I am now officially a “Chartered Engineer”. As somebody who has a strong interest in ritual I was rather disappointed that absolutely no ritual accompanied this change in social status. Except that I now have a certificate to hang on my wall, and more letters after my name than in my name.
I never imagined such a thing would happen to me. If a creative career helped me get this certificate, can the certificate help my creative career?
Life continues unchanged, but I think the company directors are pleased. So far I’m not simply the only part-time member of staff to have succeeded in this, I’m the only member of staff of any description. My colleagues who have not managed to attain Chartered status are a little bemused, as they are well aware that I’m no better at my job than they are.
I was advised to list everything on my application, including my activities as an artist. The interview panel took great interest in my creative projects, especially the Millennium Festival Event I headed up, where I was leading a team of 12 artists and managing the Arts Council grant. They were also exceedingly interested in the structure I’m building, which is the concern of this blog. I can honestly say that if I hadn’t been an artist, and in particular if I wasn’t building this structure, I wouldn’t have been awarded Chartered Status.
I have started building the structure. To mark out the octagonal base I used a 12 metre loop of string knotted at 1 metre intervals. This can be pegged out to make a “3 4 5” triangle which produces an accurate right-angle. This is apparently the technique used by the ancient Egyptians to mark out the corners of the pyramids before they started on the foundations. I showed my daughter, who is studying for GCSE maths, but she was distinctly unimpressed.
In ancient times, the fact that the “3 4 5” triangle could reliably measure an exact right-angle, together with the geometric proof (invented by Pythagoras millennia after the pyramids), were considered advanced magic. Architects would stretch out the knotted string accompanied by priests and magical incantations, and any bad omens that occurred at this crucial moment would result in the building project being abandoned, or at least delayed or moved to a new location. Pythagoras himself became the leader of his own esoteric cult, the “Pythagoreans”, who refused to eat beans and founded their own equivalent of a “new-age commune”.
In the event, my own measuring was free of ill omens, so I got down and dirty digging holes for the foundations in which to insert the vertical poles. There is some question about what “vertical” means when the poles themselves are not straight, and are not the same width at each end.
Technically a “Vertical” bent pole would have the centre of its top directly above the centre of its base, so that downward force applied to the top would be transmitted exactly downwards at the base. However, the base is 60 cms below ground level, and for a “bowed” pole this looks a bit odd. So I have opted for “aesthetic vertical”, where the top of the pole is directly above the point on the pole at which it enters the ground.
Aesthetic Vertical. Getting the tops of the poles exactly the same height wasn’t easy either, given the ground is not level!
Assistance is needed in setting the poles into the ground. 2 plumb lines, measuring vertical from orthogonal directions, need to be viewed at once, while somebody also pours the super-quick-setting “PostCrete” into the foundation hole.
To fix the cross-beams in place I have opted for mortice-and-tenon joints. Again, these are relatively easy for straight poles with a rectangular cross-section, but rather hard for bent poles with a very variable roughly-circular cross-section.
These joints took my carpentry skills to their limits.