On developing Olympian resilience to penetrate the steadfast thick skin of builders….

This posting is a little overdue, to be honest I have just been too busy to write, but this month, oh joy of joys I have bimbled into the month of August, the month I set aside every year to write. I really enjoy writing, once I am in ‘the zone’ it is pure joy, getting in the zone may sometimes involve a bit of faffing about but well that is just part of the process. So what have I to offer you this fine August day? Well a story of resilience and an enduring belief in persevering.

So a couple of weeks ago a notable firm of contractors pitched up to discuss some building work and improvements to my home that would make my home more energy wise; I welcomed them with delicious mugs of good coffee and tea, biscuits and toasted muffins, and duly answered all their questions that would enable them to carry out the planned work. No sooner had one lot of workmen left than another arrived, so that plumbers (a rare breed) were replaced by electricians, who were in turn replaced by planning chaps, then there was the lone energy consultant, and the man who had to check for asbestos (who came back twice as he had forgotten he had already been), and even someone to explain how all this work would conserve energy and save money in the long term (I even agreed to participate in research for him). After a while it all became quite confusing, and the whole thing wandered into the realm of downright odd as none of them would tell me when they may come to do the work, instead they would just turn up, and if I wasn’t at home they would keep coming until I was. This peculiar approach to time management was nothing to their communication skills, which I daresay may have suited them but really didn’t help me to arrange for work to be done and to be done as agreed. So what became common practice was that after all the ‘officials’ had been and assessed what needed to be done, had drank my tea and coffee and scoffed my chocolate biscuits, they failed to have a conversation with their colleagues who were actually doing the work, which meant that they did not know what had been agreed and more or less made it up when they got here.

So mistakes were made, rather a lot of them. After being specifically advised by their own engineer and personally requested by myself that all workmen were not to stand on any part of the roof,  in an effort to save money (and increase their profit) the gas fitters climbed on to the roof without using a proper ladder and broke tiles, then the scaffolders also ignored the advice and went through the roof, and not only that they didn’t fix it or report it and yes …..it rained. Deep joy.

They drilled great holes in the walls (no mean feat as some walls are 3 feet thick) then realised the fixtures in these holes were in the wrong place so they pulled them out…leaving holes in the walls. When I asked if an existing flue pipe that went through the roof could be used instead of another hole being drilled I was told, 1. no the pipe is at an angle so it is too difficult (no it isn’t it just needs putting back in place) 2. oh well if we use that the fumes may come back into the house as the flue is too near the chimney (it wasn’t it was a good 2 feet outside of the minimum required), 3. oh well it will require scaffolding around the roof and the ground is too dangerous so it is against health and safety (but this is the same bit of ground where you are scaffolding at the other end of the house)…and then the truth 4. ‘it is too expensive to put scaffolding up and get a roofer involved and the main contractors who have agreed the price will not pay for it‘. Ah I see so it is down to cost…and profit.

Meanwhile myself and my husband were trying to have civil conversations with managers who reluctantly turned up at our house, (this lot actually told us when they were coming), to assess the damage their colleagues had caused. Talk about a hot potato, each one of them disowned the problem and one of them even claimed I had told him it was ok to walk on the roof. Wow I remember thinking, a denial and a blame culture. Interesting. I have to say throughout they have all been pleasant, and while dodging ownership of the problems they had caused, because of their steadfast thick skins I continued to serve up hot drinks and buns.

This has all be playing out over the last 5 weeks, and despite having a visit from a senior manager who apologised with a ‘I just can’t keep my eyes on them all so I am afraid your house has slipped through the net‘. No kidding. We (my husband and I) are now resorted to devising a list of agreed and outstanding works, and, calling the team manager daily asking when the work will be started. Some of this includes the damage to our property, for which they seem to be of the opinion that they are helping us out by making amends.

So how does this at all relate to resilience? Well, in these situations it is easy to feel like the little guy, especially if the person who has ultimate responsibility would rather bite his granny than lose profit, but even little guys can turn things around and the nut cutlet of this story is just never ever give up, sure it is frustrating, and unfair but if you can get past that you can develop the perseverance of an Olympian, and with such perseverance my husband and I also have the steadfast thick skins of a couple of builders, which means our constant badgering has resulted in new builders turning up to plaster the walls and make good the holes they left in them, hurrah!  And, we have been told the roof tiles will be replaced…as soon as they can find a roofer.

I estimate that if we keep on at them we should have all things made good and completed by the end of August, and in order to contribute towards the science that explains human resilience I shall map our resilience bouncing up and down the salutogenic model in the coming weeks. Whoever thought that science could be such sport!