Call for the Experts

Uncle Fred was a gruff Yorkshireman, with a healthy dislike for ’experts’. He used to say ‘X is an unknown factor, and ‘spurt’ is a drip under pressure’.  A skilled welder, he worked mainly in the shipyards, during and after the Second World War.

My own career doesn’t go back quite so far, and has been largely concerned with the renovation and care of old buildings.  After the war, Britain suffered a collective aberration – old was bad – new was good.  Looking back, I spent much of my time rescuing old buildings from demolition.

In the early sixties a third party began to interpose itself between the man who ordered the work and the man who laid the bricks.  Local councils employed an officer to ensure that work complied with new national standards.  Altering the roof of an old house, we were told we needed the expertise of a ‘structural engineer’.  Our own expertise and common sense was no longer good enough.

And so it has gone on, until today the man with the trowel or the power drill automatically stops and calls for a specialist when a decision has to be made.  I thought about this recently when stonemasons working nearby said they must wait for the architects’ instruction because their new stonework, set plumb, was a few millimetres out of line with the old stonework above it.

This all makes for delays and adds cost. I’ve heard it called the ‘precautionary principle’.  Call it what you like, I’m with Fred on this; most problems could be solved by the man on the spot.

John Blunt