Preserve the lewd labourer and other building sights

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The Independent Online
If the construction industry has its way, building sites of the future will be populated by polite, well-dressed men who avert their gaze when members of the opposite sex walk by. The Considerate Constructors' Scheme, launched last week, aims to improve the industry's image by outlawing sloppy appearance and lewd behaviour. Wolf-whistling labourers who wear their trousers at half-mast will be sent home by firms that sign up.

While the scheme will be greeted with relief by the legions of women whose hearts sink at the prospect of passing a building site, others will mourn the demise of a phenomenon that is as integral to the English summer as rain at Wimbledon.

We are talking, of course, about Builder's Cleavage, that vision of white flesh spilling out over an imprudently positioned waistband, that glimpse of a part of the anatomy rarely displayed outside the bedroom. Not the most edifying spectacle, particularly on an empty stomach, but surely a part of our rich cultural tapestry.

There are other compelling reasons why the scheme should be resisted. This is not a trade renowned for its punctuality. What time will the builders turn up if they spend hours in front of the mirror in the morning? Tea breaks will stretch on for ever as clothing is anxiously checked and adjusted.

Certainly, the issue begs several questions. Why do builders buy trousers that are too small and will inexorably descend to a location below the beer gut? Are they not aware of the invention of the belt? Does the trade attract only men who enjoy leering, or do they pick up the habit after joining? Are builders born, or made?

Better, instead of dwelling on such matters, to contemplate how colourless life would be without them. Builders, after all, are the purest incarnation of that endangered species, unreconstructed male. As such, they are a useful yardstick to judge how far modern men have really progressed.

Builders have evolved, too. Keen observers of the breed will have spotted a new phenomenon that reflects changing fashions. This is Builder's Boxer Shorts, visible when that garment rides up over the top of the trousers.

But builders are not just comical; they are a walking health warning. With those huge greasy breakfasts, mugs of tea with three sugars, and 40 fags a day, it is a marvel that they are actually alive. And if their catcalls offend, imagine how addled their brains are on a daily diet of Radio 1. Remember too, that a rough exterior may conceal a sensitive, poetic soul. Beneath that dirty singlet may beat a heart yearning for romance.

Companies are already joining the new scheme, so if you come across a group of builders looking forlorn, don't be surprised. And if you want to raise their spirits, try those immortal words: "Cheer up, love, it might never happen."

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