What do you want to be when you finally grow up?

19th September 2008 at 01:00

"I'm fed up. I've had enough. I'm getting out." Not my words, but those of a workmate some 10 years back. He had laid his plans, he told me, and was going to switch his lecturing job for that of a postman.

"You're up with the lark, you do your round, and by lunchtime you're finished for the day. That's it. Done. A free man. No marking. No planning. No worries."

And no money either, I thought, but didn't say. It wasn't what he wanted to hear at that point. But surely even FE salaries are better than the pay packet of a postman? And hadn't he heard of such things as dark winter mornings, boring, repetitive work and vicious, leg-hungry dogs?

Today I have to report that he is happily working as . a lecturer in further education! Well, all right, forget the happily bit. But, like almost all of those who resolve to quit their trade, he did no such thing.

I found myself thinking about my old friend's dilemma the other day while idly watching some contractors demolishing a building. They don't use those big lead balls on the end of a chain any more. Instead, they had a sort of mechanical digger thing, with a huge pair of jaws at the business end. These were simply eating up the building, biting off huge chunks of brick and steel and spitting them out on to the ground. It looked like nothing so much as some great automated Godzilla - with one lucky man in charge of it.

Sod teaching, I thought (it was the end of term, after all), this is the job. Destructive it may be, but it's also creative in its way. The difference is that this is creativity in reverse: you start in the morning with a building and end your shift with a big pile of rubble.

At that point I noticed there was a bloke standing nearby just watching. Oh, oh. No doubt he was carrying out an appraisal. Or perhaps he was a demolition inspector - the man from Ofcrunch - ensuring that standards in destruction were being maintained. And then it occurred to me that the man in the cab was never going to be allowed to work at his own pace, listening to the birds sing - you could be sure that he'd have quotas to make, forms to fill in, targets to meet .

So, another idle dream bit the dust. But it had started me thinking. If I really was going to hang up my dry-board markers for ever, what could I put in its place? First came the boys' toys fantasies I had left behind aged 12: train driver, fighter pilot, astronaut. Then there were the equally impossible ones of later years: premiership footballer; Hollywood film director; beer taster for a brewery. Sadly, I'd only be qualified for one out of the three - and that job probably doesn't exist.

Nearer to home was the job I was awarded at a social gathering recently. As the guests arrived, our ever-inventive host was handing out special badges for them to wear. Each badge bore the name of the occupation he thought best fitted their personality. I was given harbour master.

After I had mulled it over for a while, I decided it might not be such a bad choice. OK, so it's not the most exciting profession you've ever come across; but there'll always be a sailor or two, chased in-shore by a force nine gale, who'll be pleased to see you. And the very name exudes security, comfort, and dependability.

And harbour master was certainly preferable to the job specified for the next guest in line: porn star.

All right, there may be a slew of pimply youths who like the idea of turning a hobby into an occupation, but just think of the demands.

And it would certainly give a whole new meaning to the phrase: "It's hard getting up in the morning".

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