Every day, at about 7 AM, I have been woken by a cacophony of clanging, as scaffolding poles bang against each other, a dawn chorus of shouted conversations as builders ask each other repeatedly how many sugars they all want in their tea. And once I'm awake, it's impossible to get back to sleep again, as the radio breakfast show they seem to like plays an unceasing diet of high energy pop songs and inane adverts, specifically chosen to get people up in the morning. Thanks guys. Would it kill you to play the occasional lullaby to help me get back to sleep again?
But it's not all bad. It may even be considered inspirational. I'm doing a creative writing course at the local college, and my assignment was to come up with a character portrait of someone and then use them in a story. So, I chose one of the scaffolders at random, studied him like David Attenborough would a particularly interesting howler monkey, and decided what his name was, his mannerisms, his taste in music and clothes when he wasn't working, his relationships with friends and family, basically everything that made him who he was.
I called him Darren Roberts. Why not? Who he really was didn't matter. He was a cipher, a construct, and his story is below...
Darren's Adventures in Scaffolding
Darren lay in bed and thought about his plan. It was so simple it had to work. Why had no-one thought of it before? Builders always liked shouting compliments to attractive women that walked by, but none of them got anywhere. Not even a phone number. Everybody knew women liked getting compliments, even if they are bellowed across a road by a plumber, so what was the problem? The reason that women weren't attracted to builders was that they dressed like, well, like builders. If there was a builder who looked like he was ready to go clubbing, then he might have a competitive advantage... there was only one way to find out.
Darren had got a couple of day's work doing scaffolding for a mate of his dad. It wasn't work that required much skill but a bit of muscle would be helpful. He fell a bit short in this department, but lifting the scaffolding tubes wasn't too bad – at least they weren't solid. It didn't pay much but it was cash in hand, so no need to get his benefits stopped. Double bubble.
So Darren prepared for work, choosing his most splendid clothes. The black tracksuit bottoms with the gold stripe. The thick black hoodie, specially stolen from the Outlet Village. The trainers, as pure and white as good cocaine, not the shit Darren gets. Over the top, a few gold chains, for the subtle enjoyment of ostentation. Some rings. And on the very top, a baffling variety of hair products, especially for one whose hair was so short. It was not so much absorbed by his paltry locks as stratified like the layers of a trifle, cream on custard on cake.
And looking like this, he left the house, ready to face Swindon's world of women.
But first, he had to face Swindon's world of scaffolders. They were not enamoured of his new look. They laughed themselves red when Darren arrived on site.
“What you laughing at?” said Darren, feeling the anger rising.
“I don't know, ain't never seen one before” gasped one scaffolder. If he'd remembered when he'd started, turning up on site in Ziggy Stardust make-up because he'd been too hungover to remember putting it on the night before, he might have reacted differently.
“Ah, give the kid a break”, said the foreman. “We're all young and stupid at some point, and better young and stupid than old and stupid”. He winked at Darren, who gave him a grateful smile in return. Maybe this is what having a dad is like, someone to watch out for you? Darren shook his head to clear the thought, and climbed the ladder as he'd been told, to start assembling the scaffolding above.
The day drew on, and after three hours in the hot April sun, Darren started to wish he'd worn a T-shirt under his hoodie. At least that way, he could take it off and not be naked underneath. But there was nothing to be done about it. He wished too that he wasn't attracting quite so much attention from the street. He didn't look like a builder, that was true, but anyone on a building site that didn't look like a builder and was working like one looked very out of place. He'd put up his hood so people couldn't see him so well, but that just made his head sweat and the layers of hair product now seemed to be melting into one another. He could stand it no more, and ran his hand through his hair, getting the sweat out of his eyes.
If only he'd remembered that his hand was now slick with product. His next attempt on the wrench saw it slip from his grip, fly away, and with the slowed-down time common to a disaster in progress, he saw it rotate 3 ½ times before it fell from view, his only indication to its position now given by the scream and the thump from two stories below.
He ran to the edge and looked down, seeing the woman, seeing the blood, seeing the crowds starting to form, like white blood cells around an infection, but less so because none of them can actually do anything at all to help.
Darren slid down the ladder like the Prince of Persia, purpose adding grace to his usually ungainly mannerisms. He ran to the woman, knelt down beside her and smiled at her reassuringly.
“Ah, don't you look lovely” she said.
Click here for Chapter Two