Rab McNeil’s Week
Top readers among you may recall that, a couple of years ago, the head of one of the big (or formerly big) DIY chains claimed that the sector was failing because of an influx of eastern Europeans who, for some reason, can fix, build and maintain anything, in a way that we in Scotia Minor and other parts of the UK cannot.
This has always intrigued me. Is there something missing in our educations? Are we not men? How come our fathers could just do stuff but we have to Google it, prior to the exquisite, fulfilling joy of buying tools and materials from Amazon, prior to ending up crying in a heap on the floor and phoning to get a proper man in?
Pre-IKEA, this actually happened to me. Trying to put up a computer desk left me a gibbering wreck, which at least set me up perfectly for a career in journalism.
Of course, the DIY chief had to retract the comments on grounds of political correctness, so we all knew there was a grain of truth in them, even if they cannot be the whole story.
I am minded to witter thus after reading a report in The Courier’s business pages about planning applications for home improvements experiencing a recent surge. To be sure, this cannot be projects carried out by common men but will involve tradesmen, who prosper like never more and casually throw out quotes that make householders quail and utter the dreaded words: “I’ll get back to you – once I’ve won the Lottery.”
The tradesman, for his part, utters bons mots in the manner of Oscar Wilde: “I can resist everything except an offer to be paid in cash.”
A review by Halifax Insurance of local authority data found that single-storey extensions, loft conversions and basement overhauls account for much of the rise in applications.
The reason for this, of course, is to increase the value of the house, so that you can sell it and move on to another one, which you add bits to, thus keeping joinery and allied trades in a state of rude, good health, and you in a permanent state of restlessness. It’s why any day in a “quiet” suburb, the air is rent with the sound of hammering, drilling, swearing and loud pop music from radios.
We should reinstate the idea of the fortnightly trades holidays: if only to give us a rest from the racket. We should also give our own Mangle-It-Yourself attempts a rest. Apart from anything else, it would save us visiting one of these massive stores where everything is organised logically to prevent it being found.
That’s the real reason these places foundered: people just gave up and left empty-handed, vowing: “I’ll get it on Amazon. It’ll be quicker.”
Take note – studying can kill
A woman who noticed a wobble in Uranus – haven’t we all? – is to feature on the Royal Bank of Scotland’s first polymer £10 note, due to circulate among the great unwashed on 4 October.
Mary Somerville’s discovery of the wobble in the controversial planet’s orbit led her to suppose there was another planet in the neighbourhood. She was right, and that’s how Neptune was discovered.
Interestingly, or indeed otherwise, young Mary’s mother thought that studying could kill you and tried to stop the lassie burying her face in books.
I’m with Mary’s maw on this one. I have always eschewed studying and, at the time of going to press, am still alive. However, I am exceptionally dense.
Work to rule
Glasgow has come top in a survey of which workplaces have the most ridiculous rules. The stunning news is revealed in research by CV-Library, which found that an average of 36.8% of UK workplaces had daft rules in place but that this rose to 71.4% in Glasgow, almost double the score in London.
Time was when the only rule in Glasgow workplaces was “Nae bevvying”, as laid down by leading trade unionist Jimmy Reid (with whom I once tanned some whisky in a Glasgow bar when I should have been reporting on the state of the nation or some other hogwash).
The most ridiculous rules in CV-Library’s survey fell into five categories: when you can go for a slash; dress codes; not being allowed to speak; fines for being late; no drinks allowed on the desk.
The last-named is an outrage, though I remember Andrew Neil being a stickler for it (and general tidiness – boo!) at The Hootsmon. This was in contrast to the Irish Government which laid on free Guinness for hacks reporting on a visit by then US President Bill Clinton to Dublin.
It was lovely to look out over the huge press hall and see a pint on every desk. Of course, one side-effect was that my inappropriately jaunty copy was spiked. Only joking: it was the splash, proudly written under the influence of the liquid black gold.
As for the other complaints, not being allowed to speak obviously doesn’t apply to unfortunates who have to work with the public. But, even then, the survey found that some places forbid staff saying “hello” to customers and insist instead on “good morning” or “good afternoon”.
I can’t say I’m too upset about that, though I do hate these longer scripts that workers on remote help desks are given, where they keep saying they know how frustrating it must be to pay for a bunch of cack that never works.
I wonder if the staff at Pizza Express are under orders to refer to customers as “you guys”, which all the waiters (if that is the word) do repeatedly, even when your table includes women, who were not guys the last time I looked – though I accept that times have moved on since the 1990s.
Perhaps I have just been lucky in my career, but I cannot recall having to sit next to someone in the office who had BO.
However, according to a survey by online service Showerstoyou seven in 10 office workers report that the biggest personal hygiene and appearance issue they notice in the workplace is … body odour.
I smell a rat, as I’m pretty sure that’s the sort of answer that something called showerstoyou would want to find. I should add that bad breath, at 64%, and dirty or stained work clothes, at 61%, were the next most hated hygiene issues.
Working from home now, none of these things is an issue for me. With no one around to complain, even if my bottom wants to blow a raspberry I can happily tell it, “Fire away, my odoriferous friend”. It’s the sort of freedom that we freelancers value greatly.