As I stood alongside Peter, working away, trying to keep up with the product that sped by on a warp speed production line, he told me a very funny story about the first job he managed to get when he first came to jolly old England.
He saved up just enough money to pay for a cheap flight to England and arrived in 2005. He couldn’t believe his luck when he landed a job in a banana factory in Loton. He made the move across from his native Poland because in his words “It was on its arse”. He couldn’t find a job for love nor money in his homeland, and he had travelled the length and breadth of it. He had found temporary work on various farms but the pay was insulting and the long hours made the insult tantamount to criminal. He left his girlfriend behind (Who he eventually married. At last count, they have 3 children) and chanced his arm at coming to England in a desperate attempt to make them enough money to eventually live a life they wanted to live.
When he arrived in England he knew nobody and spoke little English but he was/is very industrious. He found and bought a broken down and rusted old Volvo, worked on its engine and made it work. Not only did he drive it around trying to find work, he also lived in it (For about 3 years) Peter didn’t tell me how the banana factory opportunity materialized, but it did. He found a field to park his Volvo in a few miles from the factory and made that his base.
He told me on his first day nobody really spoke to him, even though, as far as he could tell, most of the workforce were Polish or eastern European. He said all they did was nod they’re heads and occasionally say hello, but they would stare at him continuously. Every time he looked up from the crate of bananas he was sorting, half a dozen people would be watching him intently. He said he had considered that they were staring at him because he was so outrageously tall and said he asked them several times what they were staring at, but their response was to look away and concentrate on their job until they thought he wasn’t looking, then they would stare again!
This behaviour continued for the next few days and he admitted to me that it made him self conscious and nervous.
Then it happened!
He was working as usual, picking bananas from the crates, looking up occasionally to watch them watching him. As his hand emerged from the yellow mass of bananas, his head turned from watching the watchers to see the biggest blackest spider sitting on the top of his hand!
He told me he ran down the middle of the factory floor screaming like an old lady, his screams barely muffled by the sound of laughter and clapping as he ran past his audience.
He’s terrified of spiders, especially big mother f#$%ers!!!
After a while he plucked up the courage to walk back into the factory, greeted by applause and “Duza dupa” which translates as big ass!
They had waited patiently for his reaction the first time he came face to face with the spiders.
He admitted he must have been a funny sight. Him, 6.7. Running and screaming, his long arms flapping around uncontrollably.
Anyway, he stuck at it for 3 years, living out of his Volvo, living a paupers life so he could save enough money to move to Chesterfield, rent a flat and pay for his girlfriend to join him.
Peter told me so many funny stories about his life in Poland and England.
I have the utmost respect for him as a person. I don’t believe I’ve ever come across a person with so much tenacity and determination.