7 June 2002

SUMMERCONFLICTINFIELD

Students need the money; farmers needs the extra help. Summer harvest jobs are a match made

in heaven. Or are they? Sometimes, student and boss dont see eye-to-eye, as Tim Relf explains

Flippin car doesnt start. I arrive just a minute or two late. Still, Ive had plenty of practise making excuses for late assignments at college and the boss seems to believe me when I tell him Id been at a funeral.

Its the first time Ive ever greased up a combine – but its surprisingly simple. I

suppose I should, really, have done some farm work when I was on my pre-college year in Australia – but it seemed a shame to interrupt the partying. Greasing ups done in five

minutes, so I discreetly grab

a minute or twos sleep.

I meet the fitter over breakfast and hes a right grumpy git. Probably got something against students. He cracks a few very unfunny jokes about students, so I tell them Im going to be running Velcourt within three years. That shuts him up. I manage to smooth things over, though. Im a bit of a diplomat, really, when it comes to man management.

This tractor driving larks easy. Compared to manoeuvring a car between the posts on the rugby pitch at college, its a doddle. This is obviously a badly designed farm – fences and walls are all in the wrong places and I think I might have even clipped one or two with the trailer. No one noticed though, so I didnt see the

need to mention it.

He rolls into the yard an hour late. First day and hes late. He looks half asleep and hes muttering something about a funeral. Theres certainly going to be a funeral if hes this late again!

Hes snoring like a pig when I get back to the combine. Hes covered with grease and, when I wake him, he mutters the words which always fill me with fear when spoken by a student: "Dont worry boss – its all taken care of!" Somehow hes managed to

get grease all over the

windscreen.

The little gits upset everyone. Theres going to be a mass walk-out at this rate. He told the workers that the place was overstaffed. What was called for, he told them, was redundancies. "This place is carrying deadwood," he declared. Then he ate one of Jackos Minirolls.

The others have nicknamed the student Frank Spencer.

I make a list of what hes

broken:

1 The lights on the back of the trailer.

2 The back of the trailer.

3 A small wall.

4 A big wall.

5 My will to live.

Im tired. My one pair of jeans are covered in oil, my one shirts got torn on a gate and my trainers are still damp after that encounter with the bosss Jack Russell. If I was at college, Id be having a

little nap now. This work business isnt all its cracked up to be.

Id be on my fourth pint in the Union by now if I was at college. Time to check out the village pub. I ask the boss where the timesheets are, and head home. I

reckon Ive done pretty

well today.

Hes destroying everything in his path. The farm cant take much more of this. I cant take much more of this. The other student – a girl – starts work tomorrow. What if shes no better? What if they breed – the consequences for 21st

century agriculture could

be catastrophic.

When its time to pack up, he reverses the tractor into the barn – literally reverses it into the barn! Then he asks me if I can go through the farm accounts with him sometime for a college assignment. I need a drink. At least I can get away from him in the village pub.