Saturday, 19 February 2011

Such Great Heights

This is the view from my working window on the 7th floor. (Please note the office strip lights reflected as UFOs into the sky.)

In the last week, we have moved from a different office space within the building, and let me tell you, this vista is a big improvement on the previous one, which looked directly into the windows of the highly corporate office block next door, where lots of men in pale blue shirts stared at computer screens. When it started raining REALLY hard a few weeks ago, both sets of employees – us and them – raced to the windows of our opposing buildings to look at the spectacle of a lot of rain falling on to the ground, but then we caught sight of each other and a frenzied episode of waving began and it was AMAZING. Be free to wave at your neighbours, drones! Yes, Blue-Shirted Finance-Industry Romeos! Reach out to your Peg-Trouser-Wearing Women's-Mag-Working Juliets next door! Dare to dream! Or maybe just go back to your desks as soon as the rain starts to ease off and never glance up in their direction again. Whatever.

Anyway. The new view. Perhaps you can imagine how excited I was at the sight of this crane outside the window. Or perhaps you can't. To clear things up: I was very excited.

If you have a crane outside your window, it seems compulsory to gaze at it for lengthy periods, pondering how tiny is your place within the universe. And sometimes you get to say to your colleagues, 'Look, it's actually moving. That is SO COOL.' And if you can also see the building site it is serving, it is the march of time that you are contemplating as you stand against the glass, looking up at the soaring new storeys. You remembering the days before the construction workers moved in, and what have you done with your life since then? NOTHING. NOTHING AT ALL. And they have built a WHOLE BUILDING. And you think how that new building will live on, long after you are gone. Then someone offers to make tea and you forget all about it till next time.

This crane excitement was particularly potent since, from my desk on the seventh floor – and it's not clear from this photo – I can actually see the man inside the little white crane cabin. I can see he is human, not a remotely operated machine. I can see him moving his arms. I can see his legs dangling from his chair. I can see his trainers, crossed at the ankle. Obviously you know there are people who do this job, just like any other job – wondering how soon it is until home time and what they might have for tea – but how often do you actually think about them? I think about them quite a lot, but even more so now. They wield such power. What could you do with that giant hook if you were in charge of it, and had a bird's eye view? Could you lift up some smuggo's sports car or 4x4 and 'park' it somewhere completely new? If you saw someone dropping litter from a hundred feet up, how satisfying to be able to swoop down and lift up the offender by the back of the coat and deposit him in a skip somewhere half a mile from where he started, while you shout 'THAT'S how you dispose of rubbish' in words that are carried away on the wind before they reach their target. In reality, of course, these machines don't seem to operate too swiftly, so your pray would be able to out-manoeuvre you quite easily while you bashed into buildings and trees as you crunched the levers frantically.

For some periods this week, there were two men in the crane cabin, or on the platform just outside it. I was intrigued. You would not visit that crane cabin unless it was entirely necessary – through my surveillance, I discovered the way to get up there is not to glide serenely upwards in some cherry-picker of a chariot, but by climbing up a LOT of tiny steps (I say tiny, admittedly perspective was involved). The fact is, though, that it is a brilliantly private meeting place. The isolated workers may have been plotting a construction-firm mutiny, but I prefer to think there was some kind of Brokeback Builders scenario going on, two men in fluorescent workwear living out a love affair hundreds of feet above the city, forgetting that through one-way glass, hundreds of office workers have discovered their secret. Naturally, any elaborate date arrangements are somewhat precarious, since if you forget something crucial, it's a long wait for your beloved while you 'pop down and get it'.

'What's all this?'

'Oh, I just thought I'd make us a picnic. Oysters, strawberries… And these are some handmade chocolates I tempered myself…'

'Wow! That's amazing. I can't believe you've done all this. And what a view! I'll open the wine, shall I? Where's the corkscrew?'



magpie said...

you're office can't be more than five minutes away from mine! We're on blackfriar's bridge, we used to have a nice view over the river and a fetching building site, not we've been moved and have the railway track and can see into a very corporate and secretive building next door - no-one knows what they do in there...

Alison Cross said...

I'd love to have seen you all waving at each other. Was there funny face pulling as well, or is that not a good look when you work in women's mags?

We've got some massive ship-building cranes here on the Clyde. But they don't do much these days, just stand silently in the rain like the dinosaurs in Fantasia.

Happy New Office ;-)

Ali x

Jon Eccles said...

Over the last fifteen years I've taught IT in various adult ed centres in Bristol, and I've been privileged to watch new education blocks going up from the windows of the old ones while my students practice their mail merge. There's a clear process to these things, and several identifiable stages.

1. The big hole in the ground. This takes about 6 months. First they dig it, then they mill around it for a while, pointing at parts of it and lowering things in. This is their favourite bit.

2. Then they build the building. This takes about a week.

3. The finishing stage. Tenons and mortices, paint and cables. Seems to last for ever. Towards the end the percentage of suits on site rises, until finally

4. It's ready. Classes begin.

5. During the second term, minor war criminals come for their photo opportunity. I saw Tony Blair and John Prescott. We all got very excited when we thought John Craven was coming, but it turned out to be an ordinary businessman who's name just happened to be John Craven.

6. After the photo op, the decline. The buildings are still fine, but the money to run course programs steadily diminishes, and in the end they sit there, 90% unused.

Half my tutor friends are unemployed, the rest of us got other jobs, which is how come I'm the receptionist.

prodigy9 said...

Gotta say if I could ever get to the top of a crane I'd just spend all the life long day watching the weather, more specifically the clouds drifting on by.

If I could be insulated I'd love to watch a lightning storm develop around me. That might be cool.

Then my last problem would be getting down again. I suspect this might require strong drugs and non-erotic bondage to stop me flailing around in a blind panic.

Ho hum...