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From the organisers of

The Merry Month : by Robert Merry

19 October 2018
Robert Merry

Robert Merry discovers life after project management.

Robert Merry is an independent stone consultant who has just given up project managment. He ran his own company for 17 years and is now a consultant and expert witness.

At the beginning of the month I thought: “What will my post project management world look like?” Who would want to talk to me? Why would anyone want to talk to me?  Then the phone rang…

It was a man from Oman, working for the Omani stone industry, asking my opinion on the UK market and how they could promote the marble quarried there.

Not sure he had the right number, I pretended I knew something about emerging markets, trends, strengths and weaknesses in the UK stone market and that I was someone at the coal face of stone, if you get my drift.

Then a friend, whose motorbike fell on top of his foot while on holiday in France, called to say he was out of hospital after an operation. He had been told it would take 10 weeks to recover and did I have any work he could do from home. I asked him if he knew anything about how Omani stone could be marketed in the UK and would he be interested in talking to someone about it. He didn’t and he wasn’t.

A beautiful sculpture of a pair of shoes on a shoe box cut from Portland stone by Tom Nicholls of London Stone Carving was collected and given as a gift and very much appreciated. It now sits in the garden visible from the kitchen window. Now I enjoy washing up because I can see the shoes while standing at the sink.

I completed the 2nd draft of the Stone Federation Interiors Group CPD for approval and sent it off for comments, expecting this to be its final form and ready for presentation. Almost.

I started an Open University course in geology – only a short one (not a degree, because I haven’t the time to dedicate to a degree).

The owner of a failed paving area I inspected last year came back with further requests for testing. After a conversation with an eminent geologist in our industry I finally understood what a petrographic test can reveal and why it’s so important for understanding how a stone may perform in certain situations… better late than never.

A stone man I know asked if I would act as his commercial ‘wing man’ on a very large contract in London a couple of days a month and look over the tender documents before he sent them to the contractor because he wanted to be sure he understood the risks. Yes, of course.

I partially resigned from the job from hell, stepping back from the day to day so I don’t have to write about it anymore or have my faith in the building trade whittled any thinner. It is tremendously liberating.

I was asked if I would review the flexural strength test for a stone backed with a ceramic tile. It had achieved 80MPa when tested to BSEN12372, but the question was: would it work as a replacement stone for a failed suspended floor where the installation of the board over the pedestals was wrong and the original stone was cracking along the line of the boards.

Some 220 cracked stones had already been replaced and none of the replacements had cracked, so perhaps the original cracking was more about settlement and less about specification. Or maybe there will be further long term issues. We shall see.

A section drawing of a wall build-up I completed for a client last year was sent to me with an architect’s felt tip squiggles all over it asking if the addition of a layer of waterproofing represented by the squiggles would be acceptable.

No, the squiggles were not needed as the original design was for a waterproof layer as drawn. And where did you find this drawing? It was sent by the contractor, who had been sent it by the stone subcontractor. Be careful what you send out there, I thought. It might come back with squiggles on.

My other friend (I pride myself on having two) said his sister’s friend had £1.2million to spend on marble for her house in a posh part of London and could I help her. I wondered if she had heard of Oman marble and its exceptional qualities...

Yes, of course I can help, I said, although I still hold the principle that I neither buy nor sell marble, because I guess you can’t be truly independent if you have your nose in the trough as well as trying to advise what’s in the trough... if you see what I mean.

Phewee! The first month of worrying about not having enough work in my post project management world is over. Now all I have to worry about is doing the work.

Sorry, got to go – the phone is ringing. It might be another international stone producer needing my services.

Robert Merry, MCIOB, is an independent Stone Consultant and Project Manager who previously ran his own stone company for 17 years. He is also an expert witness in disputes regarding stone and stone contracts. Tel: 0207 502 6353 / 07771 997621. [email protected]


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