Twice in the last week I have caught myself talking excitedly to my next door neighbour Tom about my new water butt. It hasn't turned up in the post yet but I have ordered on line via Thames Water and got its installation all worked out to collect water from the down-pipe in the front garden.
'You seem very excited about this new water butt, ' said Tom on bank holiday Monday as we chatted over the wall. 'Yes, ' I replied sheepishly. 'I am-' Perhaps I need to get out more. Such enthusiasm for a plastic water butt could, after all, be considered slightly odd. Even my wife is offi cially tired of hearing about the butt and its delayed delivery.
Whatever. A day off work has given me the mental space to think it all through and the fact is that Project Water Butt works (for me) on at least five levels.
1. There is the obvious sense of social responsibility from collecting a resource normally thrown away. And as Thames Water would confirm, every little helps.
2. This butt will have a massive impact on the plants in my front garden. Easy access to water at last means that they stand a chance of life as I will probably get round to watering them.
3. Experience of similar butts this summer shows that my two year old will love it, particularly the easily accessed tap to fill his watering can, thus giving me a (very useful) remote plant watering capability.
4. is butt represents a spending opportunity. As a bloke I love new toys and this is a dead cert 'good and sensible' purchase.
5. was able to buy online, which, I admit, still gives an element of excitement. You research it, you find it, you price-check it, you buy it, you track the order and you wait for delivery. OK, it hasn't turned up yet but..
So five solid reasons for getting excited about a water butt - Thames Water take note for future marketing opportunities.
And now I've thought this all through I am sure Tom will soon have one in his garden.
The ability to generate enthusiasm for something by being enthusiastic should never be underestimated. It is a theory that we have adopted this month as part of our build-up to Civils 2005, our civil engineering showcase at Olympia in November. A special publication Imagination and innovation is being sent to local authority leaders to underline the outstanding work carried out by civil engineers in communities across the UK.
The idea is to highlight to these potential clients how our profession can really change the quality of life in communities by looking beyond the usual onedimensional solutions.
It is intended to convince local authorities that there is huge value in utilising the profession's skills and to show that civil engineers offer much more than just the ability to design infrastructure.
Building a road, revamping a town centre, designing a water treatment plant or upgrading a public transport system may seem ordinary. But just like water butts, if properly thought through the benefits can exceed the simple collection of water.
And if my water butt actually arrives before the end of summer, I'll let you know if my expectations were met.
Antony Oliver is editor of NCE