One Flue over the Cuckoo’s Nest


Here’s the story of chimneys, the modern world, and seagulls.

I wouldn’t like to be stuck up a chimney all day with a broom. It’s not something I’d ever thought about before this week, but I saw a job advert for a chimney sweep and I couldn’t quite believe it. I just assumed it went out with the Victorians. Like cobblers and switchboard operators. It would be a fun thing to be though. Imagine that on a date. “Oh, I’m a secretary.” They don’t call them that, anymore, by the way. “Oh, that’s nice. I’m a chimney sweep.” That would be a big turn on for a girl, I reckon. There’s a man who said ‘no’ to a normal everyday job and instead chose something outside the box. Although I suspect saying ‘my job involves getting dirty’ might not be the wisest thing to put on your Match profile…

I think they call secretaries ‘administrative assistants’ these days. Just like stewardesses are known as flight attendants, by some people, but certainly not me. I even saw a job once for ‘director of first impressions’, which is a receptionist. And don’t get me started on ‘front of house assistant’. You know them. Often the type of people who hold signs out the front of shops and spin them around. Trying to get you into the shop. I even saw an advert for ‘back of house assistant’. I mean, really, what the heck is that even supposed to be? Basically, you’re not good enough to hold a sign so we’re going to put you out the back. Gee, thanks for that.

Still, could be worse. In 19th century Britain, there was a job known as ‘knocker-upper’, and no, it was not a worker at some primitive clinic where women could travel to get pregnant because their husbands were having trouble in that department, you know, before the wonders of the modern age, it was actually someone who walked around knocking on doors early each morn before we had alarm clocks. So someone used to wake you up with a knock on the door. How wonderfully quaint. You had to be brave to do that.

And it’s not much better these days. I’ve lost track of the number of jobs I’ve seen claiming ‘sandwich artists wanted’. Subway does it all the time. A sandwich artist? I mean, do they know how stupid that sounds? All they do is prepare food! What about ‘food prepper’? That’s funky and cool, right? Who the hell is picking a job based on the title? ‘Ooh, I don’t want to be a food prepper. Ooh, but I love to be a sandwich artist! What does that involve? Oh, prepping food? Count me in!’ Give me strength…

Oh, and have you met the geniuses at Apple? Oh, Lord. Bartender, too, irks me. What’s wrong with gender specific job titles? You can have a barmaid or a barman. Or a steward and a stewardess. An actress or an actor. That’s disappearing too. I like them separate. I don’t know why, I just like it. If that’s sexist, you’re being very picky about what’s sexist and what isn’t. Fair enough if there isn’t a male or female equivalent, but if there is, well, who cares what title one uses? You’d be surprised. Chairwoman, fisherwoman, firewoman are real words. But there’s no male equivalent of seamstress, so I guess we’re stuck with ‘sewing machine operator’. Oh, and weathermen and weatherwomen are ‘meteorologists’ nowadays, apparently. Just a bit less poetic. That’s a shame.

And the police force is long gone. Police service, now. ‘Force’, apparently, has ‘negative connotations’. Too aggressive, that. But I want my police force to have a bit of teeth. That’s why I still call them a police force. I feel a police force is more capable of taking down a drug empire than a police service can. A police force barges in with all guns blazing and takes them down in one swift swoop. A police service politely knocks on the door and asks them to surrender. Nah, I don’t like that very much.

I was thinking about that chimney sweep role. It’s one that is often self-employed and, apparently, it’s one of the fastest growing jobs in the UK. I can only assume that’s because we have a shit load of old buildings adorned with chimneys and the older they get, they probably need more maintenance. It’s what I think about. Most people would laugh it off and think nothing more of it. But as I left the office of endless hell where I found the job, and as I ventured out thereafter to relax with some photography, I was thinking a lot about my chimney sweeping business. I don’t want to do it, but if you asked someone what I did for a living, ‘chimney sweep’ wouldn’t raise an eyebrow, would it? Nor would ‘cobbler’, to be honest…

I’d call it Alan’s Sweepers. Okay, I’m not blessed with great business acumen, but it gets to the nub of the matter, I suppose. Oh, and my logo would be a chimney with a pair of legs sticking out the top. Ooh, and my slogan could be, ‘Cleansing Your Flue’. You know, this might be starter, readers.

I don’t know much about this world, though. Is it particularly nasty? I don’t want to be run off the road by a competitor and then threatened with a baseball bat. “Oi, sunshine, this is our patch!” This could be a good sitcom, too.

I didn’t get much further in my musings after I became distracted by a huge group of seagulls. I get distracted easily. Ooh, pork pie! Sorry, someone just dangled a pork pie in front of me. It’s doesn’t matter. Delicious, though. The point is, those gulls are endlessly entertaining. Imagine if your town had a huge former industrial wasteland in the heart of it, and in it, was a giant lake caused by recent bad weather. This has happened in my town and it’s become home to quite a large number of seagulls that I find fascinating. But why I find them fascinating is not because of any particularly interesting reason, so I won’t bore you with the details.

Thoughts of chimney sweeping were all that was keeping me happy on that day, really. I had to call of my shoot the week before because of the rain and then this week I was plagued with sunshine. Not often described as a plague, but I was getting rather angry at the Sun for being in the wrong position, meaning my photos were either too dark or too bright. And have you ever tried to change an aperture setting in a force nine gale? With gloves on? Oh, yes, the wind was also a menace. And those seagulls were damn angry. I’m considering taking some bread for them next time, I just hope I can throw it over the huge fence around the lake. Otherwise, it’ll get stuck on the barbed wire at the top, thus resulting in a hundred and one seagulls flocking toward me in a homage to the Birds that I don’t really want to be a part of…

Oh, and to top it all off, the one shining light in my life over the last few months might be taken away from me this week because of other people’s errors that I’m being blamed for, yet I can prove I had no part in, proof that is being completely ignored. Aint life sure swell?

Maybe ending up as a chimney sweep wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen. Or maybe, knowing my luck, it would end up with several trips to the hospital.

Either way, it’ll be a great talking point with the ladies…

American comedian, actor, writer, producer and musician, Stephen Martin (b. 1945), once said: “I got a flue shot and now my chimney works perfectly.”

Peace Out :|:

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Please feel free check out the latest posts from my other two blogs:

To Contrive & Jive
New Posts Every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday
Click Here to Read the Latest Post

Hark Around the Words
New Post Every Sunday
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