Last year I was running out of paid work, but now it has all come at once and relies on the weather being gentle. It has been literally freezing with an East wind as I am up on an 80 foot high scaffold with a water spray, and little or no progress has been made as I approach next week's deadline. Kinell, they have known about this work since last Summer and the Summer before that, but the managers have only just decided to give me the go-ahead - in mid bloody Winter.
There is another job running concurrently for which I am a hands-on consultant, being carried out by two young masons in a cosy tunnel which - with the help of a small convector heater - is a balmy 7 degrees. This is not for their comfort, but to prevent the lime mortar they are using from freezing and consequently becoming useless.
The job was planned the Summer before last, but has been shoe-horned into the schedule to start in the Winter as well. This estate is run by a multitude of committees who are ultimately governed by a Health and Safety department who has little or no idea about how their regulations can be adhered to at the same time as actually doing the job.
Countless hours are spent in meetings in order to explain the impossibility of carrying out the architect's and the H.E. executive's demands, and these explanations are passed up a pyramidical chain of managers before ultimately - if at all - being put in front of the actual client, whose empire is growing so large that his house and associated outbuildings has turned into a village, and a large one at that.
For the building of this particular decorative feature, the architect pronounces, you must use second hand, previously weathered stone, not new material. We try to explain that all of the stone that arrives on site is already about 180 million years old, and the moss and algae which has accumulated on the existing features was only picked up in the 250 years since it was pulled out of the quarry. As soon as you cut into it - as cut into it you must, since it doesn't shape itself whilst underground - it turns back into the new stone which is already 180 million years old, give or take 250 years. This seems to be too much for him to grasp, and certainly doesn't correspond to the vision he has made skeletal on his laptop or drawing board. We have to put the flesh on the bones.
But it must not stand out like a sore thumb, like a spanked arse, like a carbuncle on the face of an old friend, so what will you do?
I will paint it.
Fairy dust - what do you think I will paint it with?
Then I want to see an example of how it will look after you have done that before I approve the work.
You are surrounded by such examples, but you have not noticed them. You have forgotten how they used to look within a matter of months, so now I need to turn you around and point at them so that you may remember.
Half of my working life has been to sprinkle fairy dust on architects' unworkable creations, then walk away unnoticed.
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