Job change…

Something very important occurred to me. Well it is of no importance to anyone but me, really. Unless you are one of those the Demonic Auditor might be coming for in the future. I put it in my Christmas email to the companies and individuals I have worked for in the past and hope to work for again in the future.

This must be my last year of Local Shop’s Christmas madness. The lunacy I have to put up with has become irritating. It really is not that hard to organise because the customers are as easily herded as sheep if it’s done right. You don’t need to promote at this time of year. You just make it available and they’ll buy it.

Anyway, here is a snippet (edited) of my Christmas message to  the businesses who pretty much deserted me when the recession hit. My price has gone up.


I’m still working in [Local Shop] for [Secret Ninja Cleaners] but have no desire to climb the ladder in either organisation. Both places are run by idiots all the way to the top as far as I can see. Food wastage is shocking. I expect it’s the same in all food shops but at Local Shop prices it hurts more. This, I have decided, is my last Christmas of trying to keep the place sane and stop the managers having panic attacks. Time to move on. They have now reached the stage of a 100% pass at cleaning audit, the only Local Shop in Scotland to do so, I hear. They know what to do now, they don’t need me any more.

It occurred to me that I now have something that might well be unique. During decades of learning and lecturing on the theory behind food spoilage, food borne disease, food poisoning, food preservation and storage and so on, I still had no practical experience of it – nothing to tell me why those poisoning outbreaks occurred. The procedures in place in all food shops should make such outbreaks impossible. That’s what any career scientist would think.

After two years at the sharp end of retail, I have now been able to observe how those regulations are applied and to be honest, it’s like developing a piece of complex technology and letting a band of monkeys play with it. They might understand what they have to do, but they have no idea of why. So they see no reason to take it seriously.

It’s not just the base staff. Most of them are fresh out of school and some are even still at school. Even the managers seem to have no idea of why those regulations are in place.

I have seen one member of staff, on the tills, taken ill. She had to rush back to the staff toilets to throw up. Clearly she had some kind of intestinal disorder and quite possibly an infection. Sudden-onset vomiting with no other symptoms made me think it was probably viral. They let her rest in the staff room for a while and then sent her back to the tills. Where she scanned food items and weighed loose fruit and veg. Well, she did for a while, until she had to go and throw up again and was finally allowed to go home.

I have seen numerous people arrive at work with the squits. They tried to phone in sick but were persuaded to come to work by managers. Whereupon they proceeded to infect the staff toilets and anything else they touched. I never buy anything in this shop. I’m just glad to be the one in charge of the disinfectant.

In addition to those years of theory, I can now see why the carefully plotted measures to prevent food poisoning outbreaks fail. There is nothing wrong with the measures. There’s really nothing wrong with the staff. It’s that the staff are told what to do but not why they have to do it. Corners get cut, people who should be advised to stay well away from any food source are pushed into working, expiry-date checks get skipped, and much more. It’s been a real eye-opener and I’m now very glad I did it.

Few of the staff know my qualifications, including the management. If they did they’d probably suspect me of being a Helistrat spy! I’ll tell them when I leave.

So, now I have the sharp-end knowledge of how cleaning and food safety rules are applied (when they are actually applied!) as well as the theory behind those rules. I have seen how the rules can be, and are, circumvented and sometimes ignored. Those mysterious food poisoning outbreaks that seem to have no traceable cause are no longer a mystery.



I will not tell Local Shop how to up their game at janitor prices. I will not tell them how to bust Helistrat audits (I looked at their website and they are management-speak idiots too) at this pay level. That stuff costs more. A lot more.

In the coming year I might well make a comeback as a serious microbiologist. Or I might do it for free for small companies I like just so I don’t have to pay tax.

Besides, the small companies need the likes of me to help them survive the EU-driven big-company preferences.

And I don’t need all that much money any more. I have simple needs.

56 thoughts on “Job change…

  1. Ah the human element in food poisoning. The people who come into work sick, and dont wash their hands, their hands touching everything from the cash that people pay to the chip and pin pad and the cards that people have in their wallet and hand over with grubby fingers and then the helpful assistant who has some delightful virus on her hands puts helpfully in the card reader for you.

    Sneezes, and diseases. All to keep the industrial food machine going. Local shops being just microcosms of Big supermarkets. Ive seen food handlers sneeze over a whole crate of apples and Ive walked out of the shop having bought nothing.

    Fun aint it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Customers are a critical control point (HACCP) but there is little to no control that can be exerted. Putting all fruit and veg in plastic bags would help but customers like loose fruit and veg – there is nothing you can do to prevent them handling it or sneezing at it. They will infect each other and then blame the shop for providing what they want.

      Money has long been a vector of disease. Paper money especially. Copper is bactericidal but the new coins aren’t copper – try it with a magnet. The older 2p and 1p coins are worth more as scrap than their face value!

      Cards, less risky than absorbent paper money but nothing can ever be risk-free. Contactless cards and phone-pay will take off among the scared and will become implante4d chips is less rhan two decades. Maybe even next year. That is not all good.

      When I was small we played in the dirt every day and we grew up with an immune system that worked. So we rarely got sick. Now we have a population of hydroponic pansies who are scared of the stuff their planet is made of. It will be easy to make them non-touching (already happening) in case of disease or fifty-second hand smoke or ninety-fifth hand drinking or fourty-fourth hand obesity..

      They will not ‘accept’ implanted chips that can track them anywhere. They will queue overnight for them.


      • OK, someone sneezes over the loose sprouts. Then I buy half a pound(12322 mm/Kg) of said sprouts, take them home and cook them, by boiling them, at 100C, and they are safe to eat ! However I do eat apples bought loose, so if someone sneezes on them in the shop, how many hours does the nasty germ live on their skin, and if I wipe them on my jumper will that remove the nasty germs ?


        • Viruses shouldn’t last long on apples unless they are apple viruses which you can’t catch unless you’re an apple. A sneeze should spray a thin layer so there shouldn’t be many per apple, so your immune system (unless it’s a modern ‘been sheilded from everything’ one) will wipe it out.

          Of more concern is the staff member who loads apples onto the shelves but has to leave every 15 minutes because he/she has the shits. That’s where management needs education.


  2. Splendid, Mr Legiron. A couple of years ago I was involved in installing a manufacturing system at an aerospace company. They made the system that controlled their entire business of such importance that they gave the vital task of managing the project to a 22 year old relative of the MD that had a BA in languages, but he was studying for an MBA which made him into a business whizz. More like Es and whizz. The project went tits up, and when our customer used a 60 year old chap with a background in real making things to manage the project – results; success.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The ones that make my piss boil are the , usually elderly, customers who cough into their hand and then touch the stock. 10+ for manners, -10 contagion control. There have been times when I have wanted to go postal in a supermarket whilst wearing a neon coloured gasmask, marigolds and screaming as I fired ‘REMEMBER THE BLACK DEATH!!’ or “EAT LEAD TYPHOID MARY!”
    And don’t get me started on the check out staff.

    An unsanitized telephone may have wiped out the Golgafrinchans but it is the Snotty nosed woman on the Lidl’s till who will do for humanity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Customers are uncontrollable. Staff are not and should be setting an example to the dopes who stumble through the doors. The example they generally set is that filth is good.

      I have been often asked if I want to take home some of the leftovers from the bakery. Having witnessed a horrible child licking the sugar off a doughnut and then putting it back (I put it in food waste but how many didn’t I see?) I always decline.


      • XX Customers are uncontrollable.XX

        Not really.

        Think of the old fashioned corner shop, where everything was behind the counter, and you had to point to what you wanted, so the shop assistant, dressed in a white lab coat, could take it off the shelf and hand it to you. It was a mortal sin even to handle the loose potatoes (Which, along with beetroot,carrots and cabbages, were the only things within REACH of the filthy customer.) if you were not a staff member.

        It is “self service” that has cocked the whole thing up. Including the jobs market.


    • Including the staff… I am still annoyed with myself for not reporting the Tesco staff member I saw do this.

      Though even sink-users can be wasting their time – they wash their hands then recontaminate them by opening the door…

      I have also worked in Local Shop and can confirm all and more of the facts about stupidity & bad practice of both staff and customers.


      • Though even sink-users can be wasting their time – they wash their hands then recontaminate them by opening the door…

        This is something that has always puzzled me when I have to use a public loo – the door out of the washroom always opens in, usually against the pressure of a door-closer, which means that having washed your hands you then have to grab the door handle and yank it towards you. And I am acutely aware of the fact that many unwashed hands have grabbed that handle before me. Wouldn’t it make sense to have the door opening out, so egress could be achieved without the need to touch any door furniture at all? Or is that too easy?


    • Well, you don’t know what sort of dirty scrote has touched those taps, do you?

      I found it amusing in the USA to see the signs in the lavatories telling staff to wash their hands, because you are either the sort of person who does, or the sort of person who doesn’t.

      I’m always wary of houses where there’s a loo with no basin. That’s weird. What if Something Goes Wrong?

      Let me join Julia in wishing you a very happy next four and one half days.


      • ” because you are either the sort of person who does, or the sort of person who doesn’t.”

        Either you were brought up by parents who loved and carded for you and were quite keen for you to live til maturity and who instilled basic hygiene concepts or you were brought up by Americans who felt that it was ok to have you genitally mutilated because the concept of of soap and water escapes them.


        • Well, I had decent, loving parents, but it was cleaning toilets out as an undergraduate that hammered it home. Plus the two semesters of microbiology (which were concomitant).

          I know parents who’ve had their boys chopped – not as neonates – and then whine if I’m seen to smoke in front of them. Odd.


        • One client of our establishment had evidently suffered a relationship setback because she did a plop and then planted a dozen red roses into it. Either that, or she was trying to thank me for tidying up.

          I have seen detached loos here but it is more widespread in Australia, where many homes had outside loos that were eventually incorporated into the house.
          In the first house my parents had, it was an unplumbed outside toilet made of asbestos fibre sheeting with an iron roof, uphill (WTF???) from the house, about 20 yards away.

          Balls to anyone who thinks that I had a completely privileged upbringing.


          • I heard about one in Aberystwyth from a friend who moved there and was househunting. The house had been built with an en-suite bathroom in the ground-floor bedroom. The previous owner had bricked the door up and put in a new door from outside.

            I could just imagine a thick Welsh accent proclaiming ‘Toilet inside the house? Bloody unhygienic, that’s what it is’.

            Old habits die hard…


    • The trick, I have discovered, is to _not touch anything_ …at all….

      Like at motorway service stations when you really need a poo. You go in, rubber gloves on (I carry them in the car!) sit down, have a defaecate, handle the roll if there is one (or you brought your own wet tissues, as I do), do your stuff, dress, and “go out”. Then you dump your gloves in the “dog waste bin” in the car park, before accessing your own car with your own keys, and you Bugger Off. (sorry…)

      My old father, a graduate of Botany (and then a D.Phil in insect physiology, from ICL in 1939) told me that “ONLY BISHOPS ARE ALLOWED TO CATCH Venereal Disease FROM TOILET SEATS”. He than said:- “Everybody else catches it from other people who they have sex with, but not if you are a Bishop: then you can’t catch it that way”. “The _Pathology Is Settled_ ” (He, in about 1969, actually said that phrase (more or less in a joke) – the poor bugger was prophetic, wasn’t he….) .

      Legiron will understand that religious-hate-speech-joke fully, I know.


      • Very good, I always have a pack of rubber gloves in the boot of the car, ever since the day I developed a puncture on the way to a wedding when I did not have some.

        I had heard the bishop thing before, but where was the tidal wave of AIDS the Australian Government promised us? The pussification of Australia had begun.


        • I have a supply of neoprene gloves 😉

          The AIDS thing didn’t scare enough people so now everyone is expecting to get Ebola. Remember the ‘flesh-eating bug’, necrotising fasciitis? That was supposed to dissolve us all in a matter of hours because of a UK epidemic of… eight cases.

          And they didn’t all die.


  4. If ‘Public Health’ was really ‘Health’ then they would recommend we all adopt that very sensible Oriental habit of wearing surgical masks when out. That would save the economy a fortune in days lost and the NHS might actually turn a profit (dirty word I know).

    The major cause of all illnesses are OTHER PEOPLE. Nothing will kill you faster-faster even than a 3rd hand whiff of a Marlboro- than being around other humans. They are deadly….should be banned…will no one think of the cheeeldren?!

    PS, I know no science but I have a feeling that I read somewhere that proper surgical grade masks filter out a lot of the none virals like diesel particles out of the air and lead to a reduction in Asthma and Lung Cancer- which can’t possibly be right of course then we all know that smoking is the sole cause of Asthma and every form of cancer.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The trouble is that he system allows no slack whatsoever for staff sickness,therefore management are always firefighting trying to cover duties, that staff are persuaded to come in ,when clearly they shouldn’t be there. It al, boils down to profits. That is the mantra now and forever. God help us.


    • There is no slack in the system at the bottom, I have found. There are only three cleaners and if one of us gets sick or has to leave work for any reason, the other two are screwed.

      When they have no staff left, their profits might take a hit. Nobody thinks about that.


  6. Lung cancers are going to be “the next thing to have”, manily I think because of the StateNazi promotion of diesel fuels in the last 20 years.

    My older son is an up and coming major new concert orchestral-cellist, now training in his third year at Aberdeen University, which he loves. (Legiron please note!) It is, to him, the finest and most exciting place that he has ever been to or lived in, and he loves it: and I and his mother don’t think he will ever leave it. He might succeed Paul Mealor as Composition Professor, if he plays his cards good and right. (He’s been privately told that by (I can’t say who.))

    But it would be a great tragedy, if diesel-powered lung cancer takes all these people down, before we biochemists have a chance to see what we could do to prevent it. (Did you know, Legiron, that I am a biochemist? I understand everything you say about microbial stuff.)

    And, old man, I salute you, for the way in which you expound microbiological info, to all and sundry – most of whom will know no technical detail – with astonishingly great clarity and authority. You are a Man.


    • Lung cancer is already the Big Thing but it is all caused by smoking especially second hand smoking even though when 80% of people smoked it didn’t exist. If it had, then we would all be smokers because all nonsmokers would be dead.

      The non-technicality came from having to write articles on intestinal microbiology for the Press and Journal farming supplement. Another scientist said my articles were a ‘bit simplistic’. They were for farmers. Scientists sometimes don’t ‘get it’ just like real people.


  7. To be honest, instilling good microbiological practice into managers is uphill work. The cretins I work for have no inkling of such matters. To my mind, any person who turns up with a cold or similar infectious disease ought to be sent straight home again, with a note made on their personnel file of the same.

    Better to prevent a disease spreading, than tolerate typhoid bloody Mary spreading their lurgy and doing a poor job due to being ill (and infecting other hitherto uninfected people and compounding the problem).


      • Oh but things are getting worse rapidly where I am now. We’re getting managed professionally, complete with matrix manglement that nobody understands, a promised replacement of the old helldesk software (usually nicknamed “arse”), and apparently everyone including all the customers will be doing stuff The Right Way.

        Which, to my thinking, is something I’ll believe when I see it setting as this is a university and the senior academics are a law unto themselves. I can foresee ructions ahead. I have, however, carefully avoided management so shall be able to boot such arguments upstairs to those more stressed than I.

        The future promises to be amusing in the extreme.


  8. Indeed. It is my misfortune to spend huge amounts of time ensuring that managers and staff stick to the procedures which they are supposed to adhere to. They do. Well they do for a matter or weeks and then they get inventive. Then the managers get grumpy because stuff happens that shouldn’t. And so on and so on adfinitum.

    Public organisations are the absolute worst. They try to hire the problems away which, of course, means more and more people are employed. Not all but most.


    • Public organisations hire the best meeting-management-speak morons they can find, who talk about the problems but never, ever fix them.

      Because if they fix the problem, their job ends.


  9. I decided to take pity on the poor Public Health ‘workers’ and ‘Experts’ -it is the Feast Of Dawahanukacrimmnonreligiousaffiliated after all and the season of good Wilhelmina to all Person (regardless of race, gender or sexual preference).

    So I spent 10 minutes on youtube finding their next Big Advertising Campaign for them. Save all that expensive and bothersome market research (ie making up the figures to suit whatever fad is current) and bribing the ASA. @09.44+

    No, no, no need to thank me , just being a good citizen (I mean ‘drone’).


    Far, far, far, far, far, too many people have gone to the loo in public places, handled door knobs, not washed their hands, and come to no harm whatsoever, for such washing practices to matter. But, of course, I am talking about ordinary day by day actions. I am not talking about people employed who handle food all day, day after day.
    Damn it! You could wash your hands until they are absolutely clean as clean can be, hold your hands in the air, a la surgeon, and STILL have them contaminated because someone sneezed in the corridor an hour ago.


    • It’s chance, yes. The person before you might not have had anything catching. The ten people before might not have had anything catching. But then, the one who left the toilet all shitty might not have had anything catching, while the one who left it looking clean might be a carrier of something horrible… it’s all down to chance.

      In Local Shop’s toilets. we go postal with disinfectant spray once an hour. You’re not likely to get anything in there.

      We aren’t allowed to disinfect food areas. That’s where the real risks are.


  11. What do you think of that slimy hand disinfecting gel. My wife has a bottle in her bag at all times and thinks highly of it. It is good or just a scam?


    • It’s one of those products that, as long as you don’t get an infection, it’s worked. If you do get an infection you can’t have used it right.

      The theory behind it is sound but whether it really does anything more than act as a placebo-comforter, I can’t say. You could sterilise your fingers and as soon as you touch something, they are contaminated again. That in itself doesn’t matter – it’s not the contamination per se, but what they are contaminated with that counts! Most bacteria are entirely harmless.


      • Thanks. I read somewhere years ago that the GOLDEN rule to avoid problems with shit covered toilet door handles and women changing shitty nappies on Pub tables is NEVER NEVER touch your eyes nose or mouth with your hands. So no poking a bit of food in a tooth or munching a bogy. Great subject ain’t it?


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