Mr Gradgrind lives on in UK

“WITH VERY few exceptions, the world of jobs is characterised by stifling boredom, grinding tedium, petty jealousies, sexual harassment, deranged co-workers, bullying bosses, seething resentment, exploitation, humiliation, physical fatigue and mental exhaustion.”

So begins The Idler Book of Crap Jobs – “a trawl though the worst job experiences ever”. Not surprisingly, agriculture crops up more than once in the list of the country’s 100 grimmest tasks.

Take David Evans, one-time chicken inspector, whose job was to spot lame birds and wring their necks before they were pecked to death by their feathered friends. “This was never an easy task,” he recalls. “Frequently I over-wrung the wretched beast’s neck in a vain attempt to reduce post-death spasms. All this left me with was a still-spasming headless body in one hand, and a small peed-off looking chicken”s head in the other.”

Then there is Christian, who 10 years ago worked on a maggot farm in Cambridgeshire. “I spent my first day in the worm pit, which was like an Olympic swimming pool filled with the rotting carcasses of animals and fish pieces that the maggots lived in/on. I had waders and was instructed to walk in and turn the flesh over periodically.”

An equally grim tale comes from Philip Clarke, nowadays farmers weekly’s Europe editor, who in 1979 spent a disturbing couple of days in a slurry silo, hand-mixing 12 inches of dried dung with 12 inches of water to try to get the two into a sufficiently sloppy state to flow out through the sluice. Enough to put any sane person off a career in agriculture.

Even deeper psychological damage must surely have been inflicted on the poor anonymous soul employed as a “male pig assistant” (not quite the term used in the book), whose job was to…well, anyone who saw Rebecca Loos in that recent episode of The Farm will know what was involved.

But if you thought farming was tough, a flick through some of the other horror stories contained in Crap Jobs will convince you that, just sometimes, the grass is not always greener on the other side of the two-metre strip.

* The Idler Book of Crap Jobs. Published by Transworld. Priced 9.99.