Down The Pan


Years ago growing up, I remember my dad always seemed to be working. Either on his normal day to day joinery or on some private work. A foreigner as they were known. And at time’s the two overlapped into each other.

On some occasion’s he would work during the day,  go straight to the private job, work through the night on that, then go back to his every day job the following morning. Work that day and have the night off. The next day though it would be the same routine, work day, night, day, then home, collapse and sleep. this would go on until complete.

Everyone makes sacrifices for their children but I always felt my Dad went head and shoulders beyond anybody else. He was just always working on something, and if he wasn’t working he was gardening, or running his football team, or taking us out somewhere. Busy, busy, busy.

But he always seemed to have time to do it all.

Bless him.

One of those private job’s was refurbishing the seating area’s in a night club. Rip out the existing, then manufacture new, ready to be re-upholstered. It was a friend of my dad’s, Joe, an on-off work mate who had picked up the foreigner and asked my dad to help him on it.

So off they go from their day job, into the club early evening, work the night. Come morning, back to day job, then sleep. This went on for roughly a week until the job was complete. It was at this point that my dad found out who they were doing the job for. It was pay day and he was waiting with Joe for the gaffer to arrive to pay them. What my dad couldn’t understand was why Joe was hopping around on pins, obviously anxious. Finally this guy walks in, a big time gangster well known in the city, with his herd of heavies in tow. I remember my dad telling me about this and he said,

“My heart sank when I realized who it was, and I’ve looked at Joe thinking, “Thank you very much.” Because I knew, no way would I have chanced working for this guy because of his

So the boss arrives, barely nods an aknowledgement, then walks round the club inspecting the work with Joe and my dad in tow, with the heavies trailing along like a line of tankers, muttering –

“Very nice. Verrrry nice job lad’s.”

Finally he reaches the end of his inspection, turns to  my dad and Joe, and just say’s,

Now get your tools together and fuck off.”

And that was it. No money, no negotiation, two big bruisers looming over your shoulder guiding you out the of the building. And next thing you know your stood looking at a closing door and a weeks work behind it.

And you’d be surprised how often it could happen.

Only thing you can do is take it on the chin. There isn’t an alternative with these people.

And then you have the good jobs. Some jobs you land on just seem too good to be true. Great craic, great money and worth getting up everyday.

One was a hotel in the center of Manchester.

Now, I have an Uncle who worked with my father at various times over the years, whenever my Dad had enough work available he would give Roy a shout if he needed the job.

And this was one of those jobs. Roy is one of the funniest and sharpest people I know, and has had me laughing more times than I can mention. Or I’ve stood back in admiration that he’s seen a chance or opportunity before anyone else and quietly taken advantage.

But my God he’s also quite clumsy at times.

Now Roy wasn’t a time served joiner, but handy, and  you could carry someone in the job if their capabable and the work isn’t very demanding. Give them things to do that you could keep an eye on, nothing too taxing that requires a lot of thought. Basically nurse them along and help keep them in work.

Part of this particular job required a rip out through out the building. Then it was a thorough refit, bring the building back up to top spec.

Roy turned up to his first day on the job with his basic tool kit – hammer, saw, crow bar and a  pouch to go round the waist to hold nails in, and carry his vintage hammer at his side.

Only, this pouch connected to the belt at the waist, but the pouch pocket was nearer Roy’s knee than his waist. And the hammer hung even lower. So whenever he wanted a nail from it, or his hammer, he was more or less at right angles in an effort to reach either.

“Jesus, change that bloody pouch will you?” My Dad would nag him.

“Nahhh, it’s fine. Quality leather this. Had it a long time this. Been in the family years.”

So Roy persevered with the absurdly low hung pouch. Constantly tripping over the damn thing and leaning over lob sided to reach his cache of nails. Its just a shame  Roy didn’t have one Orangutan length arm to get maximum efficient use out of this pouch. As it was, he was unfortunately blessed with two arms of normal proportions

So when he had his first accident it was no surprise.

He was put up in the roof space, crow-barring remaining timbers, still fixed after the initial rip out. Now this wasn’t a normal roof, it was almost vertical  with large windows interspersed at intervals which had all been broken out and removed. So you could get quite close to the edge of the roof inside, without having to crawl in to do so. And Roy was working right in a corner, crouched down, barring out residue timbers.

Finally, he came across a piece of timber fairly secure right in the corner and was forced to put some serious effort in to remove it. Wrenching away at it, it finally came free and his drooping nail pouch, entangled in his legs caused to sit down with a bump.

Only this bump landed him on a sliver of glass stuck up vertically, left over from the window rip out.

With a noise only a dog could hear, he leapt back off it and found he was spraying blood.

Incidentally, You soon find out who your friends are when your arse is bleeding and you need someone to take a really good look and tell you how bad it is.

Anyway, it was stitches, fruit and soup for a few weeks after that one.

Then my Dad took him on a foreigner he was doing which was converting a roof on a bungalow and builing a dormer into it. It was a tight scheduled job which he was doing on a weekend. So organization and the weather was the key. With the client away to avoid the dust and noise, it was a particularly nice weekend when they began stripping the tiles from the roof. The trick to these jobs is to expose the existing roof, build the new frame work and get it temporarily sealed in the same day if possible. That way even if it rains no moisture can come through the ceiling and damage anything below.

So with Roy helping it was a job that although tight, was easily achievable.

It was a hot day when they started and turned into an even hotter weekend. But opposite the house was a pub with some nice benches outside, and they promised themselves a pint when they finished the following day.

So it was on with the job.

Roof stripped of tiles and felt to expose the area that’s being extended. Cut, manufacture and fix the new roof structure in place, then get the felt over it and temporarily batten it down and fix and seal the new window till the following morning.

The next day dawned bright sunshine again that gradually heated up as the day progressed. During that days work people were sat outside the pub nursing pints, watching my Dad and Roy slaving on the roof. Today would be a case of setting some new joists in place and trimming out the ceiling then break through an access hole to receive a flight of stairs. Then deck out the floor as a finished area.

Then a satisfying couple of pints.

Now people don’t appreciate the sheer volume of thick, choking dust that accumulates in a loft area. Not just that, but the old way of plastering a ceiling consisted of spreading, then trowelling smooth plaster directly onto latt’s. Whilst above the ceiling it was just a mass of excess plaster. Then years of dust accumulates on top.

So my Dad put Roy inside the roof space, passing him in the joists that were to be stacked ready to lay out. But as Roy is manhandling the joists into position, he accidentally steps off the existing ceiling joists hes straddling, and falls through the ceiling with a splintering crash of latt’s snapping, and cascade of plaster hitting the floor below.

Roy is left suspended between the rafters, legs dangling below.

You end up frantically rushing to help, in a mad way, trying to reach the person who isn’t actually going any further because their wedged in position and, maybe (pleasegod), Just maybe, there wont be any more damage…

But by this point what damage there’s going to be, has occurred, and its more a case of getting the person topside so you can both climb down below and inspect how bad it is.

So he managed to drag Roy back up which was an effort because of the pouch which he’s having to drag back through the hole doing more damage as it comes. And when he finally managed to get him back up on his feet,

“That fuckin pouch! Get a new pouch Monday for fucks sake!”

Followed by,

“Where’s your hammer??”


Where’s. Your. Fucking. Hammer.”

They both turned to look through the hole into the wreckage below.

There, in the middle of all the black, thick dust, broken latt’s and pieces of plaster, lying nestled in what remained of the toilet pan, was Roy’s vintage hammer.

When Roy had fallen, his lower half had gone through the ceiling, and as it did, the hammer had pushed up and out through its loop and, dropped the remaining distance, straight through the toilet pan.

Smashing it to smithereens.

“Oh. Sheeeeit.”

Then it was a mad rush.

The ceiling needed repairing, the toilet needed replacing and re-plumbing in. But most urgently the scene of destruction needed cleaning up. And then the roof had to get back on schedule for when the  residents returned.

As you can imagine Roy was mortified but these things happen and will do so again.

My Dad left Roy cleaning up while he rushed off to buy a new toilet and get hold of a plumber to come and fit it. It was now a race to get everything looking normal for when the client returned.

So when my Dad did get back, it was with a growing sense of doom he found Roy waiting for him hopping from foot to foot.

“Sorry Mick.”

Awwwwwwww shit. What now?”

What Roy had done in his rush to clean up was begin a mad hoovering session. Unfortunately the elderly hoover couldn’t take the strain and promptly blew up, showering what thick black dust it had managed to suck up, over the rest of the bathroom.

So then it was back out to buy a hoover.

All in all it was an exhausting weekend. Just getting the job back to where it should have been as well as repairing the damage done to the ceiling and bathroom.

What ever profit margin my Dad originally had, went on a hoover, a toilet and plastering a ceiling.

The client returned to find a repaired ceiling and new hoover, but otherwise no damage. And my dad just had to grit his teeth and smile when the client came to him gushing,

“We certainly know how hard you worked. Because the landlord and locals in the pub opposite told us! You didn’t stop, grafting all weekend. You’ve done a fantastic job!!”

“Only, he said after you worked so hard he was amazed you never went in for a pint when you finished…”

“Oh, and you left your nail pouch…”

3 thoughts on “Down The Pan”

  1. I absolutely LOVED THIS BLOG! I thought it was really funny how the person who was supposed to be helping your dad was the one who caused the most trouble, but he took it in his stride. My step dad is always busy as well, he has a quick nanna nap during the day sometimes after eating a huge meal but other than that he’s always fishing, always tinkering with the car, always mowing the paddocks, always out 4WD, always out on his motorbike, always looking for the next adventure! He loves the grand kids because they always love to go and do most of these things with him! I love how his mind always says “Yes!” To top it off he is also an extremely hard worker with high working standards so as I read this I can really relate to your blog on an extremely personal level while you’re explaining how hard he works and how he always has to be busy.


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