Tuesday, 16 December 2008
The Calumny of Plastering
Over at Large Villas, despite the abscence of reports on these pages, work has continued. In fact comparisons between what was, and what is, follow. Today I received the timber and sheathing for my extension roof, and set to installing the roof joists. This simple sentence, blithely bypass the last two months in which Concretia has been defeated and a new erection has transformed our back garden from a demolition site to a building site. Sadly, on reflection (a thing I have recently become very keen on -NOT) they look exactly the same, but in reality, they look quite different, as the following photograph shows, a photo which takes us back in time to when we first bought the heap.
All of which is further evidence of what a loads of old bollocks Reflective Learning, Working and Practises actually are, as reflection usually bears no resemblance to reality. The keen, trained eye might for example, spot a new roof, a new dormer, a new extension and new windows. The transformations are continuing inside. WHat was previously this:
Is now this:
And so on, and so forth.
There have been triumphs and tribulations along the way, and some common themes have emerged. One such theme concerns tradespeople. We have done most of the work ourselves, but certain skills should be left to the professionals. One of these skills is bricklaying - dirty, hard, uncomfortable but very highly skilled work. Work which if done properly should be done by mature, seasoned artisans of the highest calibre. As is proper, such time-served men get very well paid, and I have been not ungenerous in agreeing advantageous terms (to them) in pursuit of our goal. All of which is a precursor to the question "Why do they ruin it all (especially towards the end of a project) by dishonestly trying to screw more money out of the client and whining like little babies in a manner totally at odds with their otherwise grown-up, satisfactory work?". It is not just Darren, our bricklayer, it was also exactly the same pattern with the roofers, the plumber and the guys who tried (and failed) to demolish Concretia.
It usually starts about three days before they are due to finish. "How's it going?" I will cheerily enquire when I arrive onsite each morning. I now can tell when the whining is about to start, because the response goes from a usually equally cheery "Great", to a furrowed brow forming, a cheek getting rubbed and the head shake, accompanied by "Well, it's been a lot more work because........". As one with some experience in these matters, I should point out that most tradespeople in their mid-forties will have encountered just about every problem they are likely to encounter in the course of their work, and to a man, automatically adds 10 -25% extra in their quote for what is know as the SNAFU factor. So if you are ever faced with the furrowed brow, do not take it seriously, as they have already been paid for the 'extras'.
With Darren, the bricklayer, I faced another problem. My agreement with him was that he would be paid on a "day" rate, because I was getting him to do some things that would not normally be part of his job - things like installing (with me) a 145KG (about 350lbs) structural beam. The final week that Darren was with us, I returned to the house unexpectedly early - 1.30pm precisely, to find that Darren had gone for the day. I did not mention this to him the next morning, but on the final day that he worked (two days later), he had completed all his duties on the extension by noon. He packed up and was ready to leave.
"If you pop in tomorrow, I will settle up with you, OK?" I said.
The furrowed brow appeared, as did the chin rub.
"Erm, I been thinking...."
"What is it?" I asked.
"Well, the money's not really fair, and like...I think you should pay me until the end of the week" he said.
"Why?" I asked
Darren's explanation was convoluted in the extreme. Despite the fact that he had earned more money by working on a day rate than on a quoted price, and despite the fact that I now suspected he had been short changing me by disappearing early every time he knew I was going to be a UNI all day, he claimed that if he did'nt get paid to the end of the week, he would be losing out. He finished his argument with "I know you'll be paying me for two days I don't actually work, but you seem like a fair bloke and everything, so..."
I think I made a sound not unlike the demolition of a smallish nuclear device , then suggested to him that he could copulate away with himself, or words to that effect. Then I lost my temper and told him that I had come home, and he had not been on site, and that I was not stupid, and I was sick of "thick Yorkshire oiks" ripping me off, and he was a greedy,stup.. and blah, and blah and blah and, unfortunately, the argument grew in intensity from there. Despite the seemless logic of my position (apart form the regionalist remarks about Yorkshire people, and my comments about his ancestry) Darren would not back down. Eventually, we reached a compromise, which still involved me paying more than I should, and said our goodbyes, bad-naturedly. Darren probably got on the end of five months of frustration, and as a person who very rarely shows temper, I was amazed how good it felt.
Which brings me to plastering. I have often hinted at my own genius in certain areas, for example, as a sports commentator I know far more about team selection than most professional coaches. As an anthropologist (author of 'Civilization- Why') my work is groundbreaking, and possibly, in the words of Kenny (our anthropology research assistant), "a unique take on anthropology". I am also quite possibly the leading scenic carpenter in the Avenues area of Hull, an area of practically 2 square miles. Despite these accomplishments, however, I am terrible at plastering. I am possibly worse at plastering than Joey Mac's friend Tom is at painting, and as I witnessed last summer, that is quite bad. (Great lad - please do not think it is his character that I am impuning here, I am simply pointing out that give him a very good roller and some nice paint and he can make a flat wall in one inoffensive colour look like a plate of multi-coloured spaghetti has been spattered against said wall. I dont even know how he does it, as technically it is impossible to make 'beige' become two-tone).
Anyway, back to plastering, and how bad I am at it. The wall in the picture below is not ill. It does not have that skin condition that Michael Jackson has got. It is not damp, rotten, warped or even painted. No, it is just a wall that has been plastered by me. Despite the hideous nature of the results of my plastering, I can assure readers that rather than hire someone who knows how to do this properly, we are soldiering on in the rest of the house, partly so that I can avoid dealing with any more 'tradesmen'. Throughout this project , I have been absolutely dying to deliver the awful pun which follows, and now I can, because the project has finally reached the end game. In the next few weeks, we are going to get well and truly plastered.
Thank you and good night
Posted by MJN at 21:30