By Emma Cornford
This week I discovered my new favourite toy ? a pop rivet gun.
I must have lived a sheltered life because before I was a plumber this week, I had never even heard of a pop rivet.
So when I asked Grafton plumber Keith Atkins if I could hang around with him for half-aday to see what he does, I didn't expect to get so involved in guttering, rivetting and the like. On arrival at the work site, I am thrown right in.
"How are you with a hacksaw?" he asks.
I try and cast my mind back to dad's old toolbox to work out exactly what a hacksaw is.
"Um ... I don't think I've ever used one."
Keith hands me a hacksaw; I have seen one before. My brother once used one to cut a piece of balsa wood, as well as his hand.
Quite frankly I can't see me getting out of this slice-free.
But next thing I'm sawing through a piece of rusted guttering ? and it turns out I'm really not very good with a hacksaw. It catches, gets stuck and then slips off in all directions while I sit on my haunches, sweatily try- ing to work out how Keith makes it look so easy.
While I'd always known plumbers put guttering up, never did it cross my mind they would also take it down, weld things and walk on roofs drilling brackets into walls. In my mind they deal strictly with washers, taps and unblocking the kitchen sink with a plunger when flatmates decide to pour gloopy rice down the plughole.
Little did I know, apparently.
Because instead of innocently examining a washer, I am soon walking around on a corrugated iron roof, fiddling with multigrips and trying to work out how to adjust them so I can loosen a length of guttering which needs to be straightened.
When Keith says it's time for 'smoko', I must admit I'm kind of buggered ? and his wife's delicious carrot cake goes down a treat.
The most physically labourious job I've ever done was working at KFC during high school. Those boxes of frozen chips were heavy, but they had nothing on climbing up ladders, scaling scaffolding and using a drill which is surprisingly weighty.
We start work again and Keith is very good about me being one of the most uncoordinated people in the world. When he has removed eight brackets from a wall and I'm still struggling with my first, he gives me helpful tips on how to use a pinch bar ? something else I never knew existed ? to my advantage.
He even teaches me how to use a drill properly ? something I can't believe it took me 23 years to learn.
A lot of people give plumbers stick, saying they do something menial then charge the pants off you. But by the time I leave, I've decided I'd be happy to pay a plumber to fix water-related stuff any day ? because it's hard work. So for now, I think I'll stick with writing about it.