Sunday, 26 December 2010

the plumber (silence is golden)

Life often has this mysterious way of imitating art.

allow me to explain..

Some six weeks ago I came across an Australian television film called The Plumber.  I encountered this TV play at work when I was asked to purchase a DVD copy of Peter Weir's 1974 cult-classic The Cars that ate Paris for our collection.  This DVD doubled with another of Weir's films, The Plumber, from 1978.  And being a major enthusiast of 70s Australiana I took home this double-feature almost immediately upon accessioning.

I didn't get to watch all of The Cars that ate Paris.  Although intriguing, I just wasn't in the mood for it although I plan to get back to this film in due course.  I skipped instead to the DVD's second feature, The Plumber, featuring Judy Morris as the stay-at-home academic and Ivar Kants as the plumber.

This rather odd drama almost defies classification, sitting somewhere as it does between psychological horror and wry, black comedy.  What is for certain is that I loved the film and took to it instantly, watching it twice-over in quick succession.   I gather from reading over the internet about The Plumber that it has attained a minor cult-status amongst film buffs internationally.  It's one of those films that tends to raise more questions than it answers, leaving the viewer to ponder the visuals, the script, to find the essence of what really was the plumber's game.  The answers remain an open verdict.

The plumber, Max (Ivar Kants), knocks on the door of anthropologist Jill Cowper (Judy Morris) who shares a top-floor apartment with her academic husband within a university campus.  The plumber invites himself in, insisting that the plumbing in the building is in bad condition and needs attention.  And so, the plumber comes in every day for the next fives days, subtly teasing and tormenting the anthropologist, and in the process destroying her bathroom.   Her husband, Brian (Robert Coleby), having invited important international dignitaries to showcase some of his pioneering work, is unable to connect to his wife's distress.  The same for her friend, Meg (Candy Raymond), who too lives in the block.

Enough evidence is gathered throughout the course of this short film to satisfy the viewer that Max is employed by the University as a plumber.  And we discover via an offhand comment by Brian that he's been the source of many complaints.  These facts do not determine Max's true qualifications or capabilities.  That he is a shyster of sorts is an open question, as is his background.  We figure that he is very class-conscious and come to the conclusion that he is picking on Jill Cowper in particular because she is a soft touch, very well-education, conservative by nature.  He intimidates Jill by telling her about his prison exploits, and further intimidates her the next day by menacing refuting her prison references to the previous day, seething at her for mentioning the word "prison" and that he's never been.  Jill's problem is further exacerbated by Meg or Brian's inability to gauge any strangeness in the plumber, even though he's gone so far as to destroy the bathroom.

You come to feel a background comic aspect to this film, very wry, very dry.  The bleak humour serves to engage the viewer as there are moments within this film that are indeed quite funny.  There's the scene where one of the visiting dignitaries wishing to use the bathroom and encounters strange glances from his hosts, to his own puzzled indignation, only to end up having the scaffolding fall on him in the bathroom. There's the scene where the plumber writes a song in the bathroom and performs it sitting on the toilet seat, adorned with his acoustic guitar, harmonica, and a hefty Dylan attitude. The plumber himself is vaguely comical presence throughout this film.  One tends to concede he's most probably a harmless shyster with an angry side that he demonstrates by using subtle torment on the privileged, cautious and conservative, academic Jill.

At the end of the film, as the bathroom is hastily repaired, only to explode terribly once more with water and sewerage gushing quickly through all holes, does Jill come up with a solution.  Faced with the prospect of having the plumber torment her for another week or ten days, she ruthlessly beats him at his own game, setting him up as a thief of her expensive watch that had been given to her by her husband.  The Papua New Guinean rituals of vibing the opponent into ceding that Jill had been studying were expertly, coldly, almost cruelly put into place by her.

The Plumber is a film that's stayed with me since.  And only after a few days after my second watching of the film, at the beginning of the December, reality mysteriously set in.

My own bathroom started to hiss.  Somewhere behind the shower wall.  On the other side of this wall is my kitchen.   The strata held its AGM only a few days prior to me noticing the hiss, so that was strange timing for me as well, I thought.  I emailed the committee members and strata manager, I emailed and asked friends and handy people.  As I didn't receive any definite prognosis I thought I'd leave it.  After all, it was likely to be some kind of air pressure or something, and all my systems seemed to be working fine.  As we approached last weekend, some two to three weeks into the hiss, I suspected that the sound became almost imperceptibly louder, but then I felt that I may have been imagining this.

Last Sunday, 19th Dec, I almost got caught in a sudden downpour on my way home.  Thankfully, my bus ride saw out the worst of it and by the time I alighted from my bus the rainstorm's intensity had abated, allowing me to stroll back to my apartment and remain reasonably dry.  Unfortunately my west-facing bedroom window had remained wide-open and much water had rained in through the fly-screen, but this was nothing that a few swipes and soaks of a rag couldn't clean up.

I noticed too that my bathroom had water collecting around the drain and my passing thought was that the rain must have come in through the bathroom window.  I left it at that and turned the other way.

Early next morning I awoke at 2:30am to visit the bathroom.  The water around the drain was still noticeable.  Suddenly I had this awful, fulsome intuition that the water in the bathroom was not rain water, but leak water.  I could not return to sleep for my mind was to-ing and fro-ing in a wager between the possibility of a leak and natural causes.  I got myself out of bed very early on the Monday and cleaned up the bathroom floor.  Water continued to gather.  When I'd wiped the floor through enough times to the point of certainty that all extraneous sources of leakage were accounted for, I put down my rags and went into work early.

That night another puddle had gathered around the bathroom drain, hmm.

Tuesday, 21 December.  Approaching the summer solstice or Northern winter solstice.   I'm out of bed early.  The puddle in the bathroom hadn't diminished.  I sensed a flush of warm water in the toilet but dismissed that for the moment.  My small kitchen, which is on the other side of the bathroom, was warm and a little damp on the ground.  At which, that moment, I spied the evidence: my washing-machine that is positioned directly under a bench in the kitchen had formed warm condensation on its rim.  I noticed that the hot water tank was making the 'on' noise, and would click as such every few minutes.  Alarm bells rang.  I called a plumber.  I switched off the hot water.  I walked up to my nearest shop that happens to be a hot-water service specialist.  They told me what I'd already just suspected, that I have a leaking hot water pipe within my walls.  I called my strata agent.  They got the plumbers in by midday.  They drilled away inside my walls and repaired the pipey leak.  The drilling was awful.  It took them four hours of solid work to find the fault and then replace that section of pipe.  I've kept that piece of pipe that caused the problem - the fracture in it is only a hairline one.   I was lucky that the hot water worked afterward as I was in danger of having burnt the element by having the hot water turned off without having turned off the electricity. The tilers will be coming in to repair the patch soon after the new year.  And the strata picks up the bill.  It appears the hissing noise I'd been living with for three weeks was a precursor to the actual leak that likely started to occur less than 48 hours of the plumbers arriving.  

There are no more leaks or puddles and no more hissing inside my walls.  The silence is truly golden.

And at that night, at the supermarket in Maroubra, I ran into my cousin who I hadn't seen in years.  He's a plumber.

Sometime during the 3rd grade, in 1978 when I was eight years old, and quite possibly during the very moment that the The Plumber was being filmed, we were all asked what we wanted to be when we grew up.  I said plum-ber, pronouncing the 'b' prominently.  All my little school-chums in that classroom broke into a big laugh and I had no idea what they were laughing about (my home education was always nil).   And now, 32 years later, I can look back over that time and think to myself, yeah, I fuckin' should've been...

I think over this.  The plumber film and my mini-obsession, the AGM, then the reality of a burst water pipe inside my walls (I've never known anyone who's had a burst water-pipe inside their apartment..) and then, the night of the big repair, bumping into my cousin who's a plumber.  What does it all mean??? ....




Spiritual Meaning:
We are beginning to become aware of the flow of spiritual energy within our lives, though this may be in the background.

Psychological / Emotional Perspective:
Emotional security is important to almost everybody, and mostly such feelings are hidden from view. When we are looking at plumbing we are actually looking into our subconscious to where we have stored information and emotion. We need to be able to access the subconscious in order to create clarity within our lives.

Everyday Material Aspects:
Dreaming about plumbing looks at the way we direct our emotions. It indicates how we make use of our emotions to bypass obstacles in order to create security for ourselves and to control the flow of emotions within. Another interpretation is that of the internal plumbing. Often, to dream of plumbing in this sense alerts us to something that is perhaps out of kilter with ourselves, with our bodies. A leaking steam pipe might suggest, for instance, a problem with hypertension. A pump might symbolize the heart. Obviously, such images should not be used as diagnostic tools in any way. 

Paul Hewson shooting star

i'm in the sunshine A mate of mine produces a monthly songwriter newsletter which goes out to a hundred or so mainly Sydney-based...