Tuesday, 13 July 2010


There is a bloke who stands on the Leeds/Bradford Road all day in all weathers holding a sign advertising a hand car wash.

It's one of those places staffed by immigrants who are probably trained as accountants or doctors but who were unlucky enough to have been born in some Third World toilet and have had to come over here.

Not only does this poor sod hold a sign but is dressd in a grubby, motheaten bear suit, like a football mascot that has hit the bottle and lives in a skip.

It is similar to the staff at Asda who get to stand near the checkouts holding up a sign shaped like a pointing finger saying 'Space Here'. I always thank these people and feel I should give tham a tip or something.

The worst job I had was as a flue cleaner.

I used to work for a company that cleaned the flues of huge factory chimneys. The flues were large chambers at the base of the chimneys were the soot and ash would collect while the smoke and fumes went up the chimney.

When these chambers got full then they would shut the boilers down and bring in a contractor company to clean out the soot.

We would arrive at the weekend when the factory was shut and climb into the soot chambers through a hatch in the boiler room wall.

It wasn't a technical job. There would be blokes inside the chamber shovelling the soot towards the hatch in the wall where a piece of corrugated tin was shaved onto the hatchway and curved to form a ramp where someone would stand outside scraping the soot down the tin into wheelbarrows.

The barrows would then be wheeled through the boilerhouse and out into the yard where the barrow would be run up a plank of wood placed against a skip and emptied in.

This process was as grim and back breaking as it sounds. We wore full body suits with smog masks and goggles and wellies.

Portable lights were set up but clouds of soot would blow in the breeze coming down the chimney and out through the open hatch and the goggles were so scratched and dirty that most didn't wear them as vision was virtually impossible.

As you dug further down the soot became hotter as it hadn't chance to cool down and you couldn't stand in the same spot for too long.

The blokes inside the chamber would swap with the barrow pushers and do it in two hour shfts.

I remember coming out and looking down at my wellies. The soles had melted in the heat and rubber was actually dripping off them.

Needless to say it was a filthy job and in two days we would fill four giant skips with soot. The pay was pretty good but all the blokes I worked with had death rattle coughs and smoked Capstans or Senior Service filterless fags as they were past caring about the state of their lungs.

I reckon most of them have died from Emphysema by now.
Sittng in my office with a cup of coffee and a computer doesn't seem that bad now.