[THE OLD GROANER] Enough to turn Salter in his grave
Well, to be perfectly honest, I’m not at all sure that Salter is actually in his grave, but he doesn’t seem to be around much anymore, which must be a load off many minds in the building industry in Scotland.
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Alan Salter was known to most tradesmen in the country as “The Beast,” but let me start from scratch. I think he was a plumber by trade, but he worked his way up from that miserable trade to be a site agent and eventually to be an area manager of one of the most successful housing development companies in the country. The owner of that company went from strength to strength and now owns probably the only successful motorcycling manufacturer left in Britain. Now, to be fair, Salter was not wholly unreasonable; he simply demanded perfection in all trades. He was not so much a perfectionist when it came to legal issues, human rights, fair trade and all those namby-pamby and sissy issues, but don’t you dare splodge a drop of paint on the parquet floor!
Please excuse the digression, but I actually knew the original beast, “The Beast of Brompton”; he was an army provost-sergeant famous not only as a strict disciplinarian but also for his stupidity; he was once heard to instruct the guards, “Nobody answer the phone unless it rings.”
Salter appreciated good workmanship and paid accordingly, he remains my best argument for the capitalist system; work well and you get paid well, work poorly and you are “down the road.” If you have got the idea, then I will move on, move on to this valley of ours.
I often fantasize as to what Salter would say were he to holiday in Turkey. In my opinion he would not last, or did not last, a week. His lowest priority when I knew him was safety, but given the level of that priority in our particular location, then poor Alan would not have survived a day or two. He would have seen heaps of timber shuttering with hundreds of protruding nails and working amongst those timbers men wearing flip-flops or old sports shoes. He may also have seen the state of what passes for scaffolding in these parts, heaps of tables and chairs or lengths of tree branches lashed together.
Had he been with me 10 years ago, he would have witnessed a shop fitter in Marmaris who was cutting aluminum sections to form windows. He was using a disk cutter and was without protective goggles; when he made his cuts he would aim the disc at the correct spot, close his eyes, turn his head away and then make the cut. I didn’t stay around long enough to count his fingers. We had a welder work for us once who used sunglasses (faux Rayburn if I remember well) to do his work. His eyes were fine, but he had a most horrible skin burn for weeks.
Had Salter missed the safety breaches, he may have had the misfortune to have passed a building site such as the one which I passed yesterday, and there seen so-called bricklayers erecting something which they no doubt would call a “wall” but which most Europeans would nominate a rather untidy pile of bricks with some gray splodgy stuff separating them, the nearly vertical structure possibly forming a part of a dwelling, or maybe something far more substantial.
I will now cut to the chase. Building standards in Turkey, well at least around here, are simply horrible. I have not witnessed more terrible standards of workmanship since I was in a certain Arab country about 40 years ago. That country now has a Hilton, which I pray, for the sake of the “A” list of celebrities, was built by better craftsmen than were around those years ago.
In England, every reasonable-sized city, and many large towns, has a building college to which trainee tradesmen or potential tradesmen are sent for a basic education in their own chosen craft and building in general. Organizations such as The Cement and Concrete Association run short courses to educate our lads.
The blind leading the blind
They also put out free little “Man on the job” illustrated booklets, which find their way into the hands of our site workers. It seems to me that hereabouts anyone can try his hand at any trade and there is no way for him to be educated to a level of competency; he learns from others, a classic case of the blind leading the blind.
And another thing… (am I starting to rant?) they all smoke, so why not waste a match or two burning the cement bags at day’s end? If you leave overused shuttering for locals to harvest, then please, lads, please de-nail the crop. I do hate to see kids clomping home in tears with lengths of 4×2 nailed to their feet or knees.
I will avoid being boring by going into too much technical detail, but I can briefly touch on the quality of concrete. It is a certain scientific fact that concrete should be placed and vibrated into its shuttering within 40 minutes of water being added to the mix. It really doesn’t do to mix it, go to lunch and simply add more water an hour later! It is not marmalade they are making.
Now things would not be quite so bad if the lack of training and skills stopped with the workforce; unfortunately, however, the management level of the industry seems to suffer nearly as badly. We were once talking to an expat who had recently had several bungalows and a house built in a small compound. I asked him why the bungalows had been built with the ground floor some one-and-a-half meters above ground level. He explained that, rather than build foundations into the ground, his had been built out of the ground so that in the event of an earthquake the shock waves would simply pass underneath the structure, leaving it undamaged.
I asked him where on earth that science had come from and he said that his site engineer had explained it to him. No amount of incredulous stuttering and spluttering from me could convince him of the nonsense of the notion.
07 January 2010, Thursday
JOHN LAUGHLAND FETHİYE
Enough to turn Salter in his grave