The Sharp End: A hard day's labouring

At a Barratt building site in London's Docklands, Rhymer Rigby wields a broom.

I have to hand it to Barratt: for my stint as a building site labourer they really gave me the full Monty. As I discovered, an unskilled labourer doesn't need any training. You work flat out right from the start.

So, kitted out in my builder's uniform of scruffy jeans and conspicuous shiny new steel-toed boots, I took the Docklands Light Railway into the capital's new construction frontier, the wild east of London. Here, a de-industrial revolution is taking place as a combination of Olympic anticipation, Thames Gateway regeneration and London's rapacious appetite for housing makes over the capital's brownfields. Where factories, warehouses and gasworks once stood, loft-style apartments, gated developments and the ubiquitous townhouse now rise up.

Our site was a development overlooking the Royal Victoria Docks. The two residential blocks looked pukka enough, though you wonder if all those post-war estates looked just as swish in their day. Once inside, two recruits and I sat through a short safety presentation. Afterwards, I had a brief chat with the site management, all of whom look gratifyingly like they do in the movies. That is, architects and managers really do sport that curious shirt 'n' tie, boots 'n' hard-hat combo, but in these dress-down days they pull it off as smart and purposeful.

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