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In 1993, Prime Minister John Major launched a campaign that came to be defined by the slogan, “Back to Basics”. Following the economic catastrophe of Black Wednesday and the rebellion of the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative Party, he called for a return to what he saw as traditional British values of “neighbourliness, decency, courtesy”. This catchphrase-led campaign was seen as an attempt to wrest back control of the media narrative of a weak PM being buffeted by events like a rudderless ship.

The PM faced satirical mocking for invoking images of shadows over county cricket grounds, warm beer, and Orwell’s “Old maids bicycling to holy communion through the morning mist”. Ribbing soon turned to a critical roasting when a succession of scandals involving members of his cabinet emerged in what became known as the era of sleaze. The “back to basics” motto became incongruous and ultimately toxic.

Delia Smith hit upon a more successful “back to basics” idea with her 1998 “How to cook” series. She stripped cooking back from the outlandishly fancy recipes of the time to teach the nation how to boil an egg.  She rightly surmised that for many people, the dizzy heights of coq au vin are off-limits if you’re not sure what a coq is, let alone which bit to buy, how to store it & then prepare it safely.

I’m afraid to say that I had no idea that cam-belts need replacing until mine “went” on my first car one Sunday. Sadly, I couldn’t tell you the difference between a head-gasket and a cam-shaft & I could no more identify a gearbox than a Marsh warbler if you popped one on a table in front of me; though at a push I could tell them apart if you had one of each.

Come to think of it, I’m not all that sure what a rudder is on a ship but I believe it’s something to do with steering.

We all have a tendency to forget how much “stuff” we know when it comes to our hobbies, interests and professions and how long it took us to learn it all.

If you are a young man in his twenties, it can be embarrassing to ask what on earth a cam-belt is and then infuriating when you don’t understand a word of the reply. I find the workings of an internal combustion engine as confusing as a toddler would reading up on cricket’s LBW law written in Mandarin.

We’re happy to go back to basics

Sometimes at ODI, we deal with facilities managers who have helped manage several office relocations and are well-versed in the complexities of design & build and the terminology involved.   It’s important for us to remember, however, that in many companies, at least the preliminary stages of researching an office move are dropped on the desk of an office manager or administrator who may have no prior knowledge of the range of considerations or the jargon that we regularly use.

It can feel daunting to discuss the intricate details of “mechanicals” or “perimeter trunking” when already it has come as an unwelcome surprise to learn that there’s a difference between a landlords’ and a tenants’ fit-out and you’ve no idea what that difference is.

There’s no shame, however, in thinking that snagging is what happens when you catch your fingernail on your coat pocket. Nor is there any reason you should know or understand anything at all about fitting-out offices before you speak to us.

If you talk to us, we will happily explain any terminology or process and will find a way of doing so that makes sense to you.  In the meantime, we will start by publishing some journal posts that explain the fundamentals of our trade such as “What’s the difference between fit-out and refurbishment?” and “What is a space plan?”

We’ll also march on with our jargon-busting series to define the sort of terms that get used all the time in design and build circles.  If you have any terms or phrases you’d like explained, then please let us know and we’ll add them to the list.

Now, about that LBW law. John Major has some time on his hands nowadays & he knows a thing or two about cricket; ask him!

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