Features Interview

Lifestyles of the Professionally Jaded

A strange interrogation of squeamishness among the unsqueamish.

There’s always that one particular thing that makes you feel queasy. For me, it’s diced white onions that have been left in a bag for a while. Heat, humidity, long storage – all of those factors speed up what is essentially a process of decay, leaving you with limp, sweaty, sulphurous nodules that smell and taste as putrid as factory sludge. I’m fussier about cucumber and I’m genuinely scared of ice (a good phobia does keep you on your toes), but there’s nothing on this earth I find more pronouncedly dis-gus-ting as the onions above. 

Snivelling little shit, you might think. If that’s what you find disgusting, you must’ve had a charmed life. And you’d be right – I have a silly little job where I sit at a keyboard all day typing blah-de-blah-de-blah; my hands uncalloused, my senses delicate. But disgust is hardwired into all of us, even those who, by virtue of their profession, have to get their hands dirty on a more regular basis. That sensation has to go somewhere else, somewhere strange and unexpected. But where? 


Name: Andy 

Profession: Sewage drainage and disposal, Dover. 

Routine: Work Activities Filling pipes, reservoirs and septic tanks with water to disperse sewage; draining said water to clean area; disposing of waste. 

Objects of Disgust: Bins 

Comment ‘Can’t go near bins at all, hate them. Liquid waste, that’s fine. But not bins.’ 


Name: Ed 

Profession: Farmer, north Wales. 

Routine Work Activities: Working over soil; clearing stables; disposing of manure; accommodating caravanners. 

Objects of Disgust: Human muck, cat muck, dog muck. 

Comment: ‘I can handle normal muck, but none of the other muck. Oh, and I hate rats, too.’ 


Name: Jacqui 

Profession: Midwife, London. 

Routine Work Activities: Testing blood pressure, urine; holding vomit bowl; assessing and alleviating blood loss; detaching child from mother’s womb. 

Objects of Disgust: Nasal mucous 

Comment: ‘I’m okay with blood, vomit, excrement and open wounds, but someone blowing their nose or sniffing makes me feel nauseous.’ 


Name: Sarah 

Profession: Also midwife, also London. 

Routine Work Activities: As above, plus catching placenta. 

Objects of Disgust: Cleaning out the dregs of the birth pool. 

Comment: ‘It’s like human soup and we use a suction device to clean it which makes this funny noise every time it sucks up a blob.’ 


Name: Kevin 

Profession: Butcher, Rugby. 

Routine Work Activities: Sterilising metal surfaces; sawing through bone and cartilage; butchering and presenting trays of meat in different displays. 

Objects of Disgust: Nothing 

Comment: ‘I’ve been doing this for forty years, nothing turns my stomach.’ 


Name: Carl 

Profession: Fishmonger, Brentwood. 

Routine Work Activities: Sourcing, storing, descaling, filletting, presenting, selling, transporting and delivering fish to restaurants and customers across Essex and the south-east of England. 

Objects of Disgust: Feet 

Comment: ‘They’re horrible, aren’t they? They just freak me out.’ 


Name: Joshua 

Profession: Doctor, London. 

Routine Work Activities: Examining x-rayed breasts; performing biopsies of suspected cancerous lumps; occasionally lending a hand at A&E to survey head and body wounds. 

Objects of Disgust: Coughing 

Comment ‘I’m not sure whether it’s post-COVID paranoia or whether it developed long before but I just want to get away or put a mask on the offender.’ 


Name: Howard 

Profession: Bovine semen collection, Chester. 

Routine Work Activities: Attaching and operating neoprene-lined stimulation devices in order to extract volumes of bull semen through simulated sexual activity; decanting and storing said product in extreme low temperatures for use in the field of bovine artificial insemination. 

Objects of Disgust: Vomit, retching 

Comment: ‘I have to leave the room if anyone throws up, even if they gag. Gives me the fear instantly, can’t be around it.’ 

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