Wednesday, September 29, 2004

(the fifth) from the archives

Industrial accidents (08 03 04)


The other morning I was standing at the bus stop waiting for the No. 3. Across the road there were men working on the site of the old garage. For the last couple of weeks the demolition has been in progress and I have been watching with interest.

The highlight so far was the delivery of a large digger on a flatbed lorry. The balletic style in which it was manoeuvred off the lorry was quite amazing and very satisfying to watch. The trailer was bounded by road and fence, yet the driver managed to spin the thing around (pretty much on the spot) then, with the aid of the scoop arm, let it down gently off the side of the trailer.

After watching I felt so pleased, as though I’d done a day’s work myself!

But the other morning things had gotten even more interesting. Most of the garage was gone, replaced by piles of rubble. They’d even removed the petrol storage tanks from beneath the forecourt. The digger was atop the biggest pile. This looked somewhat precarious, but also gave it an air of dominance – particularly as I’d walked up the road and seen it silhouetted on the skyline.

There was also the new addition of a mobile crusher plant. A big yellow box on tracks, chugging away in a slightly cartoony manner: the kind of movements you’d normally associate with the Acme factory.

The digger was gouging chunks out of the pile of rubble beneath it and dumping these scoopfuls into the crusher. The box would rattle and chug a little, than a spray of particulate rubble would come out the other end.

The danger-factor was probably never there, but watching from a distance, with depth perception limited, it looked like a dance of death.

A head appeared from a hatch in the top of the crusher and looked like it was going to be hit with the scoop of the digger.

The digger looked like it was going to dump a scoop of rubble on the foreman. He was stood next to the crusher and I waited – compelled – for him to be buried beneath a pile of broken masonry.

Best of all came last. The foreman picked up a big rod, iron perhaps, or maybe wood, and started poking around inside the crushed. The digger continued. I watched, expecting the guy to be sucked in, or a limb to fly off, virtually seeing these accidents happening. Then the bus arrived and I left.

I’m sure nothing happened, but it’s strange how riveted I was by this demolition in action and how I not only expected, but was ready to watch, an industrial accident.


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