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Sunday, 21 February 2010


Having a dad that runs an employment agency meant that my late teens and breaks from University were filled doing all sorts of jobs that I was un-qualified, un-skilled, and un-able to do. The highlight of this period of over paid and poorly performed labour was a week working as a ‘heavy lifter’ assisting 2 ‘skilled mechanics’ at the Isle of Wight’s sewage works.

I remember my first day well, me and another temp (who was considerably bigger and tougher-looking than me) arrived at the front gates of Sandown Sewage Plant to be greeted by a pair of bumbling idiots who wasted no time in exclaiming their joy that neither of us were Black. They obviously gave me a good look up and down as well, probably wondering what on earth the agency was thinking sending me for a job that included ‘manual labour’ in the description.

After a cup of tea and a bit of “corr-blimey doesn’t she look a bit like that bird you pulled in Bournemouth” over page 3, the 2 tradesman led us to the machine where we would be spending the next 5 long, 10 hour, days.

"So this is the machine that takes Tampons and sanitary towels out of sewage”. Great. The jackpot.

So the week was spent mainly trying to lift/carry/move each of these 12 feet long metal rotary blades that take all the worst shit out of shit. Mainly me and the other temp (whose name I have obviously forgotten) had to hold each one above a huge seemingly never-ending pit while they were re-attached to chains.

Sewage factories don’t smell as bad as you’d think. But they don’t smell good either. More like bleach than faeces. Plus as half the people you see are dressed in head-to-toe chemical protection suits you start to feel a bit more like you’re somewhere that is making nuclear energy, not making piss drinkable (that’s what they do, right?).

I was on pretty heavy tea-making duties by the third or forth day, and the insults coming my way were getting progressively annoying. I even got taken to one side to ‘check I wasn’t gay’ – which was pretty outstanding. The worst part about the whole miserable experience was that one of the ‘bosses’ wouldn’t listen to any music at all, just a mixture of talk-only radio stations babbling on all day like an audio-only QVC Channel trying to sell the concept of ‘boring’.

All-in-all I’m glad I was getting paid £10 an hour, glad I can now listen to music at work, and glad I’ll (fingers crossed) never have to temp at a sewage factory for beer money again.

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