first “solo” assignment as an aspiring junior labelling consultant was at a local slaughterhouse and meat processing
plant. I need hardly point out that this was a severe case of being “thrown in at the deep end” as such a facility
was likely to be a hostile environment for effective labelling being host to the two great enemies of the trade: moisture
and grease. Still, they reported a problem with intermittent label slippage and I was sent in to investigate.
met the manager, Jimmy Dee, in his office. Immediately it was apparent that cleanliness was not a feature of his operation
as his desk was covered with half-smoked cigarettes and I also noticed a pipe rack piled high with ash.
young man, let’s go and see the problem” lisped Jimmy, who had just one tooth in his whole head (which even without
this embellishment would have served usefully as a gargoyle).
start with the processing hall” he suggested sibilantly, and went on to comment cheerfully that many first-time visitors
found the smell so powerful that they “puked up”. To counter this he handed me a small stained cloth soaked in
cleaning fluid and proffered the advice “If you feel a bit queasy, sniff that”.
so, like a Regency dandy with a scented handkerchief pressed to my nose, I entered the processing hall. To say I was confronted
by a vision of hell is an understatement. It was like a scene from Dante’s Inferno – specifically his description
of the Seventh Level of Hell featuring a river of boiling blood. Recently dead and dripping carcases were conveyed in on hooks
via a chain-driven contraption and a team of men “processed” them – I will pass over the details for fear
of upsetting those of delicate constitutions. Various unwanted body parts produced by the processing were shovelled into a
wide copper channel which ran steeply down and out through a hole in the wall, passing under a sodden pair of leather flaps,
and into a receiving tank outside in a lowered courtyard to provide input to the rendering plant located across the road.
I watched it was apparent that there was a problem – viscera loaded into
the channel was not slithering away as expected but was backing-up. Jimmy went over, peered through the flaps, and shouted
down “The sluice is blocked – send someone up !”.
work stopped and after a short while we heard the clank of hobnail on metal which indicated that someone was ascending the
channel from the outside. Eventually the leather curtains parted and a most extraordinary actor came on-stage. Soaked in blood
from head to foot, and with a length of sheep’s entrail slung jauntily round his neck like a motoring scarf, he stood
on the sluice ankle-deep in offal. I noted that by some fluke two brown slippery internal organs of (to me) unknown provenance
adorned each shoulder of his squalid crimson jacket like hellish epaulettes, and there were other bits and pieces of tube
and gristle and bone and clot bedecking the whole apparition.
figure spoke and what I heard shocked me to the core: “The sluice is clear now Jimmy, there was a pig’s head jammed
further down”. It was not the words themselves which shocked me but the fact that it was, though deep and husky, unmistakeably
a woman’s voice. That a woman would take on such a task was unthinkable, so I studied the begrimed face closely to confirm
the fact. Framed in slippery crimson gore a pair of twinkling blue eyes shone forth and met mine. I knew at that instant that
this was the girl for me ! And, indeed, within six months the lady who had cleared the sluice had become my bride; the current
Mrs. Woodley of 40 years standing.
you know, even now when I am walking through Falkirk and I see half a pound of pig’s kidneys on a butcher’s slab my heart
leaps and I think of her. I suppose I am just an old romantic at heart.