Thursday, 26 August 2010

Bowing back

Every evening the spider outside our living room repairs the day's damage to it's web. It is made of a few hawser-like threads stretched from the porch roof to floor, an impressive distance. If you walk into one inadvertently you would be shocked by the strength of those tiny threads.

Across the road a man is suspended from a cable, pulling himself along and paying out a wire. The council is paying the installation costs of fibre optic broadband, providing a 200mbs  service to every house for the internet, telephones and television. This will hopefully increase the range of people who may be able to work from this beautiful place through the internet. As it stands most people either find work in construction, maintenance and road repair, in seasonal casual work for the council, or tourism - or have to leave to find it.

I have a chastened admiration for the people I see working in the oppressive heat and humidity that has killed 132 people through heatstroke acrosss Japan this summer, with 31,579 people hospitalized since May 31 (Fire and Disaster Management Agency). Working in full uniform and safety gear, especially on concrete and tarmac that intensify the heat, must be killing - yet you never see anyone shirking and they all seem to do their work thoroughly and with good heart.

The  toll it takes is clear if you see them in their lunch break. Usually they eat then take a short nap, laying out mats on the roadside or in the cab of vehicles. Recently though, I passed a group of men exhausted by the heat whose heads had dropped in sleep where they sat eating, the insects shrieking in the trees overhead and trucks thundering by inches away.

The people who direct traffic around roadworks have it especially hard in the heat, standing in full sun all day in one spot, with nothing to distract them, burning to a deep brown. I can't imagine the pay is good, and it is work often done by the elderly who can't do heavy work any more. Yet they do it with precision and care, bowing to each driver as they pass. Bowing back is for me anything but a formality.

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