Sunday, 27 May 2012

Busy Doing Nothing

I was busy working the other morning and I noticed our tin-hut neighbour strimming around their caravan. Grumpy was out shopping - via the bookies - but I knew he wouldn't be long.

Sure enough, he returned, did an 'Owen' impression (Vicar Of Dibley) and slung the shopping bags into roughly the area the contents were destined for, then tootled off out to help our neighbour whose attention had now turned to our dense strip of jungle.

This vision of grumpy going past the windows with his brush, rake and bag of grass, huffing and puffing, and generally giving the impression of having been hard at (manual) work for the previous two hours, made me titter and took me straight back to when we all worked - or in certain cases, attended - Aristoc.

Grumpy did his - electrical - training at Vic Hallams but it wasn't until he went to work at Aristoc that his acting skills were honed to perfection and put to good use. And I don't think I'm far off the mark when I say that ALL the male maintenance staff seemed to be equally good actors and some even deserved Oscars. They'd spent so much time living this exaggerated - I'm working really, really hard - life that I'm sure they all came to believe in their own and each others performances.

They didn't fool us 'wimmin' though and to us they were positively laughable. Something we could have done in, say five minutes with the right screwdriver, would take an eternity of head scratching, chatting, sighing, flirting, measuring and squinting hard ... and this was just a precursor to DOING the actual job.

Of course to do the job there has to be a TOOLBOX ... grumpy had got two of these blue metal things, one contained all his best personal, engraved tools and the other one mostly rubbish with just one or two useful items. At Aristoc he could occasionally be seen carrying one of these toolboxes around with him. But alas, the one with all his proper tools was stolen from the boiler house - with no compensation. Grumpy was aggrieved to say the least. But it did mean that from this point he only took with him the tools he actually needed for the job in hand.

This remaining toolbox was carried like it contained the weight of at least four house bricks, when in all likelihood there was nothing heavier in there than green/yellow earth wire sleeving, his snap, a newspaper and a pack of cards. But it was all about THE LOOK . If he did actually need any of his tools, they were mostly stashed in one of his many boiler suit pockets. If there was a really big job the toolbox was placed on a trolley and pulled along.

Now I've mentioned it, there's the BOILER SUIT ... this was in a fetching shade of bright blue, We were fairly certain that he slid around the floor on his bum to maintain the correct degree of muckyness when they came back nice, clean and ultra-bright from the dry cleaners.

I'm not sure how many of these boiler suits he had but I think he's got two left now. Whenever I spot him wearing them I think 'ey up, it's serious'. This is usually a forewarning that he's going up the ladders to clean the windows (I've not seen 'em out this year).

Then there's the WIPE ... this is done with the back of his hand across the forehead to denote a tricky or fiddly situation. And implies that much sweat has appeared upon said brow, and even more may follow as the day progresses. This gesture was often further enhanced by making sure there was a moderate amount of oil on his hands.

As I've said, Grumpy is an electrician by trade but he can turn his hand to most things. I found him replacing some tiles in the ladies toilets once, he didn't do the polite thing and leave when we walked in, he just shouted 'I'm here' ... like that was any use to us while trying to do a quiet, unheard, ladylike wee. Although we needn't have worried too much as he was just about the noisiest person I knew, constantly rabbiting on or singing ... This was years before we became affiliated and I just thought he was a daft prat (nowt's changed there then).

Then there was my BUCKET ... as I said grumpy masqueraded as an electrician a good portion of the time, but he did have other uses. Where I sat to do my ahem, arduous (reprocessing) job was in front of a leaky radiator; which meant I had to catch the drips in a bucket and empty it every other day or so. I'd repeatedly asked the plumber to fix it and although he'd waved his tools about, the drip remained. In fact it should be noted - it got worse.

Along comes grumpy one day pulling his toolbox on wheels. We exchanged pleasantries (okay flirted, it's what he did) as I passed him on on my way out with my dribbles bucket. By the time I got back, the leak was no more, he'd fixed it.

Another time - after the main part of Aristoc shifted to Belper and grumpy was left behind to ahem, brilliantly (he's read this and wants it noted that he did a good job) maintain the warehouse. He was asked to tidy up around the car park and the perimeter of (mostly) empty buildings. His boss told grumpy he was going to hire him a strimmer and asked him which day would he like it.

Oh dear, oh dear - I think day - he had it six weeks! Although in his defence, he did say the grass was 6ft high, which roughly translated (wimmins measurements) means just under 1ft.
Ooh yeah, then there's the TUBE ... this is his version of the more intelligent (me) person's notebook and pen, and for special effects pockets full of socks, a pile of tights and leotards thrown over one shoulder - this was during my Quality Control years (must write about those one day). In other words ... nowt to do, but must look busy.

Grumpy was often seen - and yes, heard - passing by with a 5ft fluorescent light tube gripped in his grimy mitt, what he didn't realise was that we knew it was the same one that he'd been carrying around with him the previous two weeks, and this was the point we burst into song ...

"He's busy doing nothing,
Working the whole day through.
Trying to find lots of things not to do.
He's busy going nowhere,
Isn't it just a crime,
He'd like to be unhappy,
But he never does have the time."


  1. What a lovely reminder of my ‘electrical’ days at GEC. (Grumpy will know who I mean). I was doing my ‘graduate apprenticeship’ way back in the sixties and all this ’faking hard work’ was new to me. During the summer, unlike those at Oxbridge and posh uni’s, I had to go out into industry and learn basic skills. (When I get a minute I intend to blog-it). Us new boys were attached to welders, electricians, foundry, press shop and similar persons and places for two/four weeks to get ‘hands-on’ experience. One week I was in electrical motor assembly area. I was shown how to heat up slip-rings and drop them over the end of the alternator shaft, to cool and contract into place.
    He left me to it. When he got back about two hours later I had assembled about 24 of these. He was furious! “For god‘s sake don‘t let the ‘T&M’ see this.“ (Time and motion - all to do with piecework I believe). “We’re only timed to do 24 a day!” “Slow down, or we‘ll all have to do what you‘ve just done”.
    Ah, they were the days. Why don’t you get Grump to do a blog?
    I bet it would be full of great tales.
    Gosh look at me filling up your comment column. Must leave space for others.
    Cheers Bernard.
    ps I loved the bit about you being ‘chatted up’ by the leaky radiator. Mr ‘Fix-it’ won you heart. Ahhhhhhh. :)
    pss I'm impressed that you know all about 'earth-sleeves'. Most ladies I know would think it was something to do with knitting! (eco friendly and all that jazz).

    1. Hi Bernard,

      I'd love to let grumpy do a blog but if you think I go on at times, his blog would take an eternity to read. He doesn't talk in straight lines so there's no way he'd be able to write any better.

      He never wastes time using just three words when a hundred and fifty tell the tale better, and he forever goes off at a tangent leaving you wondering - and holding your breath - if he's ever going to finish any of the four sentences he's already started.

      He makes me laugh though. And Oh yes, he's full of great tales, I'll have to be his 'ghost writer'.

      That's about right for pulling the wool over the eyes of Time and Motion. They always chose the fastest worker who then struggled to slow their pace for a decent rate. But I never had to worry about being timed as I was too s-l-o-w at everything I did (far too particular).

      Hmmm, and about him chatting me up ... well that's another tale altogether ;)


Be nice, I'm very sensitive.