October 10th 2012
The group’s early morning spring in the step is losing its vigour as the long days of concrete mixing and carrying bricks take their toll, but the finishing line is in sight.
Needless to say, James and I were first down the hill, our Stakhanov work ethic firmly in place (that, and the desire to get out of being downwind of the long drop while Phil was noisily clearing out last night’s steak and veg).
The library block is really taking shape now, but we had a load more concrete to mix, painting to finish and desks to sand and varnish. The rain from the night before had softened the wood a bit so a few of us set about painting while others entertained some of the kids in class and Steve chatted concrete strategy with Joshua, the Turkanan foreman.
The main purpose of the day for all of us was to appear industrious at the moment our illustrious leader Ralph arrived at an undefined time later that afternoon.
James has made timing his effort into a fine art. Earlier in the week he perfected the act of the “short stint-maximum kudos”. It all starts by tapping me on my shoulder while I’m sweating up after a prolonged period of turning concrete with my half-handled shovel.
“Do you fancy a break – give it here mate and take 5″, he’d say, a sense of team and support weighing heavy in his words.
“Nice one. Cheers James” I’d wheeze, as I stagger to the back wall.
Just at that moment, Steve, our semi-pro adventurer wanders round the corner. “Anybody need relieving? You’ve been at it in the sun for some time. You should get a drink.”
With that, James wipes his brow and says “Well, some of us have been working hard, Steve,” hands him the shovel, points at my wilting figure and says “Jamie’s been leaning on that wall for the last 20-minutes”. Exit stage left with a wry smile and a shaking shoulder as he stifles the chuckle on his way to a well-earned cup of Kenyan roasted.
The master of high visibility low effort endeavour was not going to let us down when Ralph turned up.
The stretch Land Rover limo rumbled into view, kicking up dust as it approached. That was James’ cue to neck the last couple of gulps of his sixth coffee and skirt the building, out of view of the CEO’s welcoming party. The familiar sound of concrete mixing emanated from the newly constructed office annex. James headed toward the noise of scraping metal, heavy breathing and crunching stones. To his good fortune, a battered empty wheelbarrow stood between him and the working party. He picked it up smoothly, without changing pace, and placed himself in the doorway looking into the frenzied activity. Within moments the expected flash of shovels and flying concrete ensued and James was left holding a full load of fresh concrete.
Exactly as planned, our boss stepped into the fray. He couldn’t get into the room where the concrete mixers were hard at work because James’ loomed large, blocking the only door with the clear evidence of his hard work there in front of him.
“Look at this. I never thought I’d see you doing all this manual labour, James. Good on you,” Ralph chimed, following up with a hearty slap on the back. Moments later the camera was out, and you can rest assured James will feature heavily in every pic – documenting his toil for prosperity.
Truly a master of planning at work.