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a blog by Chris Barrow

The piledriver

Having moved into a new-build home last month, we are resigned to the fact that there are more properties still to be constructed in our development - and that it could be up to 18 months before the building site we can see from our bedroom window becomes a winding grass and gravel pathway leading down the hill to the River Weaver.

Credit where it's due to Redrow, who do make the maximum effort to minimise disruption and to the workers on the site, who could not be more friendly and helpful.

We used Snagsure to create our snag list (well worth the investment) and their local guy confided in us that he would only ever buy a new-build from either Redrow or Bloor Homes - that, indeed, is a valuable word of mouth referral from someone who spends his whole working life looking at build quality.

Anyhow, a couple of weeks ago, a letter arrived from Redrow to explain that a piledriver would be arriving for two weeks before Christmas, to get the foundations in for the houses opposite. The letter went on to apologise for the noise and vibration that would accompany this arrival.

A couple of Mondays ago, said contraption duly arrived and it wasn't long before it started.

The incessant "whump", "whump", "whump" as the 50 foot concrete pillars were battered down into the sodden ground - and the resulting shock waves and vibration as each pile was driven.

Glasses rattling in cupboards, walls vibrating, recently hung pictures, prints and paintings adopting a jaunty angle by the end of each day.

Very much a first-world problem but it required an extra level of concentration whilst working in my new office, whether responding to emails, completing tasks or chatting on Zoom calls.

"whump" "whump" "whump" "whump" "whump" "whump" "whump" "whump" "whump"

Two weeks of it (although I mangaged to escape for a few days to deliver my Edinburgh workshops).

Yesterday, the final session came to an end and the piledriver was locked, loaded and driven off the site, no doubt for a Christmas rest before it continues its work elsewhere in the new year.

I'm going to admit that, like a bored pensioner (which I'm not - well I'm not bored anyway) I did at one point stand at my bedroom window for a while and watch the pillars shuddering their way into the ground. There's a fascination with watching "men at work" (is that just a man-thing?).

Every time I arrive at Euston and leave by the side exit, I can't resist the temptation to take a look through the purpose-built hole in the fence at the HS2 terminal being built (or is it?) there.

At most construction sites they will create a hole in a wall so that people like me can stop and stare. I wonder if they did that at Stonehenge and the Pyramids?

"I wouldn't have put that standing stone there if it were me building it."

"That ramp looks a bit too steep to me."

The piledriver has gone this morning and we can expect to return to the more natural noises of construction - beeping vehicles, lots and lots of soil moving from A to B, the shouts of the workers.

However, as I always do, I did wonder what the metaphor was here.

It's about building houses on strong foundations of course.

Houses built of straw easily fall apart.

Houses built of sticks are susceptible to outside elements.

Houses built of bricks and on strong foundations can withstand the tests of time.

So I ask myself (and you) as we approach the New Year:

  1. Do we have strong foundations for 2024?

  2. Will our systems, processes and people be robust in the storms of the new economy?

  3. Is our business built to last?

A relative peace has returned to Draper Croft this morning and in that quiet I think about the future.

A piledriver to get the foundations in might be a little uncomfortable for a short while but the long-term benefits outweigh the inconvenience.

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