Building's technical editor is quite happy writing about other people's projects but was not quite so thrilled about project managing the office paint job.
Here at Building we are used to writing about construction but not actually doing it. So it came as a nasty shock when an email went round asking for volunteers to help paint our office. It wasn't a case of the magazine falling on hard times, but rather a part of an initiative from on high called Pride and Passion.
This wasn't some kind of giant love in, but corporate speak for making our workspace reflect the values of the magazine so we felt proud and passionate as you walked through the door. And you could win a prize too. So we had to transform our bland and anonymous office into something more befitting a media organisation but for only £500. Hence the email, which I foolishly replied to with a ‘yes'. I was then appointed project manager, which I assumed was something to do with the fact I have a construction industry background. I then discovered the real reason - I was the only person who had replied to the email. After a conversation about getting a stepladder from our FM department then being told this was ‘too dangerous' which would have meant standing on the desks instead I thought stuff this, lets call in a pro.
This was the easy bit as one phone call later I had secured the services of Stoykov, who hails from Bulgaria. Thank God for the influx of work happy Eastern Europeans. My joy was extinguished once I mentioned my plan to the FM department, who normally control this kind of thing. "Have you carried out a risk assessment"? "Does he have public liability insurance and by the way £2m won't be enough." "Fill in this form" and so on. All this to paint five columns and a small area of wall.
The next day Stoykov rolled up at 10.30, not because he was lazy but because he had had some difficulty getting past security into the car park. By the time he had made it up to our office on the eighth floor, he was looking depressed. Here was a man who was used to working on small domestic projects, not in occupied offices in central London. I told him it would be OK, they were a nice bunch of people really and that once he got going it would be fine.
Luckily he did get on fine. Once he got going he seemed positively happy and he didn't burn the office down, spill any paint or cause any accidents. I got the odd email from colleagues asking if Stoykov had a CSCS card, I replied ‘don't go there.' What Stoykov did have was some kind of background in chemical engineering. When he started going on about working on chemical weapons when he lived in Bulgaria I thought don't go there. But he did a great job and everybody was really grateful they didn't have to get their hands dirty and paint all over their clothes. We didn't win the competition, but at least our office doesn't look like a down at heel insurance broker's anymore.