Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Wednesday, 14 October 2015
A true horror story
Yesterday I set myself a little target which I easily achieved, then - as I was stacking the components of the two marble fire-surrounds in the workshop, I realise that I had made a schoolboy error. I had cut two left-hand jambs from the expensive material, even though I thought I had triple-checked to avoid doing this. Today, I go to the little Italian man and beg him to cut me a new piece of marble - at considerable cost.
Right. That's off my chest, but it has reminded me of a similar thing, some years ago, and how absolutely crap I am at measuring things.
I had a friend who ran a medium sized marble workshop, and he was short of a sawyer during a busy time, so asked me to step in and operate the water-fed, diamond-bladed thing for one week, as he had an urgent and important job to complete and couldn't find anyone else who he thought could do it.
I initially said no, as it was not my kind of thing, but he begged me and offered me double the normal rates, so I found myself there at 8.00 am on a cold and frosty morning, with a huge sheet of ridiculously expensive, one inch by ten foot by six foot sheet of shiny black marble sitting on the saw bed waiting for me. I had to de-ice the saw before it could be used.
"Don't make any mistakes," he joked, "This is the last skant of its kind in the country!" I laughed too.
So I drew the first cut-line in it with a wax crayon, and this ran the whole length from top to bottom. I checked it again against the written cutting-list, then I checked it again before firing up the saw and beginning the cut. These saws are brutally noisy, especially at ten past eight on a Winter morning.
The cut was so long that it took about 5 minutes, and by the time the blade reached my end of the saw, I realised with mounting horror that I had cut the wrong side of the line, destroying the sheet for that job. The cold sweat I broke out in froze on my forehead.
After I had plucked up the courage to tell him what I had done, he looked at me with a smile on his face and said, "You are joking, aren't you?" He then ran to his office and began making phone calls.
This time, he really had located the last sheet in the country, and to order another would have meant waiting at least 6 weeks for it to arrive from South Africa. He drove to the other side of London overnight, picked it up and arrived back at dawn in Bath, so I found it waiting for me on the saw bed when I arrived at 8 the following day.
As I began marking it out, he was in the process of firing one of his operatives, and he was so angry with this man that he was shouting and swearing at him at the top of his voice. The man was protesting at the same level, so it was very off-putting, especially at that early hour.
I started up the saw having quadruple-checked my cutting line, then dragged the blade toward me on its 5 minute journey through the marble. The noise was such that they had to shout even louder to be heard over it during the ugly argument.
Just as I reached the end of the cut, two things happened. The first was that I realised that I had - once again - cut on the wrong side of the line, destroying the marble, and the second was that my boss had got hold of the fired man by the scruff of the neck and was literally booting him through the gate by kicking his arse and violently pushing him.
I considered creeping away and leaving Bath forever, but this - I decided - was the coward's way out.
By the time I had walked up to him to break the news, he had evicted the man and was catching his breath, breathing out clouds of steam in the morning air and visibly sweating as he composed himself.
"Sorry about that. Now, what is it you want?"
When I told him, he walked quietly away, went into his office and didn't come out for the rest of the week.