Friday, 6 April 2012

Right Said Fred

Are you a Harold Lloyd fan?  Or Charlie Chaplin?  Or Laurel and Hardy?  At the moment I'm a fan of the two unnamed builders who are providing the entertainment in the yard outside our office.

To protect the innocent, names have been changed.  Let's call them Bob (pronounced just as Black Adder pronounces it in the second series) and, in the interests of ethnic balance and diversity, Ali.  I would make one of them a woman...but truly have you ever seen a woman builder?  And I would, again in the interests of balance, make one of them disabled, but for reasons that will become obvious, that would be impossible.  Whilst I try my utmost to be completely politically correct, I'm afraid I have to say that these two embody every stereotypical aspect of the traditional British builder.

Some months ago, I had to pop back to the office one night, but could only get there with an immense amount of difficulty due to the street being blocked by several fire engines and many hunky firemen.  Blue flashing lights along the narrow street added to the sense of excitement.  I couldn't smell anything nor could I see flames.  But it was exciting all the same.  So exciting that by the time I'd got home some 40 minutes later I'd forgotten all about it.

At the beginning of March, the narrow mews entrance to our office was blocked by a scaffolding truck for several days as athletic young men erected ever higher scaffolding on the side of the building.  To make it even better, they also constructed a meccano-like frame which stretched across the roadway.  This road way, which is already only just wide enough for a milk float is the route by which the rubbish truck enters and leaves the mews.  Reducing the width meant our rubbish and everyone else's rubbish was not removed for long enough that we all started wearing nose gays.  Eventually the truck decided it could get through, the rubbish was removed and all was happy again.

In the meantime, outside our office a large container (a ship container) had been delivered and next to it a skip.  So you get the picture, our office is round the corner and a couple of hundred yards away from the building with the scaffolding.  At the time I didn't relate the two.

After a few days, the container was slowly filled with an endless stream of building materials, and a few days after that Bob and Ali were to be seen bringing large amounts of waste material in a wheel barrow to the skip.  Slowly it became obvious even to the dim-witted that this waste was coming from the scaffold-enclosed building.  Some 200 yards away.  It would be remiss of me not to mention that to the side of said building is plenty of open space; certainly enough to place a skip and a container.  Perhaps Bob and Ali just want the exercise.  Not too much though, as their wheelbarrow regularly dumps half its load on the roadway before it reaches the skip.

These days generally when there's building work going on at the top of a building, there is a shoot which looks to have been made out of colourful dustbins down which all the builders materials are ejected.  Not in this case though.  Every piece is lovingly carried down in either the lift or the stairs by Bob and Ali to the wheel barrow.  It's a slow process.  But that's good, because it gives us all something to watch and pass the day with.

It was only when Bob and Ali started bringing out burnt timbers that I suddenly associated the works with the fire engines all those months ago.  I'm not that quick witted sometimes.  I'm guessing that whilst the top flat was the one that was damaged by the fire, it is the firemen's water that has run through the entire building causing extensive damage inside and indeed outside.  It looks as though the whole building is being replastered (this place was only put up in the last ten years), and it has been covered in wholes as surveyors poke around to see what damage has been done to the structure of the place.  My feeling is that if I lived there, I'd sell can't be good.

In the meantime, Bob and Ali are clearly on a tight budget.  To avoid having the skip emptied too often, they're using sheets of mdf to create higher walls round the edge of the skip.  This makes emptying material into the skip as the mdf walls are now above their heads.  The waste gets piled up pretty high indeed.  And when the skip lorry driver arrives there are filthy looks and the odd growl.

As a special floor show for a few days, Bob and Ali have, at the end of the day used their mobile scaffolding tower as a racing car.  One pushes whilst the other sits on the top of the 15 foot tower like a gladiator...much the same way I loved to push The Boy around in a shopping trolley when he was two.  And now I come to think about just like many a drunken exploit as a student a few years before that.  Like all shopping trolleys this is somewhat less than controllable, and the highlight is seeing just how many parked cars they can just about avoid hitting.  It's heart pounding stuff.

Sometimes, when they have larger stuff to move Bob and Ali use fill up their oversized Transit van.  Loading it up, driving it the two hundred yards and then emptying it in the skip.  The van is too big to manouevre into a parking bay, so it sits there blocking anything else coming in or going out.  It's exhausting stuff - for us.  On a daily basis there seems to be little squabbles erupting.  We can never quite hear what they're about, and they never get too heated.  It's just like a couple who've been married for decades and just need to bicker to keep things going.  Our two heroes never seem to tire, never seem to move at anything more than a snails pace and at this rate will be here for ever.  It's going to be a long hot summer and we're going to enjoy every moment of it.

*P.S. this post was really just an excuse to show the video (which of course doesn't even feature builders) which I saw on a daddy Blogger's page...if only I could remember who it was...sorry!