Sam was my flatmate in the haunted house on Grey Street, he was an intellectual and a couple of years younger than me, from an upper middle class background and he had a job on a building site. He was earning nearly twice as much as I was at my job drafting at Waikato University and he said he could get me in where he was working.
It was for Fletchers Mechanical Services who were doing all the ducting and pipe work on the new Waikato Women’s Hospital it was an eleven-storey building up near Hamilton Lake and I took the job.
On that first day I inherited the tea-boy role from Sam and it was a serious job – most of our crew were from the UK and loved their Rosie Lea. I found the teapot and it was filthy so I cleaned it up to shine inside and out – big mistake. I had no idea you were not supposed to clean it out and got offside with everyone straight away.
I was assigned to work with “Big” Mick from Huddersfield riveting up the ducting. He named me “Puss Nuts” and had terrible taste in music but he was hilarious and we got on alright. Our foreman was another story/storey; he was really tall and from the merchant navy – he was a scary man.
The superstructure of the building was in place and there was a temporary lift set up on the southern face. It was operated by an embittered guy with one arm missing who hated me for some reason and I had to carry a lot of gas bottles up for our welders who were putting in the radiators in the upper floors.
I also got the task of testing these radiators at high water pressure which was unnerving because you could flood an entire floor almost instantly if one little thing went wrong and piss everybody off.
Walking around at ground level one time and I had the strangest feeling that someone was watching me from above but I couldn’t tell who or what floor they were on– it turned out to be Sam who said he could tell I had sensed his gaze.
One day I was working in the service shaft next to where the real elevators were in the middle of the building. My job was threading and tapping in the bolts for the brackets that held the various pipes on each floor. I would sit on a cast iron grill platform in the 1×3 metre shaft with the blue sky above and the basement below – each level would take a few days to finish. I had just moved up to the seventh floor and I heard a rumbling sound in the block walls and this torrent of wet concrete came spurting out of a hole inches below my feet and on down the shaft. They were filling the blocks from the roof – an hour earlier and I would have had my skin flayed off.
A man was killed while I was there – he was walking below the crane when a link snapped and a pallet of cement bags fell on him. His head was kind of intact but there wasn’t much left of the rest of him – he was the son of the head of construction and the site closed down for a day.
Over the course of working there I moved out to a country cottage in Ohaupo with Kristine and our goat Demelza – I became a vegetarian briefly and copped more flak for that. It became increasingly difficult to make it into town on time from so far out of town and so I quit and took a farm hand/signwriting job at Mystery Creek.
A few years later I was out on the balcony at a flat at the top of the Terrace in Wellington. I looked down and saw Sam – he looked up. He said he’d had the same sensation that I’d experienced of someone watching him from above – he was heading off to Australia and it was the last time I saw him.
RIP Sam Davey