A collection of vignettes
Patrick Onions, February 2013


Beep, beep, beep, beep... Öah, blast, itís 5.30am.

The house is cold and the central heating has not fired up yet. Time to get up. Okay, switch to autopilot. Crawl out from under the duvet. Batter the alarm with a dozy flat hand. Cold legs stumble into the bathroom. Teeth. Shave. Shower. Clothes. Best to add another layer this morning, thereís frost on the window.

Downstairs and the kitchen fluorescent pings into life. Porridge in the microwave. Kettle on for a cup of tea. Then it is on with the boots. Outside. Unchain the motorcycle and take off the icy cover. Back inside. Porridge is done, so down the hatch. Stuff the wallet and phone into pockets. The biker jacket is hard and cold. Outside again. Lock the back door. Start the bike and ease out of the drive. The display says it is minus two. Feels colder. Itís fresh this morning.

Cold work

Frost rimes the factory in the valley. Footpath weeds are transformed into rare crystals. Bare metal lays in wait, its dull grey merciless to the touch. Ice embraces two-storey stacks of timber, far from the Russian forests where they once grew tall.

Office lights beckon, spilling insipid yellow out of utilitarian windows and onto the white ground. Curtain-less windows tempt workers indoors with promises of hospitality, empty gestures for there are no soft furnishings or crackling fires within. Few of the men care anyway. In the gathering cold there is work to be done and it is minus six outside.

Night shift

The factory siren hoots out its happy cry every Friday lunchtime. Burly men pack up their tools, sweep the saw dust off their clothes and make their way to the time clock. Very soon the building becomes a cavern; vast, empty and eerily quiet. The men have gone.

Now is the time of the little people. They donít have to endure the ferocity of big saws or the hammer of air-guns firing. They mull on the dayís events, watch the light soften and dim, and wink at each other over the wide metal benches spread out across the concrete floor. Quietly staring out, unpaid and yet uncaring, theyíve seen things at the factory. They are the night shift.

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