Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Wednesday, 2 April 2014
Socks, sandals and steelies
This accidental photo is as good as any other, and shows the view I usually have of my size 12 feet, wearing some recently bought, steel toe-caps. I hate steelies, but they don't let you anywhere near a building site without them these days - all the more reason not to wear them.
One of my clients was pestered for a few years by an Historic Building Conservation Officer who had a bit of a thing against wealthy people, so objected to pretty much everything he wanted to do to his Grade 1 listed mansion.
This bloke was about 55 years old, trained as an archeologist, has longish hair and beard and always wears socks and sandals. By now you will have a very accurate idea of what sort of a person he is. I'm not sure if he is a Morris Dancer at weekends, but it wouldn't surprise me.
When I do any restoration work to historic objects, my prime objective is to leave the thing looking as though it has never been touched, but this officer seemed to want to leave his mark on everything by simply preventing anyone from imperceptibly improving anything.
I have learnt from years of experience when dealing with conservation officers like this, that if you want to polish an object which has been abused either by neglect or deliberately (like sand-blasting, for instance) you never, ever come right out and say it.
One instinctively develops a vocabulary to describe the atrocity which you propose to inflict on the item, and it never, EVER uses words like 'polish', 'sand', 'abrade' or any of the rest of the devil's lexicon which the officer is waiting for you to utter so he can put a halt to the work before it has even started.
So it was when this man came to my workshop to inspect a huge, white marble wine-cooler dating from about 1750, which had been left in the garden so long that the owner thought it was stone.
I was going to (not 'wanted to', note) take a couple of microns off the surface using specialist tools, more to clean it than anything else. I didn't say I was going to re-polish it using bog-standard abrasives. He looked at me suspiciously, then said he would come back the following week after I had done a sample patch on a discreet area for his approval/disapproval.
He returned as promised, and made a great show of examining the patch with a Sherlock-sized magnifying glass, made me wait for a couple of minutes, then said, "Good work."
At the main house, they were getting so sick of him turning up and throwing spanners in the works, that they wracked their brains to think of a way of getting rid of him without killing him. Then someone had a brainwave.
The next time he arrived at the house, the estate manager stopped him, looked at his socks and sandals and informed him that he would not be admitted onto the site without proper steel toe-capped boots, for H & S reasons.