Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Saturday, 25 February 2017
Can't hear myself think
The worst thing about getting younger, fitter people to work on 18th century projects for you is that anyone under the age of 40 who has anything to do with the building trade, insists on listening to the worst radio station available at full blast when working.
It used to be battery transistor radios when I was their age, and I didn't like it then. These days, all the big electric tool-makers - Toshiba, Makita, etc. etc. - make a range of rechargable battery tools which all take the same battery (so you have to buy the complete range) and they all make robust-looking 110 volt radios which look like Tonka Toys to go with them.
I think that you cannot get into the head-space of an 18th century craftsman whilst listening to crap 21st century hip-hop - or even good 21st century hip-hop - so my job in getting them into the mindset needed to recreate the work on a restoration project is made that much harder.
I enter the cave at one end, and more often than not, if their backs are turned they don't hear me come in because of the radio racket. I politely ask if I can turn it down and they reluctantly allow me to. As soon as I turn my back, they turn it up full volume again so that I have to shout instructions.I am not their employer so I cannot insist they turn it off. If I was working all day with them, then I would turn it off anyway, whether they agreed or not.
I once shared a workshop with a bloke who listened to crap radio all day, and he admitted that he only used it as background noise to stop him from thinking about anything in depth. This was pretty obvious, as he often didn't notice when the radio had de-tuned itself, and would spend all day listening to white noise at about 140 decibels.
One day, a customer came in to talk to me and we found ourself shouting at each other above the noise. I suddenly lost all control and marched over to the radio. I didn't bother to turn it off, I just got hold of the 240 volt cable and ripped it out of the socket, leaving the plug behind. There was a loud bang and a flash, and simultaneously all the lights went out. I continued the conversation with the startled customer as he re-wired the plug. This was only a temporary solution. A more permanent one would have been to smash the radio with a hammer, but then he would only have gone out and bought another one.
I suppose it is that they need some form of escapism when doing their jobs, but to me it seems as though they do not really want to be doing them at all, so are just working for the money, like any other factory worker. I think it is probably written into some human rights charter that an employer must allow any employee to expose himself to mind-rotting and harmful levels of sound at work, even though he must wear ear-defenders for any other tools which produce more than 30 decibels.
I have often thought that it would be a good idea to force these young people to listen to 18th century music when working on 18th century artefacts, but they think I am poncey enough as it is.