I can't remember how many years its been since I took a whole fortnight off work, all at once, but as luck would have it, I have holiday to use up before the end of March and as last week was a quiet one* and this week is school half term, here I am, lounging around for the second Monday in a row.
My nails have grown, and whitened, and lost that suspicious tinge brought about through too much dirty manual work. They're not spectacular, they're just clean, and feminine, and nice, and they make me sad for the thought of plunging them back into sacks of potatoes and huge sinks of hot, dirty water; but that's the future. Not yet. Not until this time next week.
Last year there was quite a fuss about which chefs could or could not have Valentines Day off work at the summons of their other halves, and who had or had not put their verbal request in weeks before somebody else's written one' with the usual grumblings and cries of foul play.
This year, oddly, I am told there were too many restaurant bookings through January to be able to close down for the annual deep-clean, but that somehow Sunday 13 and Monday 14 Feb remained clear of bookings. Therefore the outside contractors were hired and the kitchen summarily closed to customers and staff alike, for the Valentines weekend.
Subsequently the rest of last week was also quiet because following the cleaning there are traditionally three or four days of decorating, when walls and doors are given a new lick of paint........ by the staff. Chefs, porters, whoever, turn up and grab a paint brush. This year I chose not to and walked the wall of sideways glances and raised eyebrows for my trouble.
Its all very campfire. There may be two token boiler-suits kicking around, and some goggles and masks at the back of the cupboard somewhere, but not enough to go around and the attitude is that they are there if you want to go and be the only one to look like a sissy.
This year I refused to souse my lungs, hair, jeans and chapped hands with paint. I chose to take leave and am still fighting the guilty sensation that I deserted the crew, even though the head chef had already booked that week off for himself so I wasn't the only one. No, actually, he always seems to book that week off, so it simply made it worse.I can still see the two other chefs mouthing silently like goldfish, because they weren't even going to be given the choice yet somehow I'd managed it...
I guess this is the way of any small, financially restricted unit where somebody has to be there, where a minimum must present, must attend, must do their duty, so that it becomes a race to get to the leave ratified in time. We all feel the pressure, but, it has to be said, some more than the others.