Photo by Lee Woolcock
Plumber, 49, British.
I came to live in Barcelona in 1982. My sister was already here, but I came to be with my girlfriend at the time. Through them, I made some good friends and settled in really easily.
Twenty-eight years ago Barcelona was really different. It wasn’t like a European city at all—it was a very Catalan city. In the years before the speculation boom, everything was also much cheaper. I used to love going down to the beach and eating squid ink paella for next to nothing.
I got into plumbing when I lived in a squat in London. We didn’t have a bathroom so we used to help each other out doing manual jobs. At the time, there were a lot of equal opportunities schemes, so I signed up for courses in plumbing and never looked back.
I taught English when I first came here. In those days, you just had to speak English to get a job teaching. I hated it! I used to call my sister—she works at International House—and say, “They want to do auxiliary verbs! What’s an auxilary verb?!”
Once my Spanish got better, I started up the plumbing again, and I also did regular DJ-ing spots around the city. I still DJ at weddings and parties...I really love music.
Coming to Barcelona from inner-city London really opened my eyes. It seemed so exotic then. I loved the lifestyle. I think I might have been more ambitious work-wise if I’d stayed in London, but I’ve lived my life, had a daughter...I’ve been very lucky.
Plumbing’s an unusual job for a woman, both here and in the UK, even now. It was difficult at the beginning but as I got more experienced and people could see I knew what I was doing, it was fine. I tend to get my materials at the same place though, as most shop assistants look at me like I don’t know what I’m talking about.
The three words that best describe me? Difficult one, but I’d say I’m practical, tolerant and non-conformist.
My job is quite fascinating. I get to meet all kinds of people, living in all kinds of ways. You’d be amazed at what some people don’t have in their homes. Most of the work is about unblocking toilets at 9 o’clock in the morning, however!
The best piece of advice I’ve been given as a plumber was if you’ve got a nut that won’t unscrew, heat it up. In life, I always try to be myself and respect other people’s rights to be themselves. That gem came from my mum.
My dream now is to get a project going that trains up young women to help people on low incomes get their plumbing work done at low rates. It’s a real problem—these days people just can’t afford €300 plus bills. One woman I visited had been living without hot water for six months because she couldn’t afford a replacement boiler.
I couldn’t live without my adjustable spanner and my washing machine.