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Half Man, Half Surveyor

Thursday, 23rd February 2017 | by: Justin Burns

In an age where we all have powerful computers in our pockets and easy access to work emails there are concerns that we never fully switch off when out of the workplace. We can obviously take steps to partition off our home and work lives, such as having a separate work mobile, not socialising with work colleagues or becoming a surgeon but that doesn’t stop our minds from continuing to turn over those matters which occupy it during the 9 to 5.

I spend a good part of my week resolving disputes as a party wall surveyor, emotions can run high, between surveyors as well as owners, and it’s difficult to switch off during down time. I do occasionally lay awake at night pondering the difference between a foundation and the downward extension of a wall but so far have resisted the urge to wake my wife up to discuss.

I remember reading that a good cure for insomnia is to imagine yourself in an historical scene and work through a narrative where you interact with other characters. Well, that may work for others but my adventure tends to end up with me giving the reigning monarch advice on how to build the strongest possible wall around their castle.

While I can try such strategies to wind down at night it’s harder to prevent your mind from wondering during the day. I remember once being at a burial and as the coffin was being lowered in to the grave wondering whether excavation so close to adjoining structures (grave stones) would be covered by section 6 of the Party Wall Act. By the time the last handful of earth had been thrown I’d run though the pros and cons of having an adjoining owner that had passed on (mostly pros to be fair).

Party walls is also a profession that has its own vocabulary; garden walls are party fence walls, clients are appointing owners and boundaries are Lines of Junction … on one occasion that my wife won’t let me forget I told her that I was popping round to the adjoining owners to watch the match on TV.

Then there was the time I was having some root canal work done and found myself silently dictating “hairline crack originating at the junction of the party wall and rear wall, extending towards the centre of the room and terminating approx. 600mm short of the Where’s Wally? poster”.

In France they take this issue so seriously that they introduced a new law at the start of the year giving employees the right to switch off outside of working hours. It’s not clear what effect the ‘Right to Disconnect’ law will have as there are no penalties for companies that do not comply. Let’s hope the idea of laws that are unenforceable doesn’t catch on over here or it is solicitors that will start having quite a bit of down time.

There are concerns that the new Regulations will make France, a country that already has a 35 hour working week, even less competitive with their European neighbours. If I was French, I’d be more concerned about the looming immigration crisis; of stressed out British office workers.