Work experience diary

Mr Weller said the bird would need to be cleaned up before slaughtering. In the crate it didn’t so much look like a bird as a tangled pile of old bicycle-tyre inner-tubes. It looked like it had been plastered in soot. Try not to look into its eyes while you’re washing it down, Mr Weller said, it can make things more difficult, establish a connection.

I thought it might struggle when I put it in the sink and turned the tap on, but it seemed very placid. I scrubbed the long neck and the bird was as good as gold – in fact I think it was enjoying being cleaned: the water was warm and I was as gentle as I could be. After I’d washed it all over and dried it with a towel I picked the now completely white bird up and carried it – holding it in my arms like a baby – over to show Mr Weller. He examined it as I held it, lifting side and tail feathers and looking underneath. There are little particles of dirt, he said, still there, under the outer layer of feathers – you’ll have to do it again, he said, showing me some black dots of dirt embedded in the feathers underneath. We need it to be completely clean, he said.

Back at the sink the bird thanked me for the care I was showing: it was good that it would be nice and clean for its birthday. I held it close to me and I was filled with a terrible sadness at the innocence of the thing – it had no idea of the real reason for my cleaning it: somehow I’d thought that it would know, and that its placidity was a kind of acceptance. I realized then that I couldn’t carry on, that this wasn’t the right place, the right kind of work for me. So I went over to Mr Weller – he was standing at the slaughtering bench, I could see a few of the tools there waiting – and I told him I couldn’t do it, this job. He was disappointed, he said – he looked me in the eyes and said he was disappointed, but not surprised.