Sunday, August 05, 2007

Guardian Angels

I've got one.
A guardian angel that is.
Stop laughing.

The first time I became aware of it/him/her, whatever, was when it/him/her, we'll call it "him" ok, the first time I became aware of him was when he saved my new job for me.

'twas 1976, I'd been in the job two years, was 19 years of age, fresh faced, innocent of all charges, knew nothing of life, spent every night down the pub with mates, had my own very old car, earned money that I could spent entirely on myself, no-one told me what to do, no-one took money out of my wallet, no mortgage, no bills to pay, what a life, where did it all go wrong ?

I was a trainee electrical estimator in a company that employed 70 or so electricians - thats quite big, it was the estimating departments job to bring in new work, measure stuff off architects plans and come up with a price for jobs in a competitive tender situation against other contractors - and hopefully win enough bids to keep the 70 or so electricians in work - there was me and a proper estimator in the estimating department.

And then he left and the boss appeared at the door one day to inform me that I was promoted, the cheapskate wouldn't be employing another estimator, the estimating department was me now, and by the way, here is some more money by way of a pay rise, and by the way again, we need some more work in pretty fast.

Two years I'd been in the job and I was at the top of the tree in our small forest, no qualifications after having been thrown out of technical college for not trying very hard, to be blunt, for being in the pub most times instead of in college, but still, top of the tree, the estimating department and the future of the whole company lay on my skinny, innocent shoulders.

Laying on my desk was a huge stack of architects drawings and a specification for the electrical installation at a brand new large school in Bradford, I got stuck in, measured cable routes for days, scribbled all over the drawings, counted up light fittings, switches, sockets, three phase stuff, all the good stuff that goes in buildings and I came up with a big price for the job that had lots of zeroes after the first number.

And we won the bidding.
By quite a margin.

My boss was pleased, the women in the office outside were pleased, the electricians were all pleased, it was a 12 month contract for all of us, I was a hero.

Bradford City Council issued the order and my boss asked for a bill of materials to start placing orders with suppliers - that was my job, make up a list of all the stuff that was in my estimate, so I did.

And thats when I spotted a teeny, weeny little error in my calculations.

There in the proposed school kitchen was a large walk-in freezer store, that wasn't the problem though, a sub-contractor was installing the large walk-in freezer store, we just had to provide a three phase electrical connection point for him, and I had.

The problem came in the next paragraph, the paragraph that I had apparently not read, the paragraph that informed me that our company had to include the sub-contractors costs in our estimate for the works.

I rang the large walk-in freezer store sub-contractors who were pleased to hear from me as they'd heard we'd won the contract and were wondering why we'd never asked them for a price before the tenders went in, their price for the job was several thousand pounds more than our whole profit for the job.

I was knackered.
My first lone estimate and I made a complete balls-up.

Its at times like this when you start looking for a new job, but in all innocence I had a feeling that I might just be able to talk my way out of this one, how, I hadn't a clue, but in the best Mr McAwber stylee (a stylee that has served me well all my life), "something will always turn up".

I hid my mistake valiantly for a couple of months, all the rest of the materials were ordered and labour prepared for our start on site and the large walk-in freezer store people kept ringing me to ask when we'd be ordering the large walk-in freezer store and I kept making excuses and putting the phone down on them.

And then my Guardian Angel intervened.

One day in the post arrived a letter from Bradford City Council informing us that they were terribly sorry and all that, but the government had put a freeze on local authority spending for twelve months and that they now didn't have enough money to pay for their big new school so that all orders were cancelled and we'll try again next year eh ?

Everyone in the office was distraught, a big contract cancelled, it was a disaster and Maureen the secretary with the big gazonga's was most upset for little old me and my first big order and I stood there in the main office and pretended to be really upset and disappointed and later they must have been puzzled to hear my hysterical laughter coming from behind the closed door of my estimating department.

Twelve months later the tender documents came in again for the exact same school and the very first item that went on the list of things to include in the price was the large walk-in freezer store and a few other bits and pieces that I seemed to have missed out the first time around - we lost the tender by tens of thousands of pounds and the Bradford City Architect rang up later to ask why we didn't want the job the second time around, as did my boss who never discovered the real reason.


Anonymous said...

I too have an Angel!
Have you ever seen it/him/her/whatever?

Gary said...


But I think he both likes and despises me in equal measures although not necessarily at the same time.

Anonymous said...

I tried to post you a youtube..


Gary said...

Thats Tiny Tim on that Youtube that is - wonderful stuff, love the decor, they should still make wallpaper like that.

Anonymous said...

Russel Brand/Tiny Tim!
I'm sure there's a blog there somewhere!