My Summer: Working while everyone else plays

While the rest of us settle back to enjoy the sunshine, for thousands of Britons summer is when the hard graft really begins. They're the ones keeping us cool, entertaining us, serving us ice-cream cones, showing us around - and even telling us what the future holds. So what's it like to work while everyone else plays? Helen Brown asks those in the know
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The Independent Online

Laura Hilliard, 29
Tour guide at the Globe Theatre, South Bank, London

I trained as an actress and needed work while I was resting. I did Cinderella in panto with a friend who was working here, and since I'd always had a passion for Shakespeare I told her that I'd love to get a job at the Globe.

People who work here don't tend to leave. Even if you get another job, people come back for the odd day. But that makes it hard to get in. But I kept sending my CV every six months and eventually landed the job. Tours go on throughout the year but we're twice as busy in the summer. It works around school holidays too, and not just English ones. We know when to expect lots of French people, for example.

I really enjoy it when visitors ask questions. If they don't you worry you haven't done enough for them. But in large groups, once somebody has asked a question you get a snowball effect. Occasionally people think I know everything, and I have to say that I'm not the Globe's answer to Google! They all want to know what happens when it rains, so I tell them: "People get wet!" There are plays like The Tempest or Pericles where I think a bit of bad weather really adds to the atmosphere.

Hugh Phillimore, 46
Music festival organiser, Notting Hill, London

We've been thrilled by the good weather. The Cornbury Oxford Music Festival, which was held at the home of Lord and Lady Rotherwick, sold out this year. Our one disappointment was that The Waterboys missed their plane and there were a few irritated people. But it was a huge triumph. We'd only configured the site for 10,000 people and our capacity's 15,000, so we're not going to make any money just yet. But now it's a real event.

I also booked the Tower of London festival with the Pet Shop Boys, James Brown and Jamie Cullum, which was great because the weather held. And we have the Arundel Festival still to go with Georgie Fame and Texas. The great moments are those gigs that are so great you cry. I had a tearful moment listening to Deacon Blue perform "Fergus Sings the Blues" at Cornbury.

The depressing thing is that I'm working most weekends and sitting in a hot office in Notting Hill during the week then working weekends, too. There comes a point in mid-August when you're suddenly aware that all your friends are on the Norfolk coast with their kids and you're still sweating away. I'd like to go to these events and not organise them. I've never been to the polo, or Ascot or Wimbledon or Henley... not that I would necessarily want to do those things. But it's frustrating that I can't.

Simon Kendall, 43
Runcton pick-your-own farm, Runcton, West Sussex

The pick-your-own movement really began in the 1970s. There was little choice of fresh produce in the shops and not so much entertainment available. Lots of farmers with a few spare fields saw it as an easy way to make some extra cash. They didn't realise how much maintenance it takes and how weather-dependent the venture is. Many farms closed down their PYO fields in the 1990s, just as the supermarkets were beginning to offer a huge range of soft fruit all year round, and kids wanted to play computer games instead of picking strawberries.

We started out in 1984 and, luckily, there's now a huge resurgence in the market. People want to eat fresh, local food and parents want their children to see that a raspberry comes from a plant, not a punnet. We still keep our fingers crossed for sunny days to make it work, though. A rainy weekend leaves a field full of unpicked fruit, although we do have pickers who'll get it into the farm shop. We also miss the jam-makers - the older generation used to pick pounds of fruit for jam, but very few younger people have the time.

We know that visitors eat a bit in the field. That's why there's also a "sin bin" beside the weigh-in, where you can pay for what they've eaten. The very occasional picker goes too far - we've had people show up with sugar and cream and eat a meal between the rows!

Megan Hastings and Elisha Wilde, both 17
Seafront Ice Cream & Crêpe Stall, Bognor Regis

Megan: It's lots of fun working here. The weekdays are quiet but Sundays are busy. All the young people pick chocolate, vanilla and mint, but the older people go for rum'n'raisin. My favourite is the honeycomb -all the free ice cream is great!

Elisha: We can get some weird customers. The other day some drunken man started throwing our shortbread at us, saying it was his son's birthday and he'd missed it. We're paid daily based on the day's takings, and on a good Sunday we can take as much as £400. At the moment we're mainly selling ice-cream because the crêpe machine melted. It caught fire and we got blamed. The pancake mix gets under the plates. - whoever designed it was really stupid. The fire was huge. We threw towels on it but my dad, who owns the stall, had to come down and save us.

I like the customers and the cute topless guys are a bonus. As soon as we close up we run right down into the sea. We're both big swimmers.

Bryan Roberts, 19
Jet ski instructor, Bognor Regis

I've been at this for three years. The authorities have just realised that jet skis are as dangerous as motorbikes so they're bringing in a law that everybody has to have a personal watercraft licence to ride one. So I got my instructor's certificate, and now I teach people what to do.

In the winter, I work as a labourer and pizza-delivery boy to save up for summer. I've been riding these sit-down jet skis for five years - they feel fast, exciting and dangerous. If somebody's swimming out there and their head disappears under each wave, we have to monitor how things are developing. There are set swimming areas and set jet-skiing areas. If people are in the wrong area, I jump on our patrol ski and tell them.

Lots of people ask if we hire jet skis - we don't, because the insurance is too expensive. People bring their own jet skis and we help launch them with the tractor. I make £5 an hour, and £125 per person per day when I'm instructing.

John Stedeman, 66
Motorised seafront 'train' driver, Bognor Regis

I was in service management for BMW, but a friend who was in the motor trade was a driver and told me about a vacancy here, so I decided to give it a go. This little train runs during the summer period from Butlins to the centre of the village at an average speed of 3mph.

We get holidaymakers and elderly people who prefer the train to walking. It's only £1 per ride, after all. Earlier this week we had a passenger aged 101. We gave her a free ride and she offered to pay for everybody else! There are lots of children too. We hope they don't spill the ice-cream as drivers have to clean it up. Parents normally keep them in order but I do have to be strict occasionally. I had a couple of affable drunks on the other day. They didn't pay but I left them to it.

It's a pleasant job. I'd always wanted to live by the sea and now my family come to visit all the time. I get to listen to the Test cricket uninterrupted while I'm working and in the winter I stay retired, take care of the garden and all the other jobs my wife lines up for me.

Paul Tierman, 41
Miniature golf course keeper, Bognor Regis

I was running a video club and on a day trip to Hastings I saw a miniature golf course with 150 people playing. I thought: "That looks like a good idea!" The council had a plot on the seafront available, so I invited the guy from Hastings to help me design the course. It cost £120,000 to set up. Most people think crazy golf is just a splash of concrete with holes in it, but we wanted something heavily landscaped. We wanted a park environment.

All our customers like the windmill. And the watermill, where you have to hit the ball underneath the paddles. We also have a hole like a multi-storey car park. On a busy day we get 100 to 150 customers, but it's a long winter. We open on weekends in the cold months and spend time keeping it litter-free. There's a lot of maintenance. We've just finished a £10,000 refurbishment.

Most customers are lovely, but the two per cent that aren't stick in the throat. If people are drunk and I have to ask them to leave they'll tell me where I can stick my clubs and I'll tell them it's full up there. We've had people attempting to copulate during busy daylight hours, and we also had a family camped on one of the holes with umpteen boxes of curry having a picnic.

I take most pleasure in the gardening. Otherwise it's mainly just standing in the kiosk. Most years we can keep a green stripe on the grass but this drought has made things seem a bit tatty. You do what you can do.

Sandra Barnes-Keywood, 44
Old Chapel Forge Bed and Breakfast, Bognor Regis

I used to be in the restaurant business but that can be extremely time-consuming, and with a family the B&B was a good solution. When we bought the house with the chapel in the garden, our plan was for guests to have the freedom to come and go by staying in the chapel opposite. Both buildings date back to 1611, but during the Second World War, the chapel was used for repairing aircraft. Its front porch was knocked out to get the engines in.

Five years ago we did a green rebuild on it and won a gold award from the Green Tourism Business Scheme. We also use lots of local and organic produce, and breakfast includes fresh fruit from neighbouring farms. I like to make sure there are things like cotton-wool balls and sun cream in the rooms - many foreigners come to England with an umbrella and don't think they'll have to protect themselves from the sun! I wasn't prepared for the waiting around - people tell you they'll arrive at noon and won't show up until 4pm. We use solar energy and sun pipes for lighting so the sun saves us money. And being able to dry the sheets outdoors is fantastic - I've done six loads already today!

Eddie Webster, 70
Owner of Surrey Honey, Redhill, Surrey

My grandfather kept bees, and my father, too. During the war there was very little sugar and they built up from five hives at the bottom of the garden to more behind the pigsties on their smallholding. When I retired from the tool factory at the age of 65, the hobby grew to be an obsession. I've now got hives from Gatwick to Dorking. In this heat we have to go out at 7.30am to take the honey. In the cool evenings we put the frames in a centrifuge to spin out the honey.

Beekeeping doesn't just last from May to September. In the winter I'm busy sterilising and cleaning, building new hives and restoring old ones where woodpeckers have damaged them. My wife complains about all the electricity I burn up in the garage!

This has been a bad year. The miserable spring didn't give the colonies much flying time and now the flowers aren't producing much nectar because of the drought. But I think nature will adapt to global warming. We've also now got the bee parasite varroa in this country and I know some of my hives haven't done as well because of it.

The beauty is in being out early with the wildlife. I've seen fox cubs, hare, deer, young partridge, pheasant and all sorts of insects. The Ramblers' Association are a nuisance on Wednesdays. They can't keep their mouths shut - their rabbiting puts everything down for miles around!

Richard Payne, 33
Air conditioning engineer for EMS, central London

I've always wanted to do something mechanical - I loved stripping down engines as a kid. We had the quickest lawnmower in Chelmsford! But when I looked into the pay for car mechanics I realised it wasn't particularly good. Then I heard about EMS - they sent me to college for three years and now I'm on a basic salary of £30,000.

It can be a challenge crawling down the ducts to clean them, although I've not been stuck yet. We recently had a guy complain of a smell each time he used his system. We stripped it down, cleaned it and put in deodorisers. Then we discovered that when the air conditioning was installed, somebody had thrown a load of fish down there!

Winter is about maintenance but in the summer we're bloomin' busy. People can get fairly angry when their units break down. The problem is that most British systems are only designed to take 10 degrees off the outside temperature. The systems are working fine, but the people inside are still too hot this year.

Thomas Gawliek, 25
Street performer, Covent Garden, London

I'm from Krakow in Poland and just here in England for a two-month holiday. I've been performing like this for three years. First I was a good angel, and now I am the silver man. I'm so comfortable in the costume now that it only takes me 10 minutes to get ready.

I love this job. You see what's going on in the world. You see more than the people hurrying by. The children look at me very closely. And I think everybody needs a kind of peace, a kind of love, that moment when the still silver man suddenly moves and smiles at you. I can't laugh with my face but I do in my heart.

Jesus is the main thing in my life. I think God gave me a special grace to stand so still like a statue in the street for five or six hours. People ask how much money I make. Sometimes when you are tired you shake a hand, smile, and you may get £20. I work six days a week but Sunday is my holiday. When it rains I have to slip under a tree. But with the big rain, I have to go or the silver washes off like tears.

Christopher White, 30
Manager of Denbies Vineyard, Westhumble, Dorking, Surrey

My father bought the estate 20 years ago and I've lived here most of my life. A friend of his, who's a professor at Imperial College, pointed out that millions of years ago this region was joined to the Champagne region of France and is ideal for vines.

The bulk of our business is in tourism - people from all over the world visit us. Everybody wants to know how to make wine and our operation is engineered to show that to them. We teach people how to taste wine, we have two restaurants, run tours and host weddings.

A good summer is paramount to us. I dread frost, bugs and wet weather. We've definitely noticed the effects of global warming over the past decade. We're producing more and better quality wine each year. This is set to be our best year ever - the vines are laden with grapes. We're looking to produce about half-a-million bottles.

Gypsy 'Jenty' Lee, age unknown
Fortune-teller, Bognor Regis

I am a fourth-generation fortune-teller, the great-great-grandaughter of the original Gypsy Rose Lee. You can see that from my birth certificate, which I display on the booth here. I've been in Bognor for years and offer two kinds of readings - palmistry and gazing into the original crystal ball. I'm here, rain or shine, from 10am to 6pm on weekdays, and I stay until 7pm at the weekends.

In the summer things are definitely busier, with long queues on some days, but people can make an appointment and go and have an ice-cream. In the odd quiet moment I enjoy sitting outside the booth in the sea breeze.

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