Under normal circumstances, I would now be sat in front of a computer, compiling my annual list of the most-read and most-shared demolition stories of the past year. It has become something of a tradition; a way to draw a line under one year before we all move on to another.
But I have seen the list. And, having seen it, I have taken the decision to not publish it simply because it is too stark, too sad and too depressing.
It will come as no surprise to anyone in the demolition arena that eight of the top 10 stories of the past year were – in one way or another – related to the horrendous accident at Didcot A Power Station in February. That accident, its death toll, and the prolonged search for three of the four men killed would dominate the headlines for the remainder of the year, casting a dark shadow across an industry that had only just come to terms with a post-recessionary world.
Investigations into the precise cause of that deadly collapse are ongoing, and it would come as no surprise if they were still ongoing when the 2017 edition of this book is published.
But investigations aside, we now live in a world changed by the events of 23 February. It is highly likely that the findings of the HSE investigation will eventually lead to changes in the legislation governing the demolition process. Industry historians will ultimately refer to this period in terms of pre and post-Didcot. It will be the sector’s watershed moment.
Taken in isolation, the collapse of the boiler house at Didcot Power Station that fateful day would have been enough to cast a dark cloud over the year. But there was more.
There were other site deaths and accidents. The industry said goodbye to well-known and well-respected companies such as Micor, E. Rankin Ltd and Walter Forshaw. And all of this occurred against a background of yet more bad news from the wider world.
Indeed, if someone had told me in December 2015 that by the time I wrote this book:
- The United Kingdom had voted to turn its back on the European Union
- That Theresa May would be resident at Number 10 Downing Street
- That Donald Trump was just a few weeks away from seizing the keys to the White House
- That cultural icons like David Bowie, Muhammad Ali and Prince would no longer be with us
- And that our screens would never again be graced by new entertainment from the likes of Terry Wogan, Alan Rickman, Victoria Wood and Caroline Aherne
I wouldn't have laughed; I would probably have cried.
On top of all that, I personally managed to lose the best part of two months of 2016 laid in a hospital bed as a result of either ill health or in the aftermath of a demolition accident.
In short, 2016 was – for so many reasons and for so many people – an annus miserabilis.
And I for one shall not mourn its passing.