This will be my 58th New Year although I don’t actually remember very many of them. I’ll remember this one for sure. I have to drive to the lab on New Year’s Day to (hopefully) complete the removal of all my stuff.
Actually I don’t care about the stuff left there now. It’s just that I don’t want to leave the junk for someone else to have to clean up. I won’t be leaving the lab as I found it – I had redecorated in there when I first moved in because it was a shithole – but I won’t leave any mess either.
This does mean driving on New Year’s Day so it sets a limit on the drinking. Once the lab is clear I can have my own little New Year. CStM gave me a bottle of Johnnie Walker’s ‘White Walker’ for Christmas and I’m saving it for when the lab is clear.
The date of the new year doesn’t really matter. The planet notices nothing, it doesn’t reset anything (unfortunately) and no global counter clicks up a notch. Hibernating animals don’t all wake up, murmur a bleary ‘Hooray’ and then go back to sleep. Nothing on this planet except humans has any regard for the moment the Western calendar adds another number.
China won’t care. They have their own calendar. So does Islam and so do many others. There are places in the world where humans don’t count the days at all. If you have always lived on the equator, the concept of ‘seasons’ might be hard to grasp. Oh there’ll be some change throughout the year but the idea of wildly varying temperatures just won’t figure.
Long dark winter evenings and summer nights where the sky is blue all night? Some equatorial peoples might well find that hard to believe. Just as those, like myself, who have never experienced the equator find it difficult to envisage a hardly-changing day length throughout the year.
Where we decide to start our calendar is entirely arbitrary. I’d have preferred New Year at a more pleasant time of the year, weather-wise, and distanced from Christmas so we don’t have two consecutive weeks of chaos. But then I’ve always been a bit of a Grinch…
I know, this is a major ramble. But it’s New Year’s Eve, so no bugger is reading it anyway. CStM and I might be the only sober ones in Scotland (aside from police, medics, firemen etc who are at work) by the time this autopublishes. Oh yes, it’s on a timer. We have some scary films to watch.
I think my decision to largely retire from science (I’ll still take consultancy work if it’s offered, but I have done my share of 60-sample marathons and I don’t want to do that any more) really took hold when I sold the gutbugs.com domain last April. Someone made an offer, I wasn’t using it and really wasn’t likely to now. I had set up sites in the past but meh, I was already considering retirement anyway.
The lab hadn’t seen very much action in years. I was paying rent for storage, basically. Not very harsh rent but letting the lab go will free up some cash. It has, unfortunately, also filled the utility room and garage with lab equipment. I’ll sell most of it but I’m keeping all my 5-litre flasks and maybe a couple of water baths for winter brewing.
Anyone need a peristaltic pump (Masterflex, none of yer crap) or magnetic stirrer? I have several, and other stuff too. I can’t let CStM get hold of my Gilson pipettes or lab balance – she is already over-precise with recipes and those things would let her take it to the edge!
I am now, primarily, a publisher and an author. Oh I’m still ‘doctor’, you don’t lose your PhD just because you stop using it. Although I rarely used the title unless someone pissed me off. I worked as a janitor for a year before anyone found out who I really was, and one member of staff called me ‘Alan’ for two years because I answered to it even though it’s not even close to my name. It never mattered to me.
Every member of staff in Local Shop who found out I was ‘Doctor’ had the same question – ‘What are you doing in here then?’ I had a variety of answers.
I finally tuned in and dropped out, man.
I know stuff, and I’m hiding.
Many more, but I did learn a lot from being one of the Untouchables in the shop. It validated what I had believed from day one of science work. The cleaners know everything so always make friends with them. Why do they know everything? Simple. Management treats them as equipment, not people. They are ignored. Polishing the woodwork while two managers discuss where the company is going? They don’t even know you’re there. You’re far too stupid to understand what they’re saying. You’re no more important to them than the brush you’re holding.
Cleaners are the core of every business. It can’t operate without them – especially in the food industry – but they are ignored and if spotted, treated as subhuman. Always befriend the cleaners. They know more about what will happen to the business than the managers do and if/when it goes down, they’ll be cleaners somewhere else.Their profession is secure, if way underpaid.
Most importantly, I now know exactly why food poisoning outbreaks occur, who is really to blame, how they could be stopped and why it is going to get progressively worse in the coming years. Naturally, I’m not going to tell anyone more than a few of the basic and obvious parts because that information has value.
Also, because Puritan Health want to hammer all prepared foods with more taxes. They want to ban bacon and ham because the curing process gives them nitrites. Nitrites were once encouraged because of their antibacterial properties, you know. It was in Nature, in the early 1990s, so it’ll be hard to find but if I do, I’ll post it.
Well I won’t be buying that stuff and it has nothing to do with the risk of obesity. There are rather more immediate risks in my mind now. I’ve been at both ends of this chain – I’ve been a lecturer and researcher in food safety/gut disease and I’ve been a cleaner in a food shop. When I took the janitor job I knew what to look out for, and found it. All of it. All its variations and nuances and why it will not go away.
How many like me are out there pronouncing on food safety? And yet I will say nothing. There is no point. People will believe ‘experts’ who have no idea of what is happening at the start of the chain they claim to understand. All they will see of me is four years of ‘the cleaner’ and not the thirty years before.
I am really glad that hard times forced me into that lowly, essential and underrated job. I learned so much more than I could ever have learned from scientific papers written by those who ignore the cleaners. I learned the structure of food shops and where the risks lie – and I know why they are increasing to very dangerous levels.
Maybe I’ll write it all down and make a book of it. Nobody will read it, of course, but at least I can say ‘I told you so’.
Or maybe I’ll take the information to my grave and just watch the world burn.
Anyway. Happy New Year to all, and if anyone is still alive and not shitting through every orifice in 2019, there’ll be a new Underdog Anthology at the end of March.
You might need extra pages 😉