Posts Tagged ‘Life



With much talk about productivity here is a week in the life of a External wall Insulator in the South West, 2017.

There is a house to insulate in Bristol, front and back only as it’s a terrace, so not many metres. The materials should be there already. On the Monday morning bright and early the gang of three set off for Bristol. It’s a seventy three mile journey, door to door. They are all on a labour only contract, with a price for the total job. On arrival the material can be seen on the properties driveway, but none of it is covered, so the bags of render are all soaked after a weekend of rain. As on all jobs, one of the first things a Plasterer will look for is water. They find the rear entrance up a cat mess ridden overgrown lane, and on inspection they notice there is no water tap. Next door either way, have no tap either. They bang on the door front and back but the house is empty. One has found a Fire Hydrant connection at the far end of the cul-de-sac. They phoned a line manager at home, as it’s only eight fifteen, to warn him of the situation. He checks they have tried the door and the neighbours. His last suggestion is a local Petrol station, apparently they all have outside taps. With only two buckets to hand, one would need to be on a constant water run, they shelved that idea as ludicrous. On his arrival in the office he promised to send a van up the Motorway, with a Hydrant key and tap, but it would get there too late for that day, so they set off home, after earning nothing and using 150 miles worth of fuel.

Day two, on arrival the key can be seen on top of the material. They dig out the Hydrant box, the chamber is solid with road grit. The key they had been given didn’t fit, it was too big. They phoned the office, moaned about losing two days and spending money on fuel. The boss agrees to pay them a day rate for all days that they are delayed, where it’s not their fault.

Day three, they bring their own key from home and a resident van driver had left another one to try. Oddly the van driver could have checked he’s, and phoned in to say he’s didn’t fit. On checking, theirs didn’t fit either. They phoned in again to give the boss the bad news. Go to a different house tomorrow, he says, leave that one for now.

Day four, they arrive at the new address, the Scaffolder’s are just finishing. On giving it the once over, they notice the Scaffold doesn’t reach the party line between the two properties by a metre. They mention this as the Scaffolder writes out the Scaffolding tag and slips it on a tube. Apparently he’d said to the boss, £300 wasn’t enough for the houses on that street as they where longer than normal front and back. The boss had told him there was only £300 on the book for Scaffold, take it or leave it. Sliding the ladder onto his shoulder he chucked it onto the lorry. They asked as to where their ladder was, considering for a moment that it might be on the rear for safety as many get stolen.  Apparently, leaving one, would have took the bill to £360, so he wasn’t leaving one. They phoned the office, the boss was livid, he’d ticked the box on his Spread sheet, Started, so he could plan on getting paid four days later, I’ll get him to drop one off, he says. After waiting for three hours they assumed Scaffolder was having none of it. They phone in to say they are leaving site. There’s no ladder. The boss says he’s got a nice little job they can do for him, on Friday.

Day five, they wander up to Bristol again, to another postcode. It’s just a coat over, keep it tight back he says as there is only four bags of material. On arrival, the front elevation is pebble dash and the mortar is letting go of the stones, really it needs taking off, back to the blockwork. The four bags is looking slim. As they climb the Scaffold they see the resident on the phone, down below in the lounge in a Housecoat (who wears a Housecoat?). As he’s facing them, they assume he’s ranting about them, he was. He was arguing with the Salesman who had been in his house two days earlier, he’d definitely said they would take it all off before rendering. By now the four bags had been mixed and applied, even mortar that had dropped on the floor had been saved and applied. For such a knobbly wall, six bags would have been tight. At no time did the householder speak to them, so they cleared up and left, twenty metres at £5 a metre, minus 750+ miles of fuel.

On pay day the boss made no mention of his agreement to pay waiting time, they had wondered how he could have paid it, as there is only money in the pot for fitting the Insulation, nothing else. He also failed to mention that he hadn’t been paid for the recoat on the Pebbledash, the resident refused, it wasn’t thick enough and they had left the stone on. It was with some luck that they had been paid for it.

The Insulated render industry has been invaded by chancers, charlatans, blagger’s, call them what you want, from the coal face and up through management. Lots saw the Green Deal as a bandwagon apart from those doing the work. The boss who they had been working for, previously owned a sweet shop locally before jumping into the render game. Within a week most of the kids at three schools had been off with the shits. On the big jars of sweets lining the shelves, you could read with a magnifying glass the warning about diarrhoea. Within a few weeks the shop closed down, I did laugh.

Only the other day I saw the old boss sporting a full unkempt beard, a disguise probably, as running up accounts to the max at local suppliers before closing your business, is seriously frowned upon in these parts. The productivity of those three men had kept his company afloat, he never understood how unproductive rendering from the bottom up could be, the country as a whole will be better off without him at the helm of anything bar a razor blade.

A different gang of three, a different week and a different county, Cornwall.

One hundred and four miles door to door, requiring an early start. If you’ve never been to Cornwall you’ve missed out. If you’ve made it over the border you’ll have noticed the shortage of roads in the middle, if you know anything about maps you’ll quickly notice a lot of the inner roads are not major roads. Travel off the main drag needs to be kept to a minimum if possible. You will get used to the regular Post Code Satnav scenario, the Satnav says you’ve arrived but the house is nowhere to be seen, it’s actually above you, up that donkey track, or your on top of an hill and its down through that Bramble track that your vehicle won’t fit down. The other extreme is it’s in the middle of a fifteen house terrace, carved into a mountain and built out of the stone, no rear access, everything has to go through the house, can’t have your van outside the house as it’s Duchy land, and it’s not allowed, there’s a car park on top of the mountain. The workers wonder how their boss gets such shit jobs. This house is to be insulated inside so as not to disfigure the stone work. The resident makes it clear from the start that they weren’t expecting this intrusion before Christmas, they certainly won’t want the mess.

Day one, after speaking to the irate resident, they retire to the van and consume their lunchbox, as Ten O’clock sneaks up on them with no sign of any materials. They phone in, it’s coming by a big National carrier. The boss phones back, they’ve spoken to the driver, he’s close by, expect arrival, shortly. Lunchtime arrives, there’s not much left to eat. They phone in again, the boss phones back, it’s close by. They look out of the window at the weather battered cars that had their own tyre impressions in the tarmac. No lorry, nothing. They phone in, the boss phones back, they don’t know where it is, they’ve lost contact with the driver. They wander down to the house, it’s lashing down, no materials there. At two thirty they set of home.

Day two, they announce their arrival to the resident, and at Nine O’clock they phone in. Nothing changed, they reckon they still have no contact with the driver, so at two thirty they set off home.

Day three, they do exactly the same again, they are leaving their own impressions in the Tarmac now. The boss phones to say it’s been delivered. Where though, it’s not in the car park, or on the Terrace. At Two Thirty they set of home.

Day four, by chance they speak to a different boss, your where he asks, you shouldn’t be there until January, but the materials been delivered somewhere, what, who told you to go there? apologies to the resident and come home, I’ll work something out for you, for tomorrow.

Day five, the boss never phoned back until Nine O’clock and that was to say sorry and see them on Monday, luckily they hadn’t set off. Four hundred miles of fuel with no monies earned and Productivity nowhere to be seen.



I might even be a stand up comedian

The last ten years and more have been a steady slide to the bottom, or as close as it gets. My life as it was, has collapsed, my trade of many years is no longer possible, I’m as worn out as an old pair of running shoes. I’ve lost hundreds of friends, my wife and a dog, and an earner that I was quite happy doing, providing it didn’t rain. My Industry changed, my bosses changed, so much so, I no longer fit in that world. I have been robbed of earned monies by unscrupulous swine’s so many times lately, I can’t see how anyone would be expected to carry on. So it’s a good bye to a trade that’s nearly crippled me, bankrupted me financially, ruined my marriage and dumped me back at the beginning, circle 1- friends and family.

The friends section that’s left is mainly internet based, some forged over many years. In my previous life we all jumped into circle two, (meet up) well 52 of us did. We all met up over a week in Wellington, Somerset, 1987, 52 people with similar internet based interests from all over the world, a fantastic week. I am still friends with some, and do converse with a few of the rest. When your trying to invent yourself without any idea as to what as, a meet up with anyone can be the start of the next journey.

In my career the quality of my work and the quality of my workers efforts where enough to keep me in work for 30 years. Most of it was done by Spex, he was a right laugh, apparently. Very few people at work ever called me by my name, very few even knew my real name. A Labour MP only weeks ago, her reply to my email (pest or troll?) read “who are you” I laughed out loud initially and fired off a quick reply “Brian Lee” and at that moment the realisation dawned, she has no idea who I am but neither do I, like I said I’m back at the beginning.  I can be anything, I might even be a stand up comedian.



I’ve had my nickname Spex since i was around ten years old. It was an improvement at the time on some of my previous ones, so i didn’t complain. I’d moved house and school and my past had been left behind, a new life, new friends and glasses. I get called it by people who don’t know me, which still surprises me. I jest, i wear glasses, it’s fitting, but my real name isn’t a long one, why not use that. It has become easier for me to look at it as a derogatory label, like fat is.

Ha, Ha! his hand grasped my shoulder over the top of my friends shoulder. So your the enigma Spex. My local Policeman had heard my friends greeting, who Spex was, was out of the bag. That was my first time i recognised the power of a nickname.

Many moons later in the 80’s, i am heading for the German border, it’s November, the weather is foul, blizzards and snow ploughs, wipers on full speed. Germany is on alert, the wall is still up. Baader Meinhof have launched an attack and the border is on alert. Frankfurt Airport has tanks on the runway on the news. I pull into the border post, crossing from East into West and i’m detained immediately somebody looks at my passport, overnight. I get interviewed, good cop bad cop, Bacon sandwiches and loads of strong coffee. I was as high as a kite. What are you doing here? nothing, what brings you here, i’m heading home, who are you? of course i answered Brian Lee. I wasn’t surprised to see my photo inside my Passport as the interrogator opened it, studied it closely then thrust it under a Ultraviolet light. One of the Eastern chaps in the big peaked caps, pulled out a magnifying glass and  proceeded to study the passport closely. I must have been asked over twenty times, who are you. They really weren’t happy with my answer. I was dumped in the cells on a wooden plank.

It was maybe 01:00am when the English speaking one came into my cell. They are having trouble finding me, he tells me. What are they doing to find little old me i ask. I asked if they had the Internet, they did but they had only just had it installed. I remarked i had been connected at home for three years. He suggested i get to sleep, and left.

In the morning after Coffee and Bacon sandwiches, i am in the Interrogation room, who are you. Depression creeps over me all of a sudden, i glance at the clock, it’s 08:10am. I felt really small, little old me, no body knew i was here, brilliant. How can you prove it, he throws my Passport on the table and waffles on in German. In amongst all the sounds i hear the word Internet. The wind is battering the windows with hail, it’s a foreboding place to be.

Internet i blurt out, what about it, i’m on the Internet, you can prove it, oh yes. More German ranting. I am ushered into the front office, a computer sits there with the monitor lit up. My passport is thrown over the counter, men in big peaks and unshaven gangster looking chaps, all start chattering at the same time, as the chap at the desk picks up the mouse, and opens a browser. He studies my Passport closely. I look over and catch his attention. You won’t find me on there with that Passport. The English speaking one steps forward and translates, shadowed by the chap i took to be from Holland. Interpol cannot find you, how will this, he waves his hand towards the computer, his top lip curled, snarling Spex, i exclaim, definitely Dutch i surmise, as the shadow steps forward. SSSSpex, he blurts, it carried such a derogatory tone. His gob landed on my glasses causing little magnifying  spots to appear. Everyone looked rather fat, i smeared them across the lens, peaked hats and all. It got my back up, yes Spex, put it in Google, ignore the Swedish comedy links and hopefully you will find little old me. I got a mention on the eleventh link. Spex asks …. in blah, blah forum. He clicks on it and there is my picture. Within the hour i am across the border and on on my way, high as a kite still.

A month later, i was standing in the middle of a car park holding a workers meeting, back at home, i think we where under industrial dispute with management at the time. Two suits, one with a bulging well worn briefcase, all in dark grey, strolled through the gates and headed in our direction. Brian lee! we stop, militant painter Ian, Who? Brian lee he repeats. Everyone starts to repeat it, even myself. Nah mate, not here. I let the Painter take charge. Oh we where told we could find him here, nah mate, the painter adamant, shakes his head. They turned and left.

Spex, what’s your name, the gathering turn to hear my reply, Brian Lee. Those two where looking for you….. I never did find out who they where. I’d worked with that crew for nigh on two years, the fact they hadn’t known my name bothered them, more than it bothered me. Most i’m sure, from that day on thought i was a proper twat. I don’t remember there being any intention to deceive. Somebody had known of me, and asked where i lived on my first day, oh close to Spex, i am Spex, and that was that.

list2Last week a report was issued to the Government on Regenerating the Solidwall Insulation Industry after the Green Deal farce. Odd how i’ve ended up near the bottom in the list of acknowledgements, when i’m sure i’m the first one who told the Government we had a problem. Odd how i thought the Police should be involved and we (the population) got the Governments Chief Construction adviser, Peter Hansford instead. In the naming algorithm used, i’ve ended up being a mix of Interpol and Google. It’s to be expected really considering all that’s gone before. And for some reason, that little old me feeling crept in, again. It’s the first time in my life that i’ve been on a list with the Scottish Government, will it be the last?




Flickr Photos