After being sacked from the tube, Prospect's diarist begins a new life above ground—on a building siteby Dan Kuper / March 22, 2007 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2007 issue of Prospect Magazine
Being sacked from the underground is perhaps a little like being ejected from the garden of Eden (albeit a grimy garden of Eden with little natural light). I expect Adam stood there on his first day tilling the fields bemoaning the Fall, while Eve told him, “you’re just remembering it like that; you were always moaning about being bored.”
Before I joined the underground, I occasionally struggled through days on various building sites, hoping to clock up a few days’ wages before the foreman realised I wasn’t up to it. So, having relinquished the underground penny, and finding the dole office resistant to my charms, I figured I’d give the labouring life another crack. Eight years of sitting on my arse being rude to people had kept me in perfect shape for another battle with sacks full of rubble and lungs full of dust.
I got a job gutting and renovating a flat. Although demanding work, it was dwarfed by the work going on around it. Beside the flat was a vast site run by the old builders of England—the Irish—building a multimillion pound estate, while next door I could watch the new labour of England—the Poles—converting five flats into one huge townhouse. The Irish mob were pleasantly inefficient. They worked hard, and had an array of fantastic toys to drive around, among them trucks, all-terrain JCBs and cranes. They make a rum lot; I saw one old boy plastering with a pipe in his mouth and another in jumper and cords, leisurely laying bricks, as though doing a pools coupon. The Poles had finished long ago.