Monday, 1 February 2016

Secret fixes

Today will also be spent on Health and Safety, but this kind is the sort that really matters - how to prevent several cwt of marble from toppling onto a passing child.

It will be done by what is called a 'secret' fixing, and by 'secret' I mean that you will not know it is there, and by 'not know it is there', I mean that I am not going to stick it on the outside and paint it red.

As mentioned many times before, a good restoration job should show no trace of the restorer by the time he/she has finished, and this is more difficult than you may imagine. One of the reasons why I despise most architects is that they are dead-set on leaving their mark on every petty bit of work they do, rather than have it so integral with its surroundings that - if successful - people will walk past it without even noticing it is there. 'It looks like it grew there,' is not a compliment they wish to receive.

The Great Fire of London and the WW2 Blitz on it have a lot to answer for. I remember, as a kid, London in the 1950s and early 60s, when most streets had massive, buddleia-filled craters dotted along them where houses used to be.

The skyline to the East remained almost unchanged at the expense of the East End, when the London Fire Brigade put all their efforts into saving St Paul's from incendiary bombs (it was erected in fine, Portland stone after the fire of 1666), but when the Docks turned into brown-field sites, the architects moved in.

It is a bit of a vicious circle really - you cannot revive a post-war economy without spending money on rebuilding, but after he rebuilt the bombed Oldfield Park here in Bath, Cyril Beazer went on to make even more money with his ghastly, fake stone, shitty little hovels, or a vast shopping centre built after perfectly good, pretty Georgian terraces were demolished to make way for it.

You would have thought we would have learned a lesson from the Victorian and early sixties architects who were instructed to clear away all the picturesque Georgian 'slums', rather than leave them standing and make them habitable, but David Cameron is now talking of doing the modern equivalent. The developers need a cash injection, as does the economy. It's a rather poor model when viewed in terms of 'the good of society'.

'The Big Society' doesn't go so far as to stop central government from meddling with local affairs by allowing developers to eat into the Green Belt.

Everything swings violently one way, then the other. From having no protection at all on lethally dangerous building sites, workers are now not allowed to pick anything up which weighs more than 25 kilos, so now the only people in the building trade with naturally acquired muscles are scaffolders.

Elderly stone-masons are now being sacked on a daily basis for not wearing safety goggles and dust-masks all day, when they are only using a mallet and chisel as they have been for 40 years.

There is a compromise long known by anyone who works stone. If the stone is high-silica and dangerous, then you always wear a dust-mask. If it is low-silica and just produces an irritating dust, then you might opt for goggles, or just pick out a few chips from your eyelids and wear the mask anyway.

If you wear both goggles and mask, the goggles steam up and you cannot see what you are doing.

In the old days, if it started to rain on a building site, everyone downed tools and went home on full pay. Can you imagine that happening today?! Railway workers are expected to work on Christmas night so as not to hold up mighty commerce.

The pendulum continues to swing.

18 comments:

  1. Whilst waiting at a traffic light this morning I noticed a lump of broken stone to my right on the pavement. I looked upwards and could see where it had come from. No sign of blood, so I imagine no-one was killed.

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    1. That image of the stone on the pavement has haunted me for 40 years.

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  2. The fixing is so secret I can't see it.

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    1. If I showed you, you would still be as blind.

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  3. I wish I were as passionate on any subject as you are on preservation of antiquities--by leaving them along, by cleaning them up, by invisibly mending them.

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  4. I must be a bit dim today...i didnt understand much of that

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    1. Yes, you must. It isn't rocket science, as they say.

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    2. I do this with the prof, if he hasnt caught my attention with the first sentence or if the subject matter isnt emotion based I loose the thread

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    3. I am not at all surprised by this information.

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    4. Well, Tom is very emotional about H&S and restoration. ;-)

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  5. Ah yes Tom, as you say, it continues to swing and I have no doubt it always will.

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  6. Oh, to hell with everything. I'm going to bed.

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  7. You are a clever-clogs Tom !!
    Just thought that you might like to know that Jane and Lance Hattatt sent me birthday wishes on Facebook and are alive and well !! XXXX

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    1. I found a garden book by Lance in a charity shop last week, but I didn't buy it!

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    2. | saw their Christmas Tree on twitter which I did report here. Jackie must have been too busy making snow scenes at the time. I saw a Lance garden book in a charity shop in the summer and bought it.

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  8. Each generation has those who want to make their mark on society, but alas, not always to it's benefit.

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