And High Rise Buildings

After leaving school, I took a job at a local Holiday Camp on Hayling Island as a waiter, kitchen hand and cellar assistant (I’ll cover this episode another time). This of course only last for the summer and so at the end of the season I needed to find gainful employment. I briefly did a stint at the local brewery but only last about 4-weeks as the fumes, etc didn’t agree with me (though the beer brakes did). And so after much searching, good old Uncle Bill (he wasn’t a real uncle, we just called him so) asked if I wanted to work with him at a local sealant company. Obviously, I wasn’t going to say no: I needed the money and a refusal wouldn’t have gone down well with Mum and Dad, who by now were running the Red Lion Inn at Chalton.

In essence, the job entailed us, including me, applying a mastic sealant between joints on high rise building. Such jobs included twelve story flats in Southampton, Guildford University and some MOD installations. I actually enjoyed the work which would entail me leaning out over the top of these buildings to apply the sealant under the overlap of the roof on which I would be laying. From 12 floors up, the views can be fantastic, especially when you’re leaning out with no ropes or harness. Clearly Health & Safety wasn’t a primary cause for concern with us in those days though it probably should have been.

It was a cold Monday morning, chuffing cold to be precise, when we turned up at a new site at a certain military site high above the Meon Valley where we were to be work on  a number of 3-story buildings. We wonder around the buildings in question and it  was obvious that the only way we could access all the relevant areas was to either use triple ladders and keep moving them around on an uneven unstable ground, or use a cradle. The site foreman however had already preempted us and concluded himself that a cradle was the only viable option and had created one for use using scaffolding poles and walking boards. Hmm very good we thought, but what is supporting the cradle? we ask. The foreman proudly invited us up onto the roof to show us the arrangement had had made, using scaffolding poles, with two overhanging to which pulleys had been attached under which would be hanging the cradle. The whole thing had sat on 4 wheels so that it could be easily moved along the roof as we progressed. The whole thing probably measured 8 metres wide, 2 meters high and 3 metres deep.

Now, I’ll be perfectly honest here, the size may be over exaggerated, but i’m afraid this is something I’m often guilty of 🙂 Anyway, back to the story.

We made our back down to ground level, found somewhere to make base camp (a nice warm spot next to the generator, it was noisy but also warm), sat down and had a cup of warming tea while we strategised the task ahead. Basically, the strategy was that Bill and I would climb into the cradle and standing at each end we would operate the tirfor winch that would cause the cradle to be lifted ‘up towards the heavens’ or at least the first and subsequent levels.

And so, all full of tea and biscuits, we climbed in and started cranking skywards. Reaching the first level, we locked the winch and applied the mastic sealant in the relevant joints and around the window frames and continued to the next floor. It was here that things started to feel a little strange: my end of the cradle seemed to be going up a little more than Bills end and as turned to see what was happening I espied Bill shouting something (I couldn’t hear because t of the generator) as he jumped from the cradle. For some reason, at this point, I looked up and there above me was a vary large scaffolding framework getting larger as it raced down towards me. Frozen with fear, I stayed put and leaned in towards the building wall just as the framework hit the ground at roughly the same time as the cradle I was in. I just stood there for what seemed like an eternity but was probably measured in seconds thinking I don’t know what and I really don’t know what. I just stood there.

Eventually, all hell let loose as building people and the like swarmed over us to make sure we were ok and to check the state of the scaffolding poles and the generator. The latter fared ok, the poles however didn’t do so well. Many if not most were bent and buckled. More importantly however, Bill and I were fine. Shaky & a little pale but otherwise ok. I don’t remember much after that. All I do know is that very shortly afterwards we were both back in the van and heading back to the Red Lion, Chalton for a cup of tea and something a little stronger.

The rest of day passed in an increasing haze and I had an early night.

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