Friday 16 July 2010


When I'm not sitting blogging or surfing the net... when I'm not relaxing at home... in other words, when I'm working - I'm a quantity surveyor (QS).

Maybe you have never had anything to do with the construciton industry and maybe you have no idea what a QS does. Well, the clue is in the name... we're kind of like the accountants of the building industry. If you know what a QS is and does you can stop reading here and just give me your sympathy for my billing trials... otherwise, read on.

When a developer wants to construct a building he engages a Design Team - and Architect, a Structural Engineer, a Services Engineer and a QS. When the rest of the design team has finished designing it is our job to measure it up and tell them how much it is going to cost.

During the course of a project we monitor the costs against the original budget, sometimes we administer the contract, we advise how much the contractor should be paid and when the job is done we settle the final account.

The past six weeks we have been preparing a tender. This is the point where the client sends out the design to contractors and after a time they come back with their price to construct the project. A big part of a traditional tender is the billing. This is when the QS sits down with all the drawings and measures up the quantities to enable pricing.

The one we are doing at the moment is "without quantities" which means the contractors get a blank bill. The purpose of the exercise is firstly to interrogate the drawings and make sure that they can be priced, secondly to produce the blank bill and lastly to enable a pre-tender estimate to be completed (giving a benchmark against which to measure tenders).

The problem with billing is there are dozens (and dozens) of drawings, specifications and all sorts of other information that has to be taken on board. It takes several people a lot of time. Half an hour ago I finally finished my measurement (hurrah!). Sadly I'm not done yet as I still have to finish preparing the preliminaries document - this is the instructions that underpin the entire contract and it runs to well over a hundred pages.

Looks like my mountain isn't quite climbed!

I hate commuting (part 1,227)

The Jubilee Line was not at its best this morning, which is unfortunate as neither am I.

I'm working a rare 5 day week this week (and 3 days next week) to get a deadline met. I'm tired, stressed and more than a little bit grumpy.

I missed the excuse (sorry reason) that the severe delays were affecting the line as I had my iPhone playing music to me. It was obvious that the signs in the bus station warning of the delays were not idle threats as soon as I got to the platform - crowds that were four or five deep at each door.

Fortunately the train wasn't full so I managed to squeeze on. The fact that both my hands are holding crutches so I have on means of holding a rail didn't seem to bother my fellow commuters - I managed to jam myself into a corner to reduce the risk of falling over. Crutches aren't like stabilisers - they don't help you stay upright on a moving, lurching tube.

Off we trundled. At Canary Wharf a few people got off and an unfeasible amount packed on. Even more unlikely at Canada Water nobody got off and a suitcase and buggy decided to force themselves in (even though there really was no room). We stayed at each of the stations, gently broiling in the heat, for five or ten minutes each. Bermondsey (where trains are inclined to stop for unreasonable lengths of time even when there are no problems on the line) brought another long wait, and amazingly two more passengers into the already over-subscribed carriage. At least my fellow traveller who almost knocked me off my feet did put a hand out to steady me.

You get the picture. It was slow, it was hot, it was packed.

I realise that in the rush hour when the train is very busy it is difficult for people to give up their seats to those who need them. I couldn't have manoeuvred top a seat even if I had been offered one. What annoys me is that nobody even seems to think about it. Not only did nobody offer me a seat but at least half a dozen people nearly kicked my crutches out from under me. Luckily it was so jammed I couldn't ever have fallen over!

Saturday 3 July 2010

Paper colours

Last weekend we went to my niece's christening. The wedding in the church immediately prior to the christening left these gorgeous paper lanterns dancing in the trees.

Summer afternoon in the garden

I'm not sure that it is actually 35 degrees in the garden this afternoon, that might just be because the wall the thermometer sits on is in the sun... it sure is hot out there though.
The birds aren't much in evidence (probably sitting in a nice cool and shady tree) but there a lot of insects about... especially the damselflies around the pond, the butterflies and the bumble-bees.
Bumble-bee Damselflies
The Pond Fish
Mrs Frog

World Cup Football

I'm not a big fan of the World Cup. I'm not, in fact, a big fan of international football generally. I discovered football late in life... I was in my early twenties by the time I first saw a football match  as my family where far more interested in cricket and rugby when I was growing up. I was taken (by a boyfriend, of course) to see  Charlton play one dismal Saturday. We sat in the bottom of the East stand right on the pitch. Over the next few years I was taken to a fair number of matches and started to support Charlton. My early highlight was the famous play-off final in 1998 when Charlton prevailed over Sunderland to win promotion to the Premiership. This was the day before my University finals... but it didn't stop me attending the match! Eventually I got a season ticket which I kept for about a decade. There have been good times (promotion) and bad times (relegations); Charlton (and a mutual friend) even introduced me to my other half.

I've picked up some other teams along the way... my other half is Scottish and supports Celtic so I support Livingston to keep him company.

This love of football has never managed to transfer to the global stage. I just can't get excited about the World Cup... in fact the more the papers tell me I should care... the more media frenzy there is... the less I care if England win. 
So we came to last weekend. England managed to limp through the first round into the group of sixteen where they were to face fierce rivals Germany. I was at work on Sunday so I didn't see the game, but along with a couple of other colleagues, we followed on the internet as England struggled and eventually failed.
And so the recriminations began. It is the Manager's fault, it is the over-paid footballers' fault, it has to be somebody's fault. At the end of the day the English might have 'invented' football (well, codified the rules at least) but on an international stage they just never manage to perform. 
The strangest about the game last weekend during which a goal was not given to England, even though replays show the ball crossed the line... there was a similar controversy over Hurst's goal in 1966 which won England their only world cup... which digital technology shows didn't cross the line - what goes around comes around, I guess.