Real Work: Nine to Five - Name Hazel Burgess, 42 Occupation Painter and decorator Salary pounds 8,000 Address Maidstone, Kent
Sunday 07 March 1999
My dad has always been a painter and decorator and I started working with him 14 years ago. When he retired, I just carried on. When I started, people were surprised when I turned up, not a lad. People do comment when I tell them what I do but I've never had to take any flak.
Describe what you do
I paint the inside and outside of buildings, general maintenance and repair; cleaning down old paintwork, removing flaky paint, stabilising, priming up bare wood. Mostly I decorate stairs, landings and hallways because they're more awkward, and you have to construct platforms out of ladders and scaffold boards. It can be scary, dealing with wallpaper drops of 18ft. I do quite a bit for little old ladies; they feel happier with a woman in the house.
How does your day start?
My partner Darren and I set the alarm for 6.30am. My daughter Kira and I go down and start the breakfast. I'll yell at Darren to get up and Kira, who's two-and-a-half, will watch TV. After washing and dressing I make my own lunch, a salad, then get Kira dressed ready for play school or the childminder; or she might come with me. I used to take her with me all the time when she was a baby; then she started to get up to all sorts of mischief. I'm usually ready to go between 9am and 9.15am.
What do you wear?
A white boilersuit. They only come in men's sizes so they are not very flattering. In summer, I wear shorts and a bikini top.
What's your journey like?
I drive an estate car. I put ladders on the roof and keep all my other things in the back. I have worked in London but usually work within 15 miles of Maidstone.
Describe your work environment
It could be anything: a big mansion, a two-bedroomed cottage or a studio flat. Clients explain what they want and leave me to it. I put my radio on, my most important piece of equipment - it's covered in dust, paint and dirt. It's Radio Two, or if reception is bad, Capital Gold.
How long for lunch?
I don't usually stop for lunch. I stand up and shovel in my salad as I go along. If I stop, I don't want to start again.
What stresses you out most at work?
Wallpaper hanging. You quote for a job and the paper may be pounds 20 a roll, so if you get it wrong, it could cost you a lot of money. Sometimes there are time limits: for instance, when I was decorating a play school that had to be finished in five days over half term.
What are the perks?
People waiting on me, making me cups of tea and giving really nice biscuits - ones I don't normally buy. Also, having leftover paint for my own decorating. I have worked at places where they have their own swimming pools, which I have been allowed to use in summer.
Hours per week?
About 35 to 40.
How much holiday do you take?
Last year we spent a whole week in north Devon. I prefer activity holidays: walking, visiting old houses.
What time do you stop work?
I try to leave by five but it doesn't always work.
What do you do when you're not working?
I've just started ju-jitsu, a form of self-defence. For 15 years, I've been learning tap dancing and go to a dancing school, which puts on shows. I don't watch make-over shows like Changing Rooms. They make me cringe. I prefer action programmes: Silent Witness and Star Trek. Our house is in desperate need of decoration. The dining room has never been done, even though I've lived here 13 years. Darren says decoration is my job, but he will do DIY jobs.
What's the first thing you do when you get home?
Think about what I'm having for tea.
How do you feel on a Sunday night?
Think: "Oh, work tomorrow". It makes me sound like I don't enjoy it, but I do.
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