Following a stint as an airman aboard the now de-commissioned aircraft carrier HMS Rock-Scraper I took work in a polar marine research station on the southern side of Antarctica. What follows is a brief synopsis of a quarter spent in the company of the other employees at the station.
Upon arrival at the Polar Marine Research Station I was met with a look of abject distain by the bearded fellow in the galley, who was at the time wrestling a large can of skipjack tuna with a bread knife. Supplies in the galley were running low and also implements, since the crew had needed to ward off an attack by walruses some months back when all they had to hand was a can opener and monkey wrench. But let's go back to the start...
I had assumed the position of janitor at the station having fallen so far off the career ladder that I could no longer even hold my job as an office furniture delivery man in fancy dress. Having taken a temporary job at Sloane Square as a maintenance man to cover costs while job hunting I had learned to climb a ladder single handedly - a pot of primer and brush in the other. The job had taught me many things, but the most memorable is that the super rich are as shallow as puddle water. At least puddle water is honest enough to dry up when the sun comes out. My general feeling towards the residents of Sloane Square - albeit without meaning to make generalisations - was that they were not only superfluous to change, but by their nature became more shallow as they collected more and more assets. In effect rendering them obsolete as human beings and raising them to the level of super-mortals.
This new found awareness, not only forced me into a feeling of self loathing, but helped to forge an unshakeable addiction to window shopping. On Sundays I used to take what was left of my £315 wage packet to Brick Lane Market, where I joined the ranks of young arty types in search of a unique vintage jacket. However, the whole vintage scene had become so bloated that eventually I tired of the pretence and during the autumn of 2010 took to shopping in Peacocks. I remember one visit to the high street down market retailer when I spotted a distinctive reindeer-embroidered sweater, which I grabbed from the hanger with the ferocity of a real life hunter, completely spell bound as i was by the designs and weave of the woollen thread.
It was remarkable how I had made the transition from elite fighter pilot aboard HMS Rock-Scraper - one of her majesty's finest aircraft carriers - to a lowly painter among the legions of Poles, Lithuanians and other denominations of the Eastern bloc waging war with their paintbrushes and the British underclasses for £5.83 an hour. But it could not last and I sought a way back into the realms of the elite. So it was that one day, opening the back page of the Guardian Newspaper during tea break that I saw the advert for 'Cleaner at the South Pole'.
Janitor sought to perform general duties of hygiene on remote icecap. No prior experience required, except an ability to live in uncomfortable circumstances, devoid of human comforts and during winter - even light. All Applicants please note that this is a two year contract with half the salary to be paid monthly, while the second half will be deposited into your account on completion. This is to prevent a high turnover of applicants who cannot hack it. Please send a relevant CV and cover letter explaining why you are suitable for this role to JonusSealskin@polarstudiesinstitute.org
Naturally I found the ad compelling. The gleam of wedding-cake white houses which lined Sloane Square had already created a mirage in my mind which likened my job to that of a Swiss pioneer, high in the ice caps of the Alps. All that time in London, atop aluminum ladders, applying white paint daily to the facades of these 'emperors' cloisters' I had been developing a dream. It was as though the ad had been printed for me.
That evening in my digs aside the Elephant and Castle roundabout I composed a letter to secure my place at the Arctic Research Station.
Apt. 168 Metro Central Heights
119 Newington Causeway
1st November 2010
RE: Cleaner at the South Pole
Dear Mr Sealskin,
When I read your advertisement for Cleaner at the South Pole in the Guardian Newspaper, I could not help noticing how well your requirements align with my education, skills and background. I will summarize these particulars below.
In my formative years I trained as an elite fighter pilot with the US Navy on the Okinawa archipelago, following a chance encounter with a Naval Officer who was inspecting women's abdomens in a strip bar. It was rare for a British citizen to be enrolled in the US Navy, let alone to be considered for the position of pilot. I can put this down to the Officer recognising something in me which convinced him that I could deliver an air to land missile whilst flying at Mach 2 above enemy territory in a sandstorm and consequently take out the target with 100% effectivity. I completed 16 missions during my first tour of the Persian Golf, eliminating the ancient inhabitants of these lands to make way for Oil Pipelines being installed by Shell and Malexico.
Following my tour with the US Navy, I took a position aboard HMS Rock-Scraper, as the British were operating in Coalition with the US Navy at the time. Unfortunately the Rock-Scraper with such an ill-fated name ended up running aground off the coast of Algeria during a routine drop of arms to a little known regime and there ended my position as a test pilot. With further decommissioning of aircraft carriers in the Merchant Navy, there is no longer a place for elite pilots and so I have since been working in whatever role I can take for a minimum wage on skid row.
Now you may be wondering why the position of janitor grabs me, considering my extensive experience as a pilot. This is something I will share with you and no other. Please consider this protocol of the Navy which was drilled into me for five years in the forces. I have a nose for chemicals - Detergents, chlorines, bleaches- the stronger the better. I cannot get enough. Many times when I was high above the Persian land I was blasted on these chemicals to help me avoid confronting the awful reality of the inhumane acts I was committing.
I see the job as cleaner in the pure white snows of the South Pole as a chance to erase my chequered past. This is my motivation and I hope you will consider it reasonable.
I have attached a cutting edge CV for your consideration, if there is anything I have omitted, please understand that it is most probably due to the abundance of experience I have had.
In expectance of a white christmas, and at your disposal with mop in hand,
The next morning at 8.59am I sent the Cover Letter and CV to the inbox of Jonus Sealskin at the Institute for Polar Studies, so that it would be top of the page when he arrived at work. If the job came through I would be back among the ranks of pioneers, adventurers and risk takers where I was meant to be and could once again thrive as an artist on a suitable stage.