Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Weird Jobs I’ve done For Money, While Training To Be a Writer, & Odd People That Happened.



Babysitting: I’d drive myself to my regulars (where my sister infamously fried the cat’s steak forsaking fillet), put the kids to bed and wait it out way past the Goodnight Kiwi was tucked up in his satellite dish. One evening, the adults were chatting over pre-outing gins and stuffed olives. I got to see first-hand a larger than life penthouse poster girl, soon to become tablemats under the skilful hand of the resident-porno-artiste. 

My parents collected a strange array of well-crafted gifts over the years. The penis door knocker, which required human skin to finish, was the only one I didn’t try and see.

Lamb Docking: The not lovely job of clipping ears, rubber ringing testes and chopping tails. Off. On our farm we used a machine that looked like a mini spade with an axe blade on the end. It was smokin hot to cauterize flesh and bone as it bit through with a whine and a pop. I held those upended woolly bleaters as they wriggled, hoping it was true sheep were dumb and didn’t feel a thing.

Plucker of Dead Sheep: I kid you not, wool plucked off bloated green grey sheep went to market. What it was used for, I’m not sure? Norsewear socks perhaps? Skin would come off with the wool if the sheep were too rotten.  Turning over to pluck the other side wasn’t advised for those ones. A lovely straight haired lady called, Poodle, lived down the road. She devised the – scooped out orange tied over the nose - the perfect plucking pomade.  

Rousabout in a Shearing Gang:  Apparently I worked for the biggest dope grower in Central Hawkes Bay. I wouldn’t have known. He shouted us Tui tall necks in the Wanstead pub after work. And after big jobs ended had parties in his lounge; shearers and rousies stood around a studded brown vinyl bar, while his daughters cooked feeds in the first ever microwave in the district. A leg of mutton, grey and steaming after only 30 minutes. 

Freezing Worker:  ‘Do you realize your hair is longer on one side than the other,’ a fellow white suit and gumbooted worker pointed out on my first day. ‘It’s supposed to be like that,’ I replied. It was 1982. I worked in the boning room. Carcasses butchered on one side and frozen shoulders, legs etc shrink wrapped on the other. The air was chill but you could still smell flesh. I made boxes and stencilled the run-codes. ‘My hands are freezing.’ 

‘Well you haven’t got much meat on them have ya,’ scowled a woman who looked like she was overdue for her 30 years’ service award. Our supervisor sometimes yelled out, ‘come on you lazy sluts’…. I could write a lot about my three months of meat. 

Pumpkin Polisher: The pumpkin farmer was a cheery chap and so were his Butternuts. Crates and crates of them. I rubbed my oily cloth over those dark green squash until they shone. Destined to be chopped and fried and put in Japenese lunchboxes. Womens only, the men didn’t touch them.

Inside Jobs:

Temporary Secretary:  After 6 months at Queens Secretarial College, London I had a typing speed of 35 Word per Minute (basic rate to get a job is 55 wpm) not sure how I bluffed my way in…

Temp On Assignment…

Rolls Royce Dealership, Kensington: Dear Mega Rich Prince of Saudi Arabia, would you care to pause and ponder the pleasure available to you by upgrading your current Roller to the extra swanky cream leather upholstered latest model Silver Bird Saloon II we have glistening in our showroom window…

BBC Bengali Section: I proudly walked into the majestic BBC building and soon found myself in a dusty ramshackle corner deciphering addresses, written in scrawly pencil on turmeric flavoured newsprint.

The Barbican: I worked in the booking section with a middleaged alcoholic. She tried to hide her secret with lashings of Cinnebar. The combination of peach, cloves, BRANDY and bergamot notes was a heady perfume. On her bad days, she would get me to 'lead her' on to the long wooden escalator at nearby, St Pauls tube station. ‘Once I’m on I’m fine,’ she’d say. Her right forearm wrapped around mine shaking like a castanet mid song. No clues for what she did of an evening. Poor lady.

I could go on. Jobs, I've had a few. However in the interest of keeping posts to a manageable 800-900 word read. I won’t. 

Yet all of the above and the rest, have added nicely to the bountiful resource residing in the memory of this middle aged woman. Writer. 

I started thinking about jobs this week, because if I’d won the Sunday Star Times nonfiction award I was planning on changing my title. If strangers asked me what I did, I was going to say, ‘I’m a writer.’

 A couple of days after I found out I came 3rd, I was asked. I hesitated for just a moment, then I replied, ‘I grow flowers.’

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