Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Saturday, 9 June 2012
Can we fix it?
A large, impressive and highly professional military band has just marched past for some reason, probably on their way to the Abbey. That's the sort of noise pollution I don't mind.
Dozens of contractor's vehicles are staring to queue up right outside our compact but adorable city apartment, ready to start work on the front porch of the Guildhall, beginning at 2.00 am this morning. I know this because they sent us a letter saying that this was their intention, and hard luck. The letter also included the phone number of the main contractors for the 3 week job - a company brought all the way down from the North Midlands - and the suggestion to blame them, not Bath City Council.
As of tonight, we will really be surrounded by builders, day and night, so don't blame me if the general tone of this blog sinks deeper into the 'rant' category than normal - I've got to take it out on someone. Hard luck.
I know I have - in the past - given you an insider's view on the frightening state of mind of all stonemasons, and this might have been of use to a few of you who, at some time in your lives, have had the misfortune to have to deal with one. Memorial masons do not generally count, because - although they are just as belligerent and bloody-minded as anyone else who works with stone - you are generally protected from direct dealings with them by a funeral director who is trained in keeping his mouth shut until the last minute, whereupon he presents you with a massive bill which he knows you are too distraught to argue about until the cheque actually clears.
Most - if not all - people have to deal with a builder at some point in their lives, ever since owning and maintaining a fortified manor-house without royal assent was outlawed, sometime in the Middle Ages.
The first thing that you will observe about builders is their ability to produce more noise than their size would seem capable of - rather like the wren. This is because the first tool that the proto-builder ever picked up about a million years ago was a hammer, and he has not put it down since.
The hammer is and remains the most favoured tool of builders, and he will never use any other where a hammer would suffice. The industry - after 500 years of technical improvements - has finally given in and produced a screw which is driven home with a hammer, because screwdrivers have always been shunned by builders for being too quiet.
The development and advance of power tools over and above hand ones has seen every electric drill fitted with an optional hammer device, and when using them as screwdrivers, every builder makes sure the the hammer is engaged on his drill, even when screwing into wood.
The concept that 'in order to build, you must destroy' has worked in the reverse at Bath ever since the Georgians, and almost reached a devastating climax in the mid 1960s, before a group of young fogeys put a halt to the bull-dozers by slapping preservation orders on the remaining streets and terraces, also by royal assent. Sadly, this was too late for the Southgate area of the city, along with many charming little houses which made way for massive concrete structures like the Hilton Hotel.
Because of the the widespread use of concrete which took over from softer, stronger, slaked lime technology, the tools needed to destroy it have had to become more and more powerful and - as a consequence - more and more noisy.
When you picture a 21st century builder, what do you see? The obligatory hard-hat, a Hi-Viz waistcoat AND a pair of ear-defenders. They don't even bother to shout at each other these days, but maybe they will be issued with amplifiers for that purpose, with strict instructions NOT to use them for cat-calling young girls in short skirts from the tops of scaffolding.