Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Old dog, new tricks 4
Mariusz had always been a carpenter. His father had been a carpenter, and his grandfather. He’d been through every conceivable state certificate and qualification and had worked with his father, as soon as he was able to hold a saw. If you asked Mariusz about himself, the first thing he’d tell you was that he was a carpenter, born and bred. He may not have been much of a conversationalist, but he could do wonders with wood.
Until he came to England, to work in the building trade. In England he found there were more than enough carpenters. They weren’t as good as him, young men with slapdash ways, but they took precedence with the gangers, because they had been there for longer. So Mariusz worked as a labourer while the carpenters bodged jobs in front of him. He was earning money, true, but gradually despondency overtook him.
Jerzy, the site foreman and an old friend from home, had a great idea. “Mariusz, you’re a shit labourer.” He told his old friend one day. “And you look like shit, too.”
“I’m a master carpenter,” Mariusz moaned. “I wasn’t meant to shovel.”
“We got too many fucking carpenters,” replied Jerzy, “Be an electrician.”
“I don’t know anything about it!” protested Mariusz.
“Who the fuck does over here?!” laughed Jerzy. “Follow the fucking diagrams. Long as you’re not colour blind, you can’t go wrong.”
So Mariusz became the gang electrician. His first job burned to the ground two days after the plasterers had finished. A month later he shorted out High Wycombe. After that, three scaffolders died when a Chelsea renovation went suddenly live.
Jerzy, site foreman on each job, was dismissed for an unacceptable level of delay. Mariusz is site foreman now. He’s really taken to it.