Ever since I’ve worked in my current job, one of the largest demolition jobs I’ve ever seen has been going on across the road. When I started last September, there was a huge building – a city block, effectively, opposite. Then diggers started to appear, lifted onto the roof by cranes, vast in size but small against the sides of the building, like flies on a rhino’s hide. They started drilling and bashing and carrying and bulldozing, and over several months the building became an enormous pile of rubble. Conveyor belts on caterpillar tracks came along, seeming to move the spoil from place to place; water jets sprayed it to control the dust (only they don’t, really); lorries came along to take one pile away while the conveyor made another, while more insect-like machines beetled around on the hulk of the building.
At times, the noise has been near-unbearable, added to the twenty or more buses that pass every five minutes or so. But the compensation has been the glorious view of the project, fascinating to me in its ambition, destructiveness, and sheer scale. Some of the demolition impacts, and now the piledriving that is going on as they lay the foundations of what’s coming next, have been so big as to leave our entire building shaking. I work on the second floor, and occasionally the building shudders and we are enveloped in a noise so hefty, and yet somehow quiet, because we’re part of the enormous resonance that’s creating it. In particular parts of the building it’s very pronounced: if one of these impacts happens while I’m standing in front of the photocopier, the floor shakes and it sways slightly from front to back, its plastic doors creaking against their hinges.
Most of the time, this is troublesome. There was year-long demolition work – on a smaller scale, but still noisy and dusty and bothersome, happening opposite my last office. I thought when I moved jobs that I was getting away from the noise, which at its worst can leave me irritable and on edge. But from time to time I go into my colleagues’ room – mine is at the back of the building, where you can hear and feel, but not see – and stand by the window, rapt. Occasionally I take photos with my phone, when a new phase is taking place. It has become a bit of a standing joke with my colleagues. I explain that my friends’ son is obsessed as only little boys can be with tractors, diggers, machines, gears, cogs, and machinery of any kind, and that I’m taking a photo for him. Today, my colleague joked with me that perhaps I’d made up the friend’s son, so that I would have a vicarious excuse to indulge my own boyish love of diggers, and stand at the window and survey the scene, like the lord of my own sandpit. Perhaps she’s right.