Friday, 29 January 2010

It's Friday night. I'm sitting outside in the velvety warmth of the evening drinking a glass of wine while I wait for the husband. Luckily for him there is steak, baked potatoes, salad and beer to pour into him when he gets home. He has been working over the Christmas holidays on a job at a school about an hour from us - moving classrooms, building new ones and being ready for the start of the school term on the 4th February is critical. Every day (including weekends) he is up at 5.40am and he comes home looking incredibly dusty and overheated. It has been such a long time since I have been in gainful employment and I have never done anything as physically exhausting as hard manual labour so I am in awe of his diligence and energy output under such sweltering conditions (we are into the thick of summer - about 27 degrees and hot sun every day). Hopefully when the job finishes he will be able to take few well earned days off to relax.

My career path to housewife has been all over the place. I have been a pot scrubber, French teacher, barmaid, sports spread betting trader but the most painful job was doing the night shift at a salad factory during university holidays. My best mate and I thought we had hit the jackpot in securing the post at Bourne Salads for the princely sum of four quid fifty per hour. This a clear few pence above minimum wage and we were seriously excited about the riches we felt we would earn. We spent about 10 chilly hours every night standing opposite each other over a table at which we would haul freezing boxes of lettuce from the ever circulating conveyor belt. Depending on the variety of lettuce we would have to chop the leaves in a particular style and shape. These artfully crafted leaves would then pile up into a plastic crate beside us until the requisite weight was reached and we could move onto the next job. Radicchio was piss easy. Heavy leaves. Little gem - seriously annoying. Not only is there little weight to them but mother nature was not considerate to our cause in their design. It takes forever to carefully peel each little love from the rest of the lettuce.

There were a number of things which hindered our progress in drumming up kilos of lettuce at a rate of knots. The first was the temperature inside the place. Standing inside a giant, wet fridge does nothing for your fine motor skills. Numb, useless fingers fumbled around with the delicate feuilles until they were in an acceptable state for shoving into plastic bags and selling to the masses. The second thing which stood between us and swift shredding was the state of the knives. It was barely possible to work out which was the cutting side of the thing so blunt were the blades. As you exerted pressure on the knife it would slide across the surface of the lettuce and the pointed end would jab into dead fingers. This would then necessitate a blue plaster (have you ever found one in your designer bag of herbed salad?) which made a fiddly job more fiddly.

What I did love though was being paid to stand opposite my best mate and talk about crap for hours on end (I could win an Olympic medal in talking about crap for hours). We blew all our money on pints of snakebite and black on the weekend and managed to save close to nothing. It taught me a thing or two though about getting my degree in order to increase my chances of getting a well paid, fulfilling job. I couldn't eat lettuce for a few years either. But that's hardly a hardship.


  1. Reminds me of a job I had at Wimbledon tennis one year working in the umpires' restaurant. We literally sat and put lettuces on a plate, then handed them off to another team who did the rest of the salads. We were the "base girls"; what fun.

  2. a 'base girl'. What a charming job description. You must have had immense job satisfaction from that


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