Yesterday morning after I dropped Esther to school, I made a quick phone call to my dad to organise a time to catch up. Sickness and medical emergencies had prevented us from meeting up for a coffee this week for our weekly catch up.
It was during this conversation that my dad told me the sad news that a plumber I worked alongside as an apprentice had passed away a couple of months ago. I was sad to have not known about his passing because if I had, dad and I would have attended the funeral together.
As I drove home, I got lost down memory lane, remember my time working alongside Bob. He was one of our oldest plumbers at the time and I don’t think he initially thought much of me when I started working alongside him as an apprentice.
Some of the key commercial jobs I worked with Bob as an apprentice were in dental or medical surgeries, bathroom fitouts in George and Ann St buildings in the city and at QUT University. Bob and I also spent a bit of time working out in Ipswich fitting off QLD Health and a Medical Centre.
I remember working with Bob at one particular medical centre in Ipswich where there was a bit of drainage that had to be done. Bob asked me to find a local Reece and get a particular plumbing fitting I had never heard of before. I was nervous about driving around Ipswich to find a Reece store. I didn’t trust my GPS, which was ironically a gift from Tradelink. Anyhow, I found a Reece which was a good 15 minute drive away, got the fitting, came back to Bob only to be told I got the wrong one. I remember Bob being frustrated and possibly thought this is why girls shouldn’t be plumbers! We both left site to get the right fitting, because Bob needed directions on where to go because he had no idea where a Reece was located in Ipswich either. That’s probably why he sent me out to get the fitting, rather than go drive out himself.
Another time we had a cabinetmaker blow up in both our faces when we asked him to cut in our sink for us while working at QLD Health. The cabinetmaker accused Bob of being a troublemaker on another jobsite. I remember getting defensive, wanting to tell the cabinetmaker to pull his head in… but I was outnumbered and we really needed our sink to be cut in so we could finish installing it. I remember Bob muttering to me cabinetmakers were all the same and I remember nodding with him in agreement, as he was telling me something I already knew.
I would have good conversations with Bob. He was a man of faith and had been on trips overseas to help in Missions. While overseas he met his wife. He didn’t have children.
Bob never told me what he thought about having me work as an apprentice. But he did one day tell me that he enjoyed working with me because the conversation was clean and wholesome, compared to what was discussed when he worked alongside our other plumbers.
One funny memory was when a group of our plumbers, including Bob, were working on a fit-out job in the city. The plumbers were talking about what they had for dinner the night before, (which was a much preferred topic of conversation than what they got up to with their missus the night before!). Each of us said what we had for dinner the previous night and Bob announced he ate 30 dim sims. (The exact number may have been less than this… or more) His wife made the best dim sims apparently. But I remember us all looking at Bob incredulously when he announced he had eaten 30 of them and nothing else for dinner. I think he had eaten some for breakfast that morning too.
I lost contact with Bob just after I had Esther. I knew he had experienced health issues in the last couple of years as he had diabetes.
I’m sorry Bob that I didn’t know of your passing, but I do hope that this post makes up for it. I know you probably couldn’t care less because you’re in a better place now, but I just wanted to let you know that I have good memories working alongside you as an apprentice. And I enjoyed our conversations too.
RIP Robert Munro