Reg hack uncovers perfect antidote to internet
A profound, earth-moving experience
I was on holiday last week, and as is the local custom, I took the chance to disconnect completely from cyberspace, shut down the PC, and retire to the alfresco chillax zone of the Special Project Bureau's mountaintop headquarters for a few well-deserved beers.
Mercifully, I don't suffer from internet withdrawal jitters or nomophobia, and can effortlessly survive for more than 20 minutes without accessing my email/checking Facebook/tweeting inanities to an indifferent world.
If I do venture forth from my country estate for a few days, a mobile phone is begrudgingly taken on board purely in case of emergencies such as vehicle breakdown, Taliban roadside ambush, flying cow strike, and so forth. Evidently, my vacations have little in common with those of peripatetic tech-comms hub Alistair Dabbs.
I'm not one for dossing about on a beach, either - even one where cop-dodging Chinese masseuses offer "happy ending" treatment under a towel for €10, while a Brazilian female beach volleyball team limbers up as a bikini-clad Paris Hilton cavorts with a spicy BBQ burger.
My internet detox requires something more hands-on, or rather, rather more of my own hands-on than a Chinese masseuse's hands-on. Accordingly, I didn't even make it past the first couple of Saturday morning cold ones before I decided to whip out the strimmer and attack the what was left of the grass.
My field's in a pretty sorry state at the moment, after four months in which more rain has fallen in the Atacama Desert than in this corner of sun-baked Spain.
After 20 minutes contemplating the parched yellow wilderness where once my mutt pack gambolled gaily amid wild flowers and the gentle gurgle of mountain streams, I'd had enough. "Fuck this," I thundered. "Let's dig a bloody well and be done with it."
A couple of quick calls later, and the deal was done. At 10am on Monday morning, a distant rumbling heralded the imminent arrival of my mate Ramon, who trundled imperiously into view aboard what is undoubtedly some proper hardware:
The cunning plan was simple enough: dig hole, insert three 1m long, 80cm diameter concrete tubes, backfill hole, retire to bar. There's always plenty of water just below the surface round here, so I reckoned three metres would be more than enough to have irrigation water permanently on tap.
As Ramon got stuck in, though, it became clear I may have slightly underestimated the size of cavity required for this particular operation...
...and Portuguese builder Rui - he of our LOHAN REHAB rocket motor tests - was starting to get a tad nervous as a mountain of stone and soil threatened to engulf the village:
When Ramon hit a depth of over three metres, and seemed intent on pushing on through the Earth's crust in search of our beloved mother planet's iron core, Rui and I briefly considered tasing him to a standstill. He did, though, finally stop digging before the mighty pit swallowed him and his excavator whole.
With water already seeping into the chasm, we rapidly chucked in a load of stone to form a solid base for the first length of tube, and also to allow water to percolate into the tube from below:
Cue first section of tube...
...which then had to be levelled by someone insane enough to descend into the stygian depths armed with nothing more than a crowbar and a spirit level:
Re: Not even a hard-hat ?
My parents' well is over 150m. deep and was built using the same kind of kit oil companies use to drill their wells on land, so this was an interesting read. (My folks' well is so deep that the lights dim noticeably when the pump is running.)
As for the hard-hats and hi-vis vests... this is Spain, for Cliff's sake! It's not a nation particularly prone to dull, grey, overcast days, lashings and lashing of rain, and muddy worksites. Anyone who thinks one size fits all when it comes to safety needs their head examined.
Exactly what is it the hard-hat would have protected them from? Most of the digging was done by a bloke in a big excavator while the others were standing back (and, presumably, taking the photos). The excavator's driver is already sitting in a cabin that provides protection. Anything that can crush that isn't going to be stopped by a bit of cheap plastic sitting on the guy's head and making him drip with sweat.
Once the hole was dug, the tubes were lifted into place. That's the only time when a hard-hat might have actually come in useful, but you don't need to lift those rings up high into the air: they only need to be clear of the ground while travelling towards the hole. Anyone who can't see a great big lump of concrete travelling level with their bollocks over such a short distance is already a health and safety hazard in their own right and shouldn't be allowed out without a trained guide dog.
Besides, a bit of ABS plastic strapped to your head is unlikely to be much use against a 1m. concrete ring travelling through the air towards your noggin. Hard-hats were invented for building sites were you might get hit on the nut by a passing brick, wrench, or other small items. Drop a fucking concrete slab on someone with a hard-hat and you'll find the hard-hat won't have been much help.
Standing in a 9-foot hole MAY run the risk of a cave-in, but that also depends on the area's geology and certainly isn't a given. If you were to try digging a well like that in, say, Southwark, or Borough, (which are mostly built on swamp), you'd have had to brace the sides first to stop the mud and slime from oozing back into the hole. If your ground is mostly stone or rock, you'd likely have to dig very, very badly, or quite a bit further down, for a cave-in to be a statistically significant risk. It's rock; people used to live in caves carved right out of the stuff!
Hi-vis vests also only make sense where visibility is a frequent problem. If you were digging a well in the middle of a motorway, sure, you'd want something nice, bright, shiny and very, very hard to miss while doing so. But building a 9-foot well in less than a day, in broad daylight, under a burning sun? Not so much.
A few years ago, I was berated for not wearing steel-capped boots. This would have made a lot more sense if the work site didn't consist entirely of open, muddy trenches for foundations. I was working as a land surveyor's assistant and there was literally no construction at all yet: just holes in the ground. There was some big digging equipment, but (a) I'm not blind, (b) I'm not deaf either, and (c) I'm having a hard time working out what, exactly, some thin steel in the toes of my boots would have done had a JCB decided to drive over them, because there was literally sod all else that posed any kind of risk to me.
And, yes, I had the high-vis vest and hard-hat on. But it's bloody hard to justify buying a brand new pair of steel-capped boots for my large feet—size 14—for just a couple of day's work.
The UK's H&S culture is fundamentally built on the premise of insulting our intelligence and common sense.
Most people are NOT interested in killing themselves. Give newbies a lecture on the potential hazards and risks, yes, but stop wasting time attempting to create a 100% risk-free planet. It's not possible, it's not efficient, and it sucks all the fun out of life.
Re: Picture 6, the man in the hole.
You'll find that Health and Safety regs over here in Spain are somewhat different, to say the least.
Every 23rd June they have a festival called Noche de San Juan, which involves a bonfire, fireworks and general cavorting on the beach (at least where I live) into the early hours. Separating us from said fire-related entertainment is a mere strip of red and white barrier tape.
In previous years there have been no problems. However this year, the firework launching tube thing (I'm no expert) fell over, with the result that fireworks were being launched horizontally across the beach. In fact I got hit in the back of the neck by one of them. Once righted, the display continued and there was no permanent damage thankfully! Later on, people dance through the cinders of the bonfire.
Would I change any of it? No way. I can't imagine the same fun being had whilst stood hundreds of metres away from the display.
Meanwhile, back on topic, good work guys!
My dad dug his own well on his farm, with a spade. None of this borrowing a mate's JCB. Kids of today eh?