Tuesday, October 08, 2013


The title of this piece is not some sort of swear word, although it does sound like it. It’s roughly pronounced as “bow-facker” (with bow pronounced as in bending forward or the front of a ship rather than as a fancy sort of knot (English, huh!)). It means “builders” as in anyone who does anything related to the physical creation or maintenance of the structure of a building. Americans tend to call them contractors, which is highly ambiguous.

Builders are remarkably similar the world over and have similar patterns of work. For some reason, builders start work insanely early in the morning. Bakers, we all get why they’re up so early: some of us want our bread when we wake up. But I’ve never been able to work out why builders get up so early. Even having spent months working amongst them, I could never work it out.

The pattern is that they start very early, before most of us would even consider getting out of bed, and then at about the time we would normally get up and/or leave the house they stop and take a long, well-deserved tea break. Why they couldn’t stay in bed a little longer and have less of a tea break, I’ve never fathomed. I do wonder if it’s simply to annoy the rest of us.

Can he fix it? Yes he can, but at 7 am and with the noisiest digger you ever heard.
Builders are in the best position to annoy the rest of us. Most jobs, if they started early, we wouldn’t notice or even care. If an accountant started on the books at 7:30, I’m quite sure the people next door would sleep on, oblivious. If a dentist opened his practice at 7 am, nobody would bat an eyelid. And the dentist would sit there in an otherwise empty room, waiting for the first person to appear in the waiting room - probably it would be a builder wanting a check-up on the way to work. The problem is, none of these jobs have anything that makes any more noise than a flatulent bee in a jar.

But builders have a dizzying array of devices to help them in their job. And every single one of them makes a noise like ten million bees smashing their way out of a million jars and letting forth a thunderous wall of wind.

We currently have painters doing up our building. Painters are very much builders. They start at 7:30 sharp. Before then, there is nothing but the silence of the ageing night. Then suddenly, without warning they let rip with whatever noise-making equipment they can get their hands on. In the first few days, they were scraping, which is surprisingly loud when you are on the other side of the woodwork. Now they seem to have managed to get hold of sanding machines that go all the way up to 11. They do all this until everyone has gone to off work and then they have a nice long tea break.

I feel once they get onto the painting, they should be quieter, surely. However, if I know bouwvakkers, and I do pretty well, I’m certain, right now, they are taking delivery of some sort of industrial, mechanical paint application device that goes all the way up to 12.

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