Language · Notes from West London

Jam Boy

“What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?” For anyone of my age and background that question will bring up memories of the “Derek & Clive” recordings, Dudley Moore and Peter Cook’s curse-laden comic sketches from the 1970s. I see that they’re even on Spotify, with “You Stupid C***” as the top-rated track. I feel rather prudish not typing “the C word” in full but I’m sat next to my 11 year old son, and although I’d like to hear some of those recordings again I won’t be playing them until he’s gone to bed. Or maybe I’ll wait until tomorrow; I’m feeling a bit tired after an unexpectedly late night celebrating St Patrick’s Day.

I hadn’t planned on being out late but was invited for a few drinks by my son’s godfather, and we were still in our local Irish bar after 2am. Sometime after midnight we were joined by a genial chap from Westmeath and the conversation turned to golf. Golf is up there with taking drugs and watching porn as something that I’ve never done, so I didn’t have much to contribute. They were both talking about their experiences caddying, from an early age. It’s not a great job, caddying for tourists on an Irish golf course, but there are worse things. The chap from Westmeath told us about something he’d seen in South Africa. Caddying there was less fun than in Ireland but you were definitely better off than the “Jam Boys”, a term that was new to the rest of us. The Jam Boy accompanies the golfers and caddies and wears a hat covered in jam. This is designed to attract flies and keep them away from the players. Really. Someone stands on a golf course wearing a hat covered in jam with flies buzzing around their head all day. Urban dictionary gives the following definition:

“The Jam Boy was first introduced as early as the 1800s when the British Empire occupied India. When the British gentry went to play golf, they would have two men, the caddy and a Jam Boy.

“The Jam Boy’s sole purpose was to keep the mosquitoes away from the golfer. To do this, the Jam Boy would cover himself in Jam to attract the mosquitoes away from the players. When the game was over the Jam Boy got to keep the jam he was wearing to take home to his family.”

Maybe the current way of doing things counts as progress: the Jam Boy wears a hat covered in jam rather than covering his face with the stuff, and maybe he gets paid in cash rather in leftover preserves, but still.

And the worst job I ever had? Cleaning in an old people’s home, in the months between school and university, not something I plan to do again, but I’m sure it was better than being a Jam Boy.



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