a wife. He said he is coming on Wednesday morning.

Of course, I will believe it when I see it.

I have lost count of the number of tradesmen who fail to turn up on time, or anywhere near the appointed hour, sometimes even the day.

A couple of blokes recently did not turn up at our place at all.

I cannot blame them, I guess. It costs them money to give free quotes.

I do like to support local tradesmen if I can. It is good to build up a rapport with someone local who is prepared to go the extra mile without charging an arm and a leg.

Alas, though, there have been times I have had to call on one of those firms that advertise “prompt 24-hour seven-days-a-week service.”

I am not sure why they promote themselves this way. I am yet to be told: “Certainly, sir, we will be there right away.”

Normally it is: “Can’t possibly get there today. What about next Tuesday? Oh, and we have a $60 call-out fee, and then we charge $30 every 15 minutes until the job is done. Oh, and you have to pay us right away. How do you intend to pay? Credit card?”

“That’s fine,” you blurt, one hand on the phone, the other hand desperately holding a tourniquet on a bust pipe or pinching your nose to keep away the unpleasant fumes of a blocked toilet. “Anything you say. Just as soon as you can get here, okay?”

When someone does arrive, it is sometimes a spotty apprentice out on his own for the first time.

With a $60 flagfall and his meter clicking up $30 every 15 minutes, you hope like crazy he knows what he is doing.

I have had the situation where the apprentice has to call up someone more experienced on the two-way radio in his van and before I knew it there were two people scratching their heads in the kitchen.

Was I worried about the cost? Yep.

Increasingly, it is a user-pays world here in Australia. You do not get to choose the level of skill being sent your way. You just have to pay for the privilege.

One time a “plumber” built a fancy drainage construction, remarkably like the leaning tower of Pisa, in our laundry to solve one problem.

But he caused a new problem. The washing machine no longer drained and I had to call a repairman who said that the “plumber” must have been a moron to build a construction like that. It was causing the washing machine to siphon out.

After paying HIS bill, I called the plumbing firm less than happy.

“But you said I could build that,” the plumber said in his defence.

“No,” I said. “What I said was: do what you have to do to solve our problem. I didn’t say: cause another bloody one.”

A word of advice: Never, ever, ever make a cup of tea for tradesman from one of those firms?

It was once almost obligatory, but not any more. Not at those tick-tick-ticking prices. You might just get a real talker.

Tomorrow should be different though.

I have warmed the teapot already.

I suspect there is not too much wrong with the light fittings.

It should be as easy as A-B-C.

Why, I expect a four-year-old might be able to fix them.

That is why I have kept that first number, just in case this new bloke does not turn up.

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