Thursday, 30 December 2010

Nut screws washers and bolts...



I'm taking a few days R and R to indulge my passion for making things, and you'll never believe what's going to be next. As usual, a story goes with it...

Several years ago, I worked for a Scottish industrial building company. They were a hard bunch of guys - and gals as well, and it would have been easy to be intimidated by the business environment they all worked in. Scottish engineers are still alive and kicking, and the chaps I worked with were a great bunch of innovative, design-proud, commercial characters, and we all got on pretty well, despite the fact that I came from near Tunbridge Wells, which is a bit of a downer in certain company...

We concentrated on packages of work for prisons, universities, hospitals, and, best of all, retail sheds. It was during the big boom in out-of-town shopping, and huge stores were cropping up everywhere. They all looked very much as they do today, but the building obstructorenti were nervous of the Italian materials we used, (until UK Inc's dead-handed regulators eventually let us make them here), and each scheme was always a slow starter.

On one particular job, which I cannot of course identify, (Homebase in Hendon), we were having a hard time; a very hard time. In fact it was rapidly becoming a Ken Disaster! Writs were forming by the minute and lawyers were dribbling at the prospect of a dishevelled Scrobs, crawling stark naked through the trenches...

The conversation between Glasgow and London went something like this: -

Scots Business Director (God):- "Scrooobs; yiew down there? Can ye hear me? Wha's happening a' Haindon eh? Tell me wha's goin' on!"

Scrobs:- "Er, morning Dairek, er - the subbies didn't turn up today; or yesterday... in fact they weren't here last week either..."

Scots Business Director (God):- "Aye. Aye! (long agonising pause) Well; wha' you goin' ta do aboot it then Scrooobs?"

Scrobs:- "Er, well, (gulps), we're chasing them hourly, but the fax machine is broken, so all the new details are somewhere between here and the Isle of Dogs; ha ha ha; (gulp)..."?

Scots Business Director (God):- (softly, in the most terrifying voice imaginable) "Scrooobs, will ya listen to me! I wan' you thaire every waking hour, to supervise an' make sure our money is safe. D'ya unnerstand...?"

Scrobs:- "Er, yes of course, Dairek!" (lapsing into the accent was a secret weapon, and occasionally defused any further commercial banter/libel/violence)

Scots Business Director (God):- "Good man Scrooobs! Aye; ya'll be reporting to us early each day, eh?"

Scrobs:- "Er, fine, er I'll, er, do that..."(wondering how on earth he'll swing all this...)

Scots Business Director (God):- "Aye Scrooobs, you will!"

Sound of telephone handset being gently replaced on Bakelite receiver somewhere near Paisley...

So Scrobs was set a target of completing the job in two weeks, which meant leaving home in the dark, and also getting home way after bedtime. The subbies did return, slowly, rather like that scene in 'The charge of the Light Brigade' when they all trudge back with limbs hanging off, and we began to see daylight, or, rather the reverse, as we were in fact fitting the roof then...

On one occasion, I had my usual daily arse-wrenching meeting with the Main Contractor, explaining how much over the contract time we might be. Luckily he was a kindly man, and always stopped at physical abuse, (although the mental scars are still prevalent in the occasional nightmare), and we got on pretty well under the circumstances.

My Uncle Jack (the Builder), had told me once that he personally used to sweep up his building sites every evening. It may have been just a house, or maybe a factory, but he did it himself, as he was on a salary, and the men were paid hourly. When a Director from the firm visited the site once, he asked Uncle Jack, "Why spend your time cleaning up now - you're in charge"!

Uncle Jack replied "Well, it's so the men have a clean place to start work tomorrow, and they'll do much more if they don't have to work with muck everywhere'" There's no argument to that, and his site was always spotless at the end of the day, and the job was much better organised.

So, Scrobs, on the long drive to Hendon, decided to take a leaf from all this, and one evening, swept the whole site, which was after all, a DIY superstore and not exactly miniscule! There was an urban myth around about that time, where the MD of a roofing firm had gone round the site one evening, and collected all the bolts, screws, etc, which had been dropped during construction and had not been used. He piled them all on a table, costed them, and deducted the value of all these fittings from everyone's wages. That really stopped the waste!

I finished up with a huge cardboard box full of hundreds of these fixings! They were all unsorted, and I could just imagine the problem of getting them back in their boxes, as I really did want to get home some time that night...

So they went into the boot of the Scrobmobile.

This was back in 1982, and after all these years, I still have a hundred or so of these expensive bits of kit, which cost a fortune at B and Q, (perhaps Homebase as well...), and I've used them on almost every job I've ever done since that fateful day!

And if anyone recognises the kid's lunch box which keeps them safe, it's because there are also some other things I can never throw away...

15 comments:

Thud said...

I have a hoarder who works for me and for 15 years now a mighty load of shite has followed me from job to job. Once a year he will brandish a tatty fitting with a mighty cry of triumph as he saves me 50p (after an hours paid rooting!)....it takes all sorts to make a site run happily.

Scrobs... said...

I'm afraid I've always done it Thudders!

I was given the idea by an old boss, and even now, I can spot a bolt or a bit of something-or-other, and remember where it came from...

Thos fixings are great for hanging kitchen units, and the enormous wistaria which surrounds 'The Turrets' is totally supported by them...

Agree about wasting time searching for stuff though, it's the equivalent of paper clip chaining!

rvi said...

Hallo Scrobs, old bean! Yes, 'tis I - back from a mightily refreshing month in the wilderness, sans laptop, well away from politics, the BBC (and blogs!). It is amazing how quickly one gets used to not having perpetual instant access to the internet and all the worldly aggro it encourages. Very beneficial for the blood pressure. The downside of course is that I now have a stack of emails and other stuff to plough through.

So, I just dropped by to wish you and yours a very happy new year. Keep up the good work.

Is it my computer or have you changed your format to a new green blogface? I like it whatever..

Scrobs... said...

Reevers! Howthedevilareyou!

Great to hear from you again, and pleased to learn of the arteries being rejuvenated by the absence from drivel such as all this here...

And yes, I changed the format only an hour ago, as I was getting fed up with the Curry House wallpaper!

Thanks for the good wishes, which are of course reciprocated to you and yours!

Blue Eyes said...

I love this stuff. Also like the new Irish look of the place. Have you emigrated to sort our cousins out on the other side of the Bristol Channel?

At the family home we had a never-ending supply of bits. You only had to look long enough and you would always find what you needed!

I hadn't realised how much skill I had built up until I allowed my supposedly worldly-wise flatmate to put up some shelves...

Scrobs... said...

Thanks for your kind words Blues - green is our 'house' colour and somehow fits in with the time when I can concentrate on all this, which is early most mornings...

You may well be right with the Irish connection too, as we're hoping that our English investments might attract any dosh they have left over!

DIY is always a great idea, and one has to make things continually IMHO...

Philipa said...

Wishing you and yours a very happy new year x

HenryJ said...

Happy New Year to all.

Right,I am a hoarder and am proud of it,the problem is I have a wife who is a tidy upper and a putter away of things in boxes which then get placed in obscure hidey holes about the house,so when the eureka low voltage lights above my head and go to find what's needed from my hoarded bits,I can never find anything,I always end up going out to buy whatever I was looking for again.

The Lakelander said...

In a previous life, the firm I ran did its own shopfitting and we employed two joiners.

I also used to sweep the floor when I visited the workshop and would soon have a nice little pile of fastenings (which cost 25p a time) that the joiners had dropped and couldn't be bothered to pick up.

At the end of the first month, when it was payday, I gave them their payslips and handed them a large bag of fastenings.

"This is your bonus", I told them.

It worked...

Scrobs... said...

Thankyou Pips, and of course, the very best to you and the Poppets!

BTW, I missed 'Wall - E' because I was mucking around trying to record 'Downtown Chapel' or something, and the channels kept rearranging themselves without permission...

So I still haven't seen it!

Scrobs... said...

I recognise the symptoms Henry!

These days, when I kake something, I explain to Mrs S exactly where each component comes from, and usually get a 'Yup, that's ma boy' for my trouble!

The subject of a near-future post will also have a list attached...

Scrobs... said...

Sorry Henry, I meant 'MAKE' something!

'Kake' is something which happens when you put too much Blanco on the webbing... (or so 'Snudge' told us in the CCF)!

Scrobs... said...

Absolutely spot on Lakes!

Perfect description of the way to go!

Electro-Kevin said...

I clean up the passenger compartments in my trains and pick up litter off the platforms too.

It beats complaining about it.

Scrobs... said...

How do you have to cope with chewing gum Elecs?

And feet on seats.

I don't really see why you have to do this, but we feel/do the same while wandering round the village.