Sunday, 26 March 2017

A habit of fainting - Working in a French factory

Moissac (France) - August

         At the end of my first week in the plum factory, I was told that we alternated shifts with another team each week. Therefore, the following Monday, I would be starting work at six in the morning. Ouch. (I know this will not be early for many of you but remember I was a student and it was a big shock to the system!) 

        Monday came and I dragged myself out of bed at five am. It was still dark and the outside cellar felt particularly creepy as I extricated my bike from it. I hurried back up the stone stairs as quickly as I could with a bicycle in tow, the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. I never did like the dark. The sleeping village was deserted. There was not a soul to be seen and no noise to be heard apart from the whirring of my wheels as they turned. It was an eerie atmosphere and for once I pedalled fast, along the cobbled streets of Moissac. Arriving at the factory, I was put to work as usual on the second section. I had been standing there, battling plums, for about half an hour when I felt a familiar but extremely unwelcome sensation creep over me.

Fainting at school

I have a habit of fainting, you see, thanks to my low blood pressure which seems to run in our family. The first time I fainted, I didn’t really understand what had happened. One moment I was standing up leaning over to draw a picture at my friend’s house, the next I was lying on the floor having knocked over the hamster cage. My most spectacular performance was in the dining hall at secondary school. It was just a few weeks into my first year and I had been standing in the queue for ages. It was a warm day and when I reached the front, the added heat from the hot plates was too much. I started to feel dizzy and wobbly and then everything went black. I regained consciousness to find the giant head of a dinner lady in my face.

           “It’s alright dear”, it said.
“Where the hell am I?” I thought.

           I now know why, when a patient wakes from being unconscious on Casualty, they always say, "You've been in an accident, you're in hospital." I had always thought they were stating the obvious. But, seriously, I didn't have a scooby what was going on and it was quite frightening.

          The giant headed dinner lady (actually, it turned out she had a normal sized head once I could see properly) led me through tables of pupils. The normally rowdy dining hall was silent. Every single pair of eyes was focussed on me. Every fork poised half way to someone’s mouth. Apparently I had made quite a noise going down. I had knocked my friend’s tray out of her hands and her plate had smashed to the floor. I was told afterwards that I was not only deathly pale but my lips had turned a ghoulish shade of blue. And this was how I introduced myself to my new school.

Fainting at a French factory

 Over the years, I had learnt that, if I sat down as soon as I started to feel faint, then I could usually manage to avoid blacking out completely. So, as I stood there in the factory, feeling lightheaded and shaky, I knew I had to sit down immediately before I sprawled headlong in to the plums. I called out to the passing supervisor. Fortunately, I didn’t have to explain; she took one look at my white face and hurried me over to a nearby chair. There she handed me a sugar cube and I dutifully sucked it, foolishly feeling like a child who had just had their vaccinations. All I was missing was the sticker that said “I was brave at the doctors today”.

          I was aware of my co-workers all staring at me. I guess they were wondering if l'idiote anglaise had managed to staple her finger again. (See previous blog post A French hospital visit ) Half an hour and three sugar cubes later, I felt stable enough to return to my post, although I made sure I had a chair close by just in case.


  1. I am reminded of a life drawing class that I attended a few years ago . Suddenly the female model turned a deathly shade of green and then slumped into a heap on the floor. Several of us rushed forward to help. She told me later that she did often faint but as she had come round she had no idea where she was and then was horrified to discover that she was stark naked in a strange room full of clothed people. The experience didn't put her off and she did continue to model again.

    1. That's hilarious! Thank you for sharing!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.