“There’s a bad smell coming up from under the floor.”
Anthony Butler, owner of Canberra’s Blueline Plumbing & Gas, has been called out by a customer to investigate a curious smell emanating from underneath the house – and there’s a distinct and disturbing sewage element to it.
“As with most houses, the space under the house is very tight,” Anthony says. “I have to crawl in on my belly but can not easily turn around or roll over.”
But Anthony presses on, following his nose and dragging himself through the dust, only to find himself face to face with three paunchy rats. With his hands pinned by his side and with the headroom of a coffin, it’s understandably “terrifying”.
“Luckily, the rats leave me alone,” he says.
But he hasn’t seen the last of them.
“I discover the rats have eaten out a hole in the client’s heater ducting and have been weeing and pooing in there.”
Anthony describes this particular job as “one of the more memorable” in his years as a plumber.
Blueline Plumbing & Gas has been clearing drains, fixing leaking taps, and installing hot water systems, fridges, evaporative coolers and more for six years in Canberra.
Anthony has been on the tools for 14 years and says it’s a firmly family-run business, started by him and his wife with their two children and two dogs. On a typical day, he works part-time in the office and part-time with tools in hand.
Anthony’s enjoyed working with his hands since high school and knew he wasn’t suited to a standard office job. He always thought owning or managing a business would suit him but wasn’t clear on what to do or how to get there. That was until a plumber gave him a work experience opportunity.
“He offered me a position as an apprentice once I finished year 10 and I decided that a trade would give me the best of both worlds, the chance to work with my hands and the possibility of running my own business.”
Anthony says his time as an apprentice grew his appreciation for businesses that support young workers and create a positive workplace culture – something he’s tried to foster at his own business. In the last six months, he says Blueline has hired an apprentice and full-time office staff member who are “fitting in really well”.
“We’re excited to see the business grow. Our aim is not to be the biggest plumbing company, but a small to medium company that values and respects their employees by doing everything we can to make turning up to work each day enjoyable.”
A self-confessed people person, Anthony loves plumbing because of the opportunities it provides to strike up conversations with clients and even learn new skills.
“We bought a house a few years ago and having my own backyard has piqued my interest in gardens – I have had so many clients who have given me great gardening advice,” he says.
“My wife and I even met some of our best friends through plumbing. I did a job at their house and they were chatting to me about how they had moved to Canberra and didn’t know many people, and we got onto the topic of sport.
“I mentioned my wife was actually organising a social netball team and asked if they would like to join. They signed up to the team and the rest is history.”
Anthony says the last two years have thrown a spanner in the works. And with Canberrans spending more time at home listening to dripping taps, they’ve now emerged from lockdown with lists as long as their arms.
But they’re jobs he’s willing to take on.
“One bonus of the pandemic is that people are now easier to schedule in because they’re able to be more flexible with their work.”
Visit Blueline Plumbing & Gas for more information.