Monday, July 16, 2007

[na avoice] russian word for shoddy work

I look around my "new" flat and see the tiny splashes of paint over the bath, the taps on an angle and white chalk from the ceiling ground into every crevice in the parquet floor - impossible to remove except professionally.

Sure the overall feel is better and everyone says how light and breezy the flat now is, how much space there is and then the eyes [usually female] fall on the defects.

They can't believe I "allowed" this.

I suppose it's trusting a workman to be a good workman, almost willing it. Of course I'd been warned that there were certain people who operated на авось - without caring in the least about the result. I'd heard there were people who really quite seriously believed that the money was the only thing and that any sort of job was OK as long as you got the money.

I seriously expected that in a room where painting was going on and the only phone point in the flat was on the skirting board of that room, that the paperers and painters would place something over the phone when they got close to it.

Not a bit of it.

I came back in the room, having gone down for some things from the shop and not only were the phone and all the electrical points clogged in white but the receiver had been knocked off its perch.

I can't believe that a person, even a workman, would have a brain so wired that she would completely ignore that it was there, even having been warned about it.

Or how she could rat-a-tat-tap on a thin pane of glass one metre square with a metal tool to attract her co-worker or would pick up my metal-legged stool and swing it around without noticing how close to the glass panelled living room doors it was.

I also can't believe why I didn't get angry - there's something British in this methinks - wanting to avoid a "scene" perhaps. Shocked to the core by the cavalier and jaunty way the woman continued and when I did mention it, she said it wasn't her who had done it, I didn't know how to counter this.

Plus there is a complicated arrangement with this apartment and it means I have to accept the workmen who are sent and there again I trusted my partner in this matter. When she, after it was all too late, agreed that it had been shoddy and they were going to be docked a certain proportion to cover the clean up, it still didn't make things better.

I don't want those two back in my flat. I'll do it myself. I was never brought up like this. Both my "fathers" were meticulous workmen and I would have challenged anyone to find a speck of dust in my mother's house.

Once, after I'd built a box-fence at my own house, my father came over and cast an eye up and down a job I was proud of and then spotted the defect in the line and how the concrete pouring hadn't been smoothed over in places.

Once after a screen-printing job, my later "father" cast an eye over it and immediately saw the slight run of colour from the stencil. It wasn't the defect, it was whether it was spotted and corrected that counted.

In his final years, I saw my original father painting a cabinet and the job was, quite frankly, like something I would have done. He saw it too and I never recall him painting again.

So every time I see these splashes which we've even tried to gouge out but which have gone into the enamel, it's very, very upsetting.

I can't believe people can be shoddy. I can't believe it.

Do I sound a bit like John McEnroe?


  1. Hard luck, James. My impression is that - on average - workmanship is better in Russia than in Britain. There is some superb work in my Moscow apartment which - despite having building industry contacts - I would be hard pressed to achieve back home.

    But construction workers everywhere need constant supervision. I spent two years as a building worker and - trust me - if they do any work at all when the boss is off-site, it's a miracle - even though it will obvious when he gets back that they have done nothing. They just live in the moment - as all the great religions advise.

    I am sure your guys could have done a good job, but I am not at all surprised they would paint over your phone (or anything else) if not monitored. Nice guys, mostly, but it's hard for intelligent people to realise just how thick they really are. It's not a question of not caring, it's a question of not thinking.

    A stupid person can imagine being bright, in the same way that I - with my crude drawing skills - could imagine being a great artist. But intelligent people can't block off their intellect (except perhaps temporarily with drugs or alcohol) in order to imagine what it is like to be truly stupid.

    Most of the time, they are probably happier than us, alas!

  2. Oh, James, you are a trusting soul. You don't sound angry enough for McEnroe - you're too British. Tom has said what I was just going to say, really, which is that you probably thought the workpeople had some common sense. I have learnt that you have to be there watching them all the time now, and in Britain, making sure that they don't "escape" to another job. Sicilian workmen do take pride in what they do but you still have to keep an eye on them!

  3. I have the same problem with you when it comes to getting angry....I just dont do angry it gets you no where and makes you depressed, thats why I am still waiting for my garden fences to be mended by my housing association. Been waiting since the beginning of the year and I am sure they must laugh every time I phone them up....Name and shame them... LONGHURST HOMES last week they told me they would be mended this I have a letter to say mended by october....I wonder what year they mean..:-)

  4. Greatly appreciate the thoughtful comments here, Tom, Welshcakes and Sally. It very much puts it all in perspective.

  5. This is one reason we have done all our own handyman stuff and painting and decorating for years. You are the only person who really cares about the results in the long run.

    Unfortunately we are getting tired of it but good workmen are hard to find and if you do luck out, they are usually booked up for months. Yours obviously were not of this variety.
    Luckily you will not notice these things in a little while. Fix what you can and learn to live with the rest. Too bad indeed.

  6. Thanks, JMB - it's an excellent suggestion but soemtimes there's a time factor involved.

  7. I remember leaving the two Polish painters in my house when I went away for a week. Came back they had painted the tree in the garden white, all the oak bookshelves and the pine dresser white as well :-(