Sunday Larf _ Hebburn

Most new comedy series usually catch up with me after two or three series have gone by, I’m starting to like this one…

During my ten year sojourn to the North East in the late 70’s/early 80’s the company I worked for had a refurbishment contract in Hebburn and it was during frequent site visits that I came to realise just what a crap-hole it was, although the actual contract itself was, erm, challenging.

It consisted of the complete refurbishment of two tower blocks of flats, or as they would call them today, “bijou apartments”, both blocks identical and very, very tall, on my first visit there on a windy day I was taken to the top floor by Tommy Johnson on of our electricians, a man who I never saw without a smile on his face, and we stood in the living room of this top floor flat and he said nothing.

“What?” I asked him, curious as to why we were here

“Wait man” is all he said, and we stood in silence, then suddenly as a gust of wind hit the building he pointed out of the window, “LOOK!” he shouted, “Its moving”

Bugger me if it wasn’t true, the whole tower block swayed in the wind.

I don’t know how they worked on that contract, the building was of a pre-cast construction built in the 1950s from concrete panels that slotted together on site all the way up twenty or so storeys, including all the internal walls, everything was made of concrete panels and all of the concrete panels were structural elements in the rigidity of the building, take one of them out and it would be like removing one card from a house of cards.

Which was all well and good until someone at the housing department decided that what Hebburn needed in the 1970s was not a tower block of one and two bed flats but a tower block of three and four bed flats with at least two “reception rooms” and maybe some “duplex apartments” spread over two floors which would entail knocking internal walls down and knocking holes through floors for new staircases, rewiring, re-plumbing, basically kicking the shit out of the inside of a house of cards which already swayed in the wind when it had its full compliment of cards.

It was also on that site that Tommy showed me the “coffin hatch” in the back of each of what the Americans would call the “elevator cars”, we don’t really have a word for the cubicle that you stand in when you take the lift up twenty floors, but anyway, until then it had never crossed my mind to wonder how you would fit a six foot long coffin into a five foot deep lift after someone had had the temerity to die on the twentieth floor, I just imagined that maybe the pall bearers used the stairs or tossed the coffin off the balcony, its not like anyone is going to die is it ?

But no, there is a panel in the back of the lift that can be removed so that the deceased’s feet (or head) sticks out into the lift shaft behind, either that or stand the coffin up and let them slump into a messy ball in the bottom of the coffin – amazing what you learn on building sites isn’t it?

I’ve tried to find those two blocks of flats on subsequent, more recent visits to the area, they don’t appear to be there any more and I can’t imagine why.



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