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Dr John Hawkins

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Money Money Money

Posted on 2008/01/10 23:50:15 (January 2008).

[Wednesday 9th January]
Following a couple of nights out I spent this evening staying in and watching telly. Amongst other things I watched "What Britain Earns" on BBC Two, and given my recent worrying obsession with filthy lucre, I was transfixed.

Similarly to (I imagine) almost anyone else who watched the program, I was quite annoyed to learn that some plumbers could earn nearly 100k (although this was quite exceptional - the average for plumbers was apparently 25k). It was interesting however that the particular plumbing firm they used as an example of the super high earners among their trade was one based locally to where I live in London. I guess that figures - having gone through a plumbing emergency in a posh area of London a few years back (that infamous washing machine incident some of you may recall) I am well aware of the power these people hold over those members of society who are financially very succesful, but in DIY terms somewhat inept.

Other sources of frustration included a woman whose job it was to organise rich ladies' closets, and charged several hundred pounds a day for it. Oh, and it turns out the director general of the BBC earns somewhere in the region of three quarters of a million pounds each year - this just seems insane for what, in my understanding at least, is a role in a public institution. This means it takes about seven thousand license payer's fees just to paying his salary - or about three pence of the fee paid by each and every license payer in the country.

The program divided the country up into a number of wage brackets - and whilst I was broadly pleased (in an entirely superficial way) about where I stood in the overall rankings, I couldn't help but realise that basically no-one is ever completely satisfied with their wage. Even the vicars / imams / rabbis said they'd like to earn more.

Moreover the investment bankers, venture capitalists and CEOs, right at the top of the spectrum, earning vast swathes of cash that they can never possibly spend, still seemed to be driven to do better, presumably at least in part because it is all relative and there is always someone earning more than you are. I would like to say the world's richest man is uniquely free from this tyranny, but it doesn't even seem to be the case there - it is so hard to actually tie down exactly how much the world's richest people are worth (and it changes minute by minute with fluctuating stock markets etc) that even Bill Gates / Mukesh Ambani / Carlos Slim must have some niggling doubts that they might be being outdone by their rivals.

I can very easily see myself falling into this trap - for the first time in my life I'm earning a decent salary and yet still I look enviously (and even bitterly) at those people who are doing better than I am. Particularly when, as in this program, they appear to be doing a job which appears so much less arduous or less skilled than mine. At a pinch I could believe there are some moderately technical and gruelling aspects to plumbing - and it is certainly supporting some very fundamental human needs - but ordering people's shoes and colour coding their cocktail dresses...?

It's crazy isn't it? We all say money can't buy you happiness, and on some level I totally understand this is vicious circle, and yet I am still subject to it.

Again, I think the only answer is converting to Buddhism!

Comment 1

John, I am at present having a flat built here and decided to put in better tiling etc than what the builder is obliged to put in as part of the purchase price. When the tiler saw what I had decided to put in in terms of tiles on the floor and bathroom, he piped up "These tiles are more complicated to fit and that will cost you extra for me to put in". The builder pays him a flat rate to do the work in all the flats in the block, so what he was asking was on top of that; naturally enough, I expected him to quote a nominal sum, let's say a couple of hundred euros. Imagine my amazement (to quote someone or other!) when he said he wanted 2000 euros extra for what was, effectively, four days' work!! But of course, I had no real choice in the matter - it was either cough up and get the work done or try to find another tiler who would do the work as well for less and at the time I needed it done, which was highly unlikely. Workmen do have us over a barrel, as I certainly don't know how to fit tiles professionally...

Posted by Bryan at 2008/01/11 15:26:37.

Comment 2

Wages are easy because they can be compared, they are numbers. If I looked just at them I would probably still living up north in Varese... As for plumbers and the likes, the guy who painted my grandmother's flats (6 small houses that she rents) asked for 20.000 euros for a two weeks job... Nuff said...

Posted by Lox at 2008/01/11 18:48:27.

Comment 3

John et al...
Don't believe all you hear about tradesmen getting inflated wages.. As you might remember i'm an electrician.. I can heartily assure all of you that it's bollox..
Just don't get those expensive nobs to do the work, it's more than likely shite workmanship anyway..
After a 5 year apprenticeship and numerous continual returns to college for tech updates to electrical regulations and other training etc. I was somewhat "cheesed" when I met a tiler recently who had been doing it for only 6 months (was previously an estate agent prior to this career change) and was earning considerably more than I do.. Not trying to cheapen his level of skill, but then again, if you can butter a slice of bread, you can do tiling..
If you need any work doing guys, tiling included, I'm available at very reasonable rates.

Posted by Jerry at 2008/01/12 00:20:41.

Comment 4

Jerry: The fact is that tiling is quite important in how a house looks and feels, so they can probably get more cash as the job is more important to the eye. Is the same old story, we tend to value more the exterior skin of something rather than assessing the "real" value of an item/service....

Posted by Lox at 2008/01/12 09:38:32.

Comment 5 presumably electrical work can presumably be quite risky. You don't often hear of many tiling related injuries.

(P.S. I loved the line about buttering a slice of bread - it reminds me of the volley of jibes between software engineers and IT salespeople!)

Posted by John at 2008/01/12 09:57:01.

Comment 6

Jerry - I will bear that in mind if I need any more tiling/electrical work done! BTW, do you speak Greek?? :-)

Posted by Bryan (in Greece) at 2008/01/12 11:24:59.

Comment 7

Jerry's right. He probably has 16th Edition training and has to keep all his knowledge "current" if he want's work.

Tiling is exactly as Lox says - superficial and therefore so much more important to the vain, looks-orientated purchaser. Fashion is all, substance is minor.

John's right too. Not many tiling-related house disasters, as in "I had to have my house retiled as the old tiling was in danger of burning the house down..."

Bryan - Ouch! I've done my own tiling here - floor and wall. Don't underestimate your own abilities!! :D

Posted by Nigel at 2008/01/13 12:37:06.

Comment 8

Nigel: You should consider a career in politics.. Honestly!

Posted by Lox at 2008/01/13 16:46:37.

Comment 9

I never thought I'd open up this debate!!!

Oh and yes Nigel.. and 17th edition regs on it's way from this year.. another 300 notes to shell out!!

And thanks to that fat nob "Two Jags" Prescott and his interfering cretins, if I want to do domestic electrics (the easiest of all) I now have to "register" each year to the tune of another 300 to 500 sheets!!

I've only been in the elec. game since I was 16 (now 44).. but according to "Two Jags" I'm no longer competent to even wire my own house.. without paying the 500 notes of course..
Go figure.

On the upside for me, I'm getting out of the trade soon, changing career completely.. It won't come quick enough!!
I'll leave you all in the safe hands of the overpriced "cowboy's.

Posted by Jerry at 2008/01/13 22:26:38.

Comment 10

Jerry - what are you changing to? Personal interest here, as I hope to change myself this year...

Posted by Nigel at 2008/01/14 08:38:52.

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