Bobski the Builder

Last month Channel 4 showed an episode of Cutting Edge named “Bobski the Builder“.

It was, in essence, a comparison of Polish and British builders. However, the programme left me so upset about the general state of our country, the people who work here and us, the people, in general, that it’s taken until now for me to write about it. Really.

So, the programme followed a Polish and a British builder without starting off looking for work, in particular a house extension.

First of all, we had Jarek. He and his family live in this country and he’s struggling for a living. He’s a builder but has problems getting people to employ him – indeed, it takes quite some time during this programme for him to find anyone who would take him on for their building work. In the end a couple did. He pitched in with a really low quote and the first thing he did was head back to Poland to get his fellow works from back home.

The work they did was fantastic with Jarek spending lots of time on small details that even he admitted no-one would probably appreciate. He did mess up initially by measuring out the extension wrong – the householders pointed this out in plenty of time, though, and no harm was done. But the devil of this piece was the man of the house who didn’t trust Jarek at all. In fact to get the contract Jarek not only had to pitch his price really low but had to accept that he wouldn’t get paid up-front. This meant he was having to buy materials with money that he literally didn’t yet have. And because of this initial mistake, they made is worse for him. Early into the build, it was realised that something would need to be done differently than was initially planned – not the fault of Jarek and anyone else would accept that they would have to pay extra. Not in this case and Jarek had to lose the money out of his already dwindling profits. The householders also bought in their own electrician.

At the end, with virtually no profit left, Jarek cut corners when laying the floor. This was soon spotted and Jarek, good on him, corrected it without hesitation. He thought it would be okay, it wasn’t, and he put his hands up to it.

By the end of the programme, Jarek didn’t have enough money left to pay his Polish workers with and the British house owners continued to be nasty to them until the end.

Meanwhile, a British builder named Terry was building a similar extension elsewhere. He’s the 4th generation of him family to be a builder and his costs were a lot, lot higher than those of Jareks.

To say he worked slowly was an understatement – it was weeks before even a small hole was dug in the back garden and then all work came to an end after they started cutting through a live power cable. Costs soar, but the house owner is expected to pay. The end result is appalling and, in my mind, unacceptable. But the builder is happy and thinks he’s done an excellent piece of work for the money. I wouldn’t pee on it, let alone live in it.

The show left me angry – angry at Terry and the shoddy quality that he thinks is acceptable. But, more so, I was angry at the couple who employed Jarek and the way they treated him.

But there was some good news… the electrician the couple employed did recognise how good Jarek and his team was and employed them to work on his house. He happily paid him the money up-front and couldn’t have been kinder to him.

Meantime, I was left feeling ashamed with my country and, particularly, my countrymen.

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