Continuing my series on colleagues with a past, meet

The Waspman of Module 3

John Peters has been, in his own words, playing at IT Development at BACS for the last eleven years. However he spent the early part of his career eliminating bugs very different from those of the computer variety. He tackled bugs, rats, wasps, cockroaches – you name it – as a Pest Control Officer for the London Borough of Barnet.

John first got involved as a student, taking summer jobs clearing wasps' nests. After college finished John, he worked full-time in Pest Control from 1984 to 1986. "Training was given through a buddy system. Your immediate governor accompanied you, and later on you would take over that role for anyone new. You would also work as a team if the assignment could be dangerous – which was always the case if wasps were involved."

John elaborated further: "On occasion I have been covered by up to five thousand wasps. However effective your mask and protective clothing is, wasps will find, or force, a way in. I have been knocked out three or four times by wasp stings - once whilst making a hasty retreat down a ladder. Luckily my partner caught me at the bottom..."

One of Pam Ayres' poems begins "The wasp he is a nasty one" and ends "What on earth can wasps be for?". John shares the sentiment. Wasps gave John his fear of heights, one night when John had to crawl through a wasps' nest on to the roof of a block of flats, destroy the nest and then sit on the roof for three hours in the wind and rain. Wasps also cost one of John's customers dear. He had gone up to his loft to smoke out a nest but unfortunately he set fire to his loft insulation. By the time John arrived the roof was a charred ruin.

But the job was always varied. Early on there was the great 'Mongolian Hamster scare'; eventually the entire Department was drafted onto the hunt for this elusive pest, which had been sighted several times by members of the public. Television crews from as far afield as Australia covered the story. Eventually a surveillance operation proved that the hamster was a pet belonging to the son of a local councillor….

John has fallen through roofs, been trapped under floors, and been savaged by irate squirrels. "It can be a very nasty job. You're always in filfth, down sewers, under buildings, amongst rats and mice and smells". So I asked John "Why did you choose to do it?"

He replied "Well I always fancied a job in the fresh air".