Wish you were here...?

The sun is out, you're stuck inside - and someone else is doing your fantasy job. Dream on, says HELEN FOSTER
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Come the summer strange things happen in offices around the UK. Even the most ambitious desk junkie starts dreaming of upping stick (or downing pencil) and heading off to a life of manual labour outdoors. We find ourselves gazing longingly at builders on scaffolding, or wishing our parents had pushed us to train as athletes, not lawyers. My mother even starts to fantasise about becoming a traffic warden. The world outside looks like a nirvana of brown bodies, ice-cream breaks and shiny co-workers smiling at each other as they look at the suckers wandering past in stifling suits.

Recruitment company Blue Arrow spends summer reaping the rewards of this attitude. "The world and his dog want to work or entertain outside so our bookings can go up 30-40 per cent in summer," says Charles Walker, director of communications. "We spend nine months in this country gazing out of the window checking for even a hint of sunshine so it's not surprising that people want to make the most of every minute of it once it's here."

Blue Arrow has people on its books who work only in summer, "and thousands who as soon as the sun comes out are desperate to transfer the skills they use happily inside all winter to an outside environment."

But is the reality of summer- working all it's cracked up to be? We asked three fantasists about their ideal summer vocation, and then found their counterparts in the real world. Read and wish.

THE FANTASY:

LIFEGUARD LOWRI MILLER, 35, INTERNET WORKER

I live by the beach and everyday I walk past the lifeguards sitting behind their windbreaks chatting and laughing. They look so relaxed and you just know their boss doesn't call them at 11pm demanding changes. On summer days I forget I hate water and want to be on that beach.

THE REALITY: LUCY CAHILLANE, 23,

BEACH/POOL LIFEGUARD (RIGHT)

I may look relaxed but there's not a moment on that beach when I'm not thinking what could happen next. If someone gets into trouble in the water and they die, you have to explain it: deal with the police, the coroner's court and, of course, yourself.

I started training as a lifeguard when I was 17 and now I work on the beach in the summer and at a pool in the winter. They're totally different. In a pool you have a controlled environment and the furthest you'll have to swim is about 10 feet to the side. On the beach we're almost like police. I've had to deal with overdose victims, homeless people who sleep under the pier, even perverts taking pictures of kids.

I do get a tan but I'm supplied with Factor 25 sun lotion so I don't get burnt. The job keeps me really fit. I have to sprint-swim for an hour twice a week and every Friday there's simulation training which means going in that sea no matter how cold it is - and it can be freezing. I do love the job though. This year the water's really warm and there have been dolphins jumping a few yards from the beach. You don't get that in an insurance brokers.

THE FANTASY: BEACH-CLEANER TIM COFFEY, 29, CIVIL SERVANT

A friend of mine is a beach-cleaner in New Zealand and makes an awful lot of money. He works half a day, gets an amazing tan and spends most of the time chatting to mates. He also gets to keep a lot of stuff he finds on the beach - his house looks incredible.

THE REALITY: LEE SHEPPARD, 28,

BEACH-CLEANING OPERATIVE

I don't think you'd want to keep much of what I find on Brighton beach - hypodermic syringes, dead bodies. I even found a live bomb which closed the beach once. Despite this I love my job. Working outside is great - even in winter - and I love the sea. There's something really peaceful about walking along the beach at 6am on a winter morning and having it to yourself.

Summer's not so great. There tend to be a lot of drunk stag party-goers staggering about on mornings which can lead to arguments. Also there's a lot of broken glass left over from beach parties the night before.

I do work what some people call a half-day - I finish at 1pm, but to get to work for 6am means getting up about 4am so I spend a lot of afternoons sleeping. Sometimes I go to the beach on my time off but it drives me mad to see all those people messing it up. My favourite moment of the day is when it's all clean but no one's yet arrived. We've recently been told we're one of the cleanest seafronts in the UK, which is great for the team and me. The job does have its downside when I go on holiday. I can't help but check out the hygiene standards on the beach. It spoils the fun somehow.

THE FANTASY:

BUILDER

SIAN RODGERS, 33, RETAIL MANAGER

Building might be an odd fantasy as I'm a female but I can't think of anything more blissful in summer than being on top of a really high building watching everyone scurry around you. I love those pics of New York builders sitting eating sandwiches on a girder hundreds of feet up. I always feel so claustrophobic in the city in summer.

THE REALITY: KAREN INSKIP, 25, ASSISTANT SITE MANAGER

Summer, yes I remember summer - unfortunately a lot of the time I work on company contracts which always seem to start in winter so we're digging foundation with freezing hands and up to our knees in mud. Come summer the building's up and I'm inside sorting out the finishing touches. When I do get outside, of course, I remember why I wanted to do this - even at school I knew I couldn't sit behind a desk all day - but sadly the days of builders wandering around shirtless are over. Most city clients require us to keep fully dressed at all times which means the only bit of my body that gets tanned is the bit between my shorts and my socks.

Summer sees me working about an 11-hour day (7.30am to 6pm) and I also study in the evenings. To join any professional bodies you have to keep up with what's going on and sometimes I fantasise about giving it all up and becoming a lollipop lady - same dodgy tan, less hours.

But then I'll drive past something I've worked on and that sense of pride kicks in. After all, when you look at something like the Houses of Parliament you realise that the people who built that are all dead, and it's still standing. I love the idea of leaving something behind.

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