Faming Breeds: Spud – the farm workshop fitter

Join us for a funny, irreverent look at some of the characters that make the British countryside what it is. Our tongue-in-cheek guide puts characters such as the retired Major, the “perfect” next-door farmer and the young tearaway under the microscope. Here we meet Spud the farm workshop fitter. 

Spud’s real name is Keith but he’s long-since dispensed with that, preferring instead a nickname.

Spud’s toiled in the workshop since he was 16. He used to listen to Radio 1 but, as time’s passed, he’s graduated to Radio 2. He smells of gearbox oil, welding fumes and Swarfega. The overalls – washed once a month, whether they need it or not – are partly responsible for the stench, as are his roll-your-owns.

The fags, according to the battered tin on the workbench, are made from a brand of tobacco that disappeared from the shops 10 years ago. But they’re probably more likely to be filled with something grown in his back garden and mixed 50:50 with sawdust. “Not marijuana,” he insists, “more a sort of dock-leaf.”

Spud, for all his lack of social graces, is brilliant at his job. He knows engines inside out and, given half an hour and a Phillips screwdriver, can convert a sugar beet drill into a buck rake.

His three favourite tools (sledgehammer, club hammer, claw hammer – in that order) are used with vigour and enthusiasm. If delicate work is needed, he employs less hammering but more swearing. In anyone else’s hands it’s a technique that would simply produce a lot of bent metal – but Spud’s skill knows where to hit and how hard.

If he didn’t have to work all hours in this place, he’d have made it big. “I could have become some hot-shot engineer,” he says. “Or an inventor, maybe.”

Spud has a cocky, leg-pulling sense of humour. He enjoys nothing more than taking the mickey out of those less gifted than him in the mechanical arts. He sucks his teeth when anyone brings in a broken machine to mend. It’s usually the student that brings them in.

“Good job breakages aren’t deducted from your wages or you’d end up owing us money,” he says, smirking.

Shortly after 12.30pm each day he delves into Britain’s Dirtiest Tupperware for lunch. This consists of two slices of Mother’s Pride filled with a mixture of substances not normally found together (other than at a student food-fight). He’s very particular though – pickled onions, Marmite, salad cream, corned beef and chocolate spread are popular choices, embellished with a gherkin or two if there’s something to celebrate. Like the arrival of the new John Deere.

Spud isn’t a great one for Health and Safety. Ten year ago, the boss pinned up a 30-page HSE safety guide above the bench. But a week later it was caught in a minor blaze when Spud used the oxyacetylene torch to revive a damp cigarette.

The visiting environmental health officer made a few disparaging remarks about Spud’s lunch box. Spud promised he’d disinfect it monthly. “Nothing a little squirt of WD40 won’t handle,” he thought.

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