Before I begin, let me record my thanks to Phillip Pare, who suggested the topic of energy return on investment, or EROI, which I used in a recent column.
Now this week’s column. There comes a time when I write a column that is guaranteed to upset everybody. This is one such column. I am sorry but it is time that I got a few things off my chest. So, firstly, to my dear hardworking staff. I love you all; you are all honest and brave and punctual, but . . . Despite what others think, the use of the words ‘is’ and ‘are’ can be generally understood if one understands that, in any sentence, there must be subject-verb agreement. Thus, ‘This is the specification’ is correct since there is one specification, and ‘These are the specifications’ is correct since there are many specifications.
Some clever yodel may tell you that this is not correct by citing these examples: ‘Here is a pen and a book’ and ‘Here are a pen and a book’, but this is not wrong. The first sentence implies that the items are separate (that is, ‘here is a pen and here is a book’), whereas, in the latter, the implication is that they one unit (that is, ‘over here are a pen and a book, together’).
Further, the use of an apostrophe. ‘The big kids’ pool’ is a pool for big kids. ‘The big kid’s pool’ is the pool owned by the big kid. Otherwise, an apostrophe indicates omission of a letter, as in ‘don’t’ (do not). Hey, I am not asking much. I mean, you can pretty much forget that plural nouns ending in ‘s’ take only an apostrophe after the ‘s’ when the possessive is formed– for example, two computers’ screens. And you need not know how to use a three-dot spaced ellipsis, or even if an ellipsis needs regular watering.
A final word: A person’s name is the most prized sound in the world to that person. Thus, when addressing letters, do check the correctness of the name. It is true that some people are called Prince No 1 and Annabill and mistakes can be made. But do not assume. For example, I do not think there is a Nielsen Mandela.
Secondly, to my dear fellow profes- sionals. I love you all; you are all honest and brave, but . . . If I say that something is to be installed or supplied in a certain way, then I mean it. I have no shares in a contracting business and, thus, I do not specify stuff to make money, cover my tracks, make the client unhappy – I specify it because it is needed. Thus, when you phone me at 18:00 and say you have found a cheaper alternative to what we would have specified, you probably have it half right – it is cheaper but not an alternative. I, on the other hand, have no budget for proving this to the client. So do not ask me to investigate a whole lot of stuff which I know will not work.
Further, if the client decides to do without something, that is a decision made. At the contract end, do not expect me to give a whole lot of time and energy to something the client has now found is needed.
Thirdly, to the quantity surveyors I work with. I love you all; you are all honest and brave, but . . . If I wish, I could easily never exceed my budget. I just make sure it is sky high and gold plated, to begin with, and then work towards it. I can fudge the contract to make sure that my favourite contractor gets the contract and make sure that there is so much in it that there will be no variation orders. But this is not professional. So, when I come asking for more money, it means that the rough estimate I gave ten months ago, which the quantity surveyor quickly carved in stone, was wrong. In the ball park, but wrong. I’m sorry. But that is how it is. Give me the money. So, to all of you, if it applies, read and remember. If you are offended, well, I am really sorry.