Front Page

The Jam Pump BY PHILIP WEBBER

The jam pump was one of the best things about the job. When Vic said tell them about when we worked in a bakery I thought, Yeah I'll talk about putting jam into doughnuts. I'd never thought about how they got jam into doughnuts before - some tossers might say things like Hey, lifes too short; but that's not a good enough excuse.

The machine was simple, basic, a thing of duchampian beauty ; this was the baker's urinal, the chocolate grinder of the doughnut world. Not that this bakery produced anything but the British variety - no rings garnished with chocolate, icing or coloured crap, just a lump of fried dough with some fruity syrup pumped into it. But how much fruity syrup we'll get to later.

The machine, engineered from brass and stainless steel and with a bakelite handle, consisted of a hollow prong upon which the greasy blob was impaled, a funnel which held the 'jam' and a plunger which dispensed a measured amount of filling. Now working in the bakery wasn't the best job I ever had , the heat was intense and most of the work involved humping sacks and pushing trolleys so it was a welcome break to be put on ' fillings' and anyone with any sense would just stand there impaling, plunging and placing whilst dreaming of sex and drugs and rock'n'roll - but not Vic. Maybe it was a low boredom threshold or maybe my dad was right to christen him a 'n'er do well' but the one chance he got on the doughnut machine he fucked up.

Does this one feel heavier than this one or is this one the heaviest? How much jam can you pump into a doughnut before it bursts, or someone in the shop queries its weight? Well it was five pumps which is a lot of jam. Why not make a whole batch heavy to disguise the extra weight? I said, immediately regretting my complicity. It was a busy Saturday afternoon when the first batch went out and we gave it no more thought during the end -of -week clean-up for the Sunday close-down.

I was hosing down the yard; Neil had been bolted into the outside lavvy and after Vic blocked the gap under the door with a wet tea-towel I poked the hose through the window. I thought it was the lad's screeching that had attracted Mr Dorrington's attention, but no; a woman had just returned to the shop holding aloft a beige Arran sweater which appeared to have been peeled from the body of someone recently pierced by an electric hedge-trimmer. Which of you fuckers was on the jampump today ,he shouted. Neil, we said in unison. Neil was the proprietor's nephew, a simpleton on almost permanent washing-up duty who constantly gave himself diarhoea by eating the scrapings from the baking trays. The only time the hose was legitimately put through the bog window was after Neil rushed in and didn't notice the lid was down on the seat. So Neil knew he couldn't be sacked and that if either of us was, his life would be made misery - he kept quite.

On the Monday an automated jam pump arrived and so did a letter from a satisfied customer:

' I am writing to commend you on the quality of your doughnuts. I often experience difficulty while masticating, especially if the dough is slightly stale and it is often only the lubricative properties of the jam which makes it possible for me to swallow. I was therefore most impressed with the doughnuts I purchased on Saturday where the jam/dough ratio had been changed for the better.....'