Sunday, 20 July 2014

Respect for Manual Labourers

Over the past couple of days I’ve been helping the fella out weeding a sugar beet field. After day one (four hours of work), I was feeling tentatively optimistic about the whole situation. My lower back was aching a bit, and I felt very aware of closing my hand in a way I’m not normally. But I went to bed feeling mostly okay. Waking up the next morning, however, was painful.

It wasn’t helped by the fact the alarm went off at 5am. We were up and in the field by 5:45. Although it was a lot cooler than the day before, it was also a lot damper, so by 8am my glove was soaked through, my hands were wrinkled and pruney, and my shorts were sticking to my legs. The sun got out hotter, and I dried off. I was tired by the end of it, but I felt like I could have done another hour of work if I’d needed to.

By the time we’d got back to his and had a shower, it was a different story all together.

My back was seizing up, my hands, wrists and elbows ached, but nothing was as bad as my legs. My hamstrings hurt with every step. I went home (rather than going to the beach with him and some mates) and slept on the sofa for three hours (a feat for me as I find it really hard to nap).

The next day (after a somewhat disturbed sleep due to the crazy thunderstorms) I went to the city with my family. Big mistake. Walking hurt. A lot. So much so that I felt physically sick as I sat in the car on the way home. Once home I napped again, this time only for an hour and a half. I couldn’t believe I was still so physically exhausted. I went round a mates in the late afternoon, and was amazed about how awake the fella was.

It’s now two days after my last day of weeding, and although my legs still hurt they are a lot better than yesterday. I’m expected to do another (albeit shorter) shift in the fields tomorrow, and I’m not looking forward to it.

What has all this taught me? I always knew manual labour was hard, but, rather naively, I forgot about the after effects of it. It turns out that the work itself isn’t so bad – the morning after is a different story! Part of me thinks that if I’d carried on and worked the next day I wouldn’t have been so bad, but truth be told I am grateful for the rest, and have buckets of respect for manual labourers who work five or six days a week.

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