Then, tertiary education was free
the government underwrote fees and paid allowances
the weekly payments not generous, but adequate
a supplement to expected summer savings.
Late 1970’s the economy slowing, but not yet stalled
restructuring and free market economics still to arrive.
Students needed for peak times in now extinct factories
processing the fibres and carcasses of the nation’s farms.
A friend finds me a job in a killing plant
lambs to the slaughter,
for British Christmas tables.
Abundant overtime, good pay,
the work not hard, but dirty – bloody.
Unblocking sludge pumps, crawling beneath machinery
constantly addressed as, “fucking students”
often with humour – sometimes spite
always dribbled, splashed and sprayed with viscera.
I shared transport and fuel costs – cheap,
but not quite door to door
a 10 minute walk through suburban streets
past houses …. with dogs
carnivores homing to my unintended scent
up to a dozen at once.
A decade later I work winter in Antarctica
women rare on the frozen continent then,
occasionally I would see a lone female
walking down a corridor
trailed by a line of eager men. I knew how she felt.