I like work. It fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.

JEROME K. JEROME (1859-1927)


Pol Pot used to be a geography teacher.

During the Middle Ages servants were hired to throw pebbles into ponds at night to make the frogs be quiet.

Inspector of Nuisances

An ‘Inspector of Nuisances’ was the 19th century precursor of the Sanitary Inspector and today’s Environmental Health Officer. Appointed by the local authority, his remit in the UK was limited to sanitary/health issues such as ‘filthy and unwholesome’ living conditions, gutters, drains, privies, cesspools and fly-tipping. He might, for example, report people who kept livestock in the bedroom, or disinfect houses where there had been smallpox.

In the US and the colonies he often had a more general remit, covering houses of ill-repute, drinking dens and even groups of youths hanging about in the street – moral nuisances as well as physical – but in either case he generally lacked enforcement powers of his own; he reported the nuisance, and the civil authorities took action.
He was likely to be responsible for the ‘Scavengers’, the nightsoil men who removed excrement from outdoor lavatories. In 1857 a Scavenger from the West Midlands was charged by Inspector of Nuisances Samuel Rowley with repeatedly dumping his haul of nightsoil on the pavement. He was fined a shilling, and told that it would be 40 shillings if he did it again.

‘Scavenger’ was also used to describe small children employed in textile factories to collect up bits of loose cotton which fell under the machinery whilst it was still in motion - crawling around under the spinning wheels. Injuries were frequent. 

THOMAS EDISON (1847-1931)

I never did a day's work in my life. It was all fun.

Butlers: What’s in a Name?

There are plenty of literary butlers: Beech in P.G. Wodehouse’s Blandings Castle stories, Stevens in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Booker Prize-winning The Remains of the Day, but not Jeeves.

In all the Jeeves and Wooster novels by P.G. Wodehouse (1881-1975), Bertie Wooster only employs one servant. Since a butler is the head of a household staff, Reginald Jeeves cannot be a butler. He is a valet, or gentleman’s gentleman.

A butler was originally in charge of a household’s wine, the word derives from the old French boteillier or ‘cup bearer’. This developed into the sense of senior servant.

As Bertie Wooster himself clarifies in Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves (1963): ‘Jeeves, of course, is a gentleman’s gentlemen, not a butler, but if the call comes, he can buttle with the best of them. It’s in the blood.'

Valet Duties

A valet was a 15th century French term for a footman i.e. a horseman’s personal assistant. His duties were many and varied: polishing their charge’s shoes, laying out their kit and arranging their accommodation and food.

The fifth Duke of Portland, one of the great landowners in 19th century London was so keen on his privacy that, when he required the attentions of a doctor, the medical man would be required to stand outside the room while the Duke’s valet examined his master and called out the results.

During the 1997 general election, future Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg went leafleting the streets of Central Fife assisted by his nanny. Infuriated at the mocking he received he later told an interviewer: ‘I do wish you wouldn’t keep going on about my nanny. If I had a valet, you’d think it was perfectly normal.’


It's just a job. Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.

If you want to be an architect in Texas, you have to have your fingerprints taken.

There are only three countries in the world where your boss is more likely to be a woman than a man, Jamaica, Colombia, and Saint Lucia.

In 1960, Denys Tucker was sacked from his job at the Natural History Museum because he claimed to have seen the Loch Ness Monster.

Pope Francis used to work as a bouncer.

The British government employs 100,000 cats to control the rodent population on government property.