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TRCH Robin Hood

A Canadian in New Basford and the Goth Plumber

29 December 08 words: Rob Cutforth

"If you’ve got a coffin in the back of the hearse, that helps. You do get some strange looks though when you’ve got a bath in there"

I have discussed at length how crazy the people are in this country. You people watch birds and trains for no reason, say things like “whereby”, and burn stuff in celebration of a guy who torched Parliament. You beat people up while your buddy films it on his cell phone, and you’ll perform dental surgery on yourselves before you’ll go to a dentist. I thought the term “English Eccentric” was an redundant term, because, quite frankly, you’re all nuts. 

That was until I met my Gothic Plumber, Tony Napleton. Yes, you heard me right; a Goth plumber. A couple of months ago, the valve on my hot water tank leaked onto the pump and shorted it out. Why the pump is located directly below a valve is beyond me, but I’ve been in England for over two years now; the days of questioning “why” when it comes to building practices are long over. The answer is always “It’s England, they’re nuts”. Why did the builders bury human turds in my front lawn? It’s England, they’re nuts. Why did the former owner of my house take out the shower? It’s England, they’re nuts. Why is the guy walking up my driveway to fix my hot water tank wearing a black shirt, black Wranglers, dyed-black hair, five black earrings in one ear and a hole I can see through in the other? It’s Eng... no, wait. This is something else.

I opened my door to let Tony in, and notice that he’s in his mid-forties. “Are you Rob?” he asks me. “Uh, yeah,” I say. “Are you the Antichrist?”

He wasn’t. He was, in fact, my new plumber.

Tony went up to the tank, identified the problem right away, grabbed the parts out of his rental truck, as his hearse was in the shop (no, really – he has a hearse) and fixed it. He didn’t even have time to finish his tea (for the record, the Walking Undead take their tea with milk and one sugar).


After he was done, we asked him who to make the cheque out to. “Gothic Plumbing”, he says. Well, obviously. We hand over the cheque and he hands us his business card. "Gothic Plumbing", sure enough, complete with bat and gargoyle. After he’s gone, my wife and I look at each other, look at his business card and look at each other again. “Did that just happen?” I ask her. She assures me it did.

I make it my mission to find out more about my Goth Plumber. I call him up and ask if he’d like to be interviewed for LeftLion and surprisingly, he does. Turns out there’s a lot more to my Gothic friend than meets the eye…

Which came first, the Goth or the Plumber?
I was Goth before I knew what Goth was. I liked wearing black, and people would come up to me and say “Are you a Goth?” and I would say, “Oh, what’s that?” It started in the 80s and I just happened to like the music and the style. It’s so easy in the morning when choosing something to wear when everything is black. It’s become popular with the kids now, which I don’t like because it’s put the prices on the shoes up.

Being a Goth must make your work life interesting…
When I started working for a company and given the obligatory blue overalls, I decided to set up my own business. What should I call it? Gothic Plumbing. It’s partly marketing to be honest. If you go to the Yellow Pages, it’s different from anything else in there. Yes, it puts some people off, but it generates a certain amount of interest from people into alternative lifestyles themselves. I don’t go to jobs wearing the makeup and nail varnish, that doesn’t go over very well. Chipped nail varnish doesn’t look very good anyway.

What the strangest reaction you’ve got from a customer?
I got a call-out from a little old lady one time. When I got to the door, she said, “Oh, me duck, you’ve got the wrong house, you want the one next door”. I said, “No, I’m the plumber.” That gave her a bit of a fright. You get strange reactions from children asking if your earrings are real, and you also get people asking me to turn up in all the Goth gear. I tend to steer clear of those ones. You also get the odd idiot calling up asking “Is that Chav Plumbing?”

I hear you ordinarily drive a hearse. What happened to it?
The brakes failed a mile and a half away from my house on the A453. The best way to put it would be to say I brought it to a controlled crash into my dustbins.  And that’s after it passed its MOT with flying colours.  The A453 is a very busy road - I was very lucky it was 7 in the evening as there were suitable gaps in the traffic.  I was also lucky I was in a hearse, as people tend to give a hearse a little more room on the road.

Driving a hearse must have its benefits. You must get free parking...
Yeah, you do to a certain degree, unless you get an over-efficient traffic warden. If you’ve got a coffin in the back, that helps.  You do get some strange looks though when you’ve got a bath in there…

You’re obviously not from Nottingham - what brought you here from London?
When I came back from a three-year stint in Cyprus with The Royal Air Force, I was sent back to a base in Lincolnshire.

What? Really?
Yes. I used to take aerial photographs in the service. I processed survey photographs for the government, photos of boats that weren’t supposed to be there, fishing where they weren’t supposed to and drug smugglers. I helped document the Turkish invasion in Cyprus. It was still the Cold War days at the tail-end of the Vietnam war so we did some work with the Americans there as well.

I thought the UK had nothing to do with the war...
We didn’t. But the Americans had bases here and we processed a lot of photographs for them. Half the time you didn’t know what you were looking at, but they had some amazing equipment. They had a camera that swung like a pendulum, strapped beneath their planes.  If they flew in a straight line over Britain, they could photograph the entire country in a single pass.  In such detail that you could make out golf balls on the golf courses.

Holy crap. How long ago was that?
25 – 30 years ago.

God, you can only imagine what they’ve got now.

Aw, right, did you catch that? As if being a Goth and a plumber wasn’t surreal enough, the guy took secret spy photos of the Turkish invasion in Cyprus and of the Vietnam War and just gave me first hand insight into American spy technology. He might just be the most interesting person I’ve ever met. Note to self: Speak to builders more often…

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