In the latest in our A Voice from the Woods series, our insider details his struggles in dealing with members of the public. 

A modern-day rant...

Several years ago, during the winter, I was using the big old Caterpillar to assist with a hardwood job. Access to the wood was across a field and, owing to the lack of brash, I made it plain to the owner I would not be doing the job in wet weather. Following a series of heavy frosts, we raced as much timber as we could from the wood while the ground was hard. At the time, the old Caterpillar was pulling about 10 tonnes at a time and, when the frost finally gave, I informed the owner we would not be back until drier weather prevailed. Barely a few days had passed before he visited the mill and began badgering me to finish the job. From that point on, he called on almost a daily basis and it’s fair to say he made my life a misery.

Each time he called he provided various reasons as to why the job needed finishing.

Forestry Journal:

Apparently he had ordered new trees and had arranged for the planters to plant them and if this didn’t happen then he would lose his grant. Apparently he’d also arranged for fencing contractors and each day some new ruse was provided, before he finally threatened to sue me for £30,000. All of these claims were untrue and really just an attempt to pressure me into completing the job. The reasons became so ridiculous that it wouldn’t have surprised me if he’d claimed a clearing was needed for alien spaceships.

Finally (and against my better judgement) in an attempt to get him off my back I returned to the job. The ground was so heavy that we had to remove the trees one at a time in the grab and we left the biggest mess known to man. Naturally, as the weather improved, the field dried out and looked a little like pictures I’ve seen of the Somme! As time passed, no fencing contractors came and no planters planted and it was over a year before I saw anything happen on the land.

READ MORE: A voice from the woods: July 2021

Talking to other contractors in the area who have also had dealings with him, the one phrase which kept recurring was "Control Freak!". They reported him phoning continually day and night, although thankfully I never gave him my number. Fast forward several years and I made the fatal error of dealing with him again. These things happen unintentionally sometimes, only this time I nipped it in the bud. I barred him from coming to the sawmill and told him I want nothing to do with him again and to keep well away from me. He’s manipulative, changes agreements and dates, makes things up and refers to things that never happened, all in an attempt to manipulate you and bully you on his terms. Virtually all other contractors in the local community have ceased dealing with him and so I’m probably the last. That’s it, stay away!

Forestry Journal:

So, apart from this unpleasant individual, life goes on. Demand is high within an economy which seems to be running out of control. I’m coming across more and more people who seem to be getting a little greedy. It crossed my mind with one individual that if his grandmother had gold teeth he’d probably extract them in the dead of night.

They say most things are cyclical and I can remember a similar scenario before the last financial crash. These events seem to occur every 10-to-15 years which dampen people’s expectations and return a little sanity and common sense to proceedings. I’m sure most people would like lots of money for doing the least amount possible, but, as we all know, it doesn’t work that way. Someone has to do the work and any economy can only carry so many non-productive people.

The reason I’ve mentioned greed is that over the last few months I’ve come across a higher-than-normal number of individuals who have tried to rip me off. They use all sorts of subtle ploys. One individual claimed I was invoicing him for more wood than I was delivering. This wasn’t true, but he tried it three times and so I was forced to tell him to get his timber elsewhere. Another customer was using a store man who was factoring in a ‘bung’ for himself so that the client was paying substantially more for the timber than it actually cost. When I tackled the store man about this bribe (or 'kickback') he was not at all happy. Fortunately, the client discovered the ruse. 

These individuals spoil things for everyone and leave a bad taste in one's mouth. What’s happened to the ethos of ‘a fair day’s work for a fair day's pay'? Dealing with these people drains you. You begin to doubt everyone. I don’t want to go to work and have to deal with people who want to bully and intimidate you or try to involve you in paying bribes and bungs. It just seems worse at the moment and if this is the future then maybe it’s time for a change of career.

Whilst on the subject of unpleasantness, a recent incident highlighted my point. My wife has an HGV license and has been helping out with deliveries. She recently decided she no longer wanted to deliver to a particular establishment. Out of curiosity, I decided to accompany her to see for myself. While waiting for our turn, we switched on the CB radio in the cab of the wagon only to be party to a tirade of abuse between the forklift driver and the wagon driver. I completely understood her point!

Then you have the keyboard warriors. It brings to mind the old catcphrase from Little Britain: "Computer says no!" They sit there at the keyboard like masters of the universe, quite often not even looking up, but delivering their judgements. "Where’s your high-viz jacket?" "Where’s your hard hat?" "You’re a tonne over." If I had my way I’d love the whole computer system to simply self destruct. Blow up!

Forestry Journal: Little Britain Little Britain

It seems to me that 50 per cent of the working population get paid for just sending pointless emails to each other. Our own tentative entry into the computer age has caused no end of stress. Our new generator, when running, is awesome. It’s very efficient, very powerful and it holds its RPM and voltage perfectly. That is, when it’s running.

On several occasions it’s failed to start, despite cranking over fairly briskly. Several months down the line and after many wasted mornings of charging batteries, I had a brainwave. Back in the 1970s, most people struggled to start their cars. People generally were poorer, but more community spirited, and it was quite common to go to the aid of a neighbour. More people in those days would have jump leads and would willingly get them out to help. This situation persisted for some time as British Leyland and Ford turned out cars that were poorly made and unreliable. They needed fixing or repairing on a daily basis. Then along came the Japanese with the Datsun, a car which started instantly and consistently, owing to a simple device fitted to the coil. With British cars, the starter motor would use up most of the battery power, leaving a weak spark, whereas the Japanese device gave the plugs a good spark so that the car would start even on a half-flat battery.

So, bearing in mind the problem with British cars in the '70s, I realised what the problem was with the new generator. On start up, the batteries need to turn the starter on a big 14-litre engine, work the generator's computer systems, energise the common-rail injector pump, operate the engine's computer – which needs to communicate with the generator's computer – and also activate various relays, switches and so many other things which I have no idea what they are or why they are there! Basically, the battery’s exhausted before it starts. This got me thinking. Even though the batteries crank the engine over fairly quickly, it’s using a lot of its power supplying all these other functions.

Just like the British-made cars of the 1970s. The solution, therefore, was to fit bigger batteries and (fingers crossed) it’s now running like a Swiss watch. So this huge, expensive piece of kit kept breaking down simply because some penny-pinching accountant tried to save £20 fitting a smaller battery. The only issue is that there’s no isolator switch, so I have to remove a lead to stop the batteries going flat.