Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Some days you accidentally walk into a rifle range.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Getting the shits with the toilet roll

[figure 1: Creation]

In 1879 Scott produced the first roll of toilet paper. It began. It was in the nature or the thing: in order for any cylindrical object to remain in the same position while spinning – and in this case, dispensing - the cylindrical object requires an axle. Thus was born the need for the toilet roll holder.

The simple modern-day form of this can be found as a wall-mounted bracket with two ends of wire protruding from it. The wire ends are bent to the horizontal and inserted either end of a REMOVEABLE cylindrical barrel. The barrel is the axle for the toilet roll to be inserted upon, and dispense freely as required.

[figure 2: Essential parts of the simple toilet roll holder, as drawn by Vic, with a shaky finger and a stupid little touchpad. Round of applause, please. It took me a half hour to get that far.]

It’s not rocket science. It’s simplicity. If there are replacement rolls available within reach, changing the empty one from the barrel and replacing it with a new on is a simple operation that takes approximately ten seconds. It’s something to occupy the time while you’re taking a shit.

Where I am staying – a workers’ camp of about a hundred blokes and six females – there are communal segregated toilets. Between six females, it seems that I am the only one who understands the nature of the axle in the setup, and the fact that it is REMOVEABLE. The replacement rolls are stored on top of the cistern, and replenished by the cleaners daily. It takes an acrobatic manoeuvre to reach around and grab the next roll, and I believe that the female population in the camp must be made entirely of contortionists. Not only do they reach around and grab the next roll, they start it and put it back where they got it! Often this continues for three quarters of the roll. You’d rather twist yourself into a weird position while your pants are around your ankles and your arse is hanging out than put the next roll on the barrel?

It seems that every time I go in there, I replace the roll, and that’s on the women’s side. Christ knows what happens on the men’s side. There’s probably cobwebs around all the roll holders.

All the workers have to watch an induction video before being allowed to go on the orchard. Simple stuff such as wear a hat and shoes, and how to use a ladder safely. There should be second video for the workers who choose to stay in the camp: How to Live Communally: Toilet Roll Replacement 101.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Going home

Being in a workers' camp reminds me of my days in boarding school. We wake up to an air horn, line up for meals to an air horn, have tiny little boxy rooms and get put to bed by a certain time every night. The food is just the same as boarding school. You can't complain about it, really. It's mass produced and not particularly interesting, but when you're feeding a hundred smelly fruit pickers on a tight budget it's pretty difficult to put any love into what you're serving up.

What really takes me back to the boarding school days is that feeling of being away from home. I miss my family. Not my parents - I couldn't give a shit - but my sister. Then there's my adopted family, the people who have accepted me and embraced me without question. That is home. I've made friends at the workers' camp, certainly. Good friends. It's an interesting and quite friendly place to live. From there I've been journeying through the surrounding area and exploring places of interest, learning new things, netting new experiences and moulding them into part of the ever-evolving version of myself. But always, underneath the wide-eyed wonder at all this new discovery, is the feeling of I miss home.

It was the same at boarding school. You've got your friends, your culture, the weekend projects of delinquency and all the fun that goes with mass living and having your mates h=just down the hallway. But at the end of term you're just happy to go home.

I'm home for the weekend. A ten hour drive on the most boring stretch of road I have ever encountered: Three hundred kilometres of road works, a near miss with a speeding fine, and some bitch in a four wheel drive's tow ball straight through my front grill in a traffic jam. I am home and all that is worth just being here for five minutes. I have to go back, and indeed I'm looking forward to continuing my exploring and experience-hunting, but I will go back with a renewed energy and lust for life after this small respite.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Daytrips and Paddlesteamers

I've been working and living in a small town in Central Northern Victoria, right on the Murray River. The river forms most of the border between New South Wales and Victoria. It's part of a massive inland system, and used to be the highway for trade and transport. I remember watching a mini-series as a kid called All the Rivers Run. I loved the boats, and the scraggly dusty gum-tree Australian-ness of the Murray. It seemed harsh and tranquil all at the same time. I can't remember a damn thing about the plot of the series, but the main thing is that it left me with a desire to see the Murray, and a love for the Paddlesteamer - the main form of transport on this once mighty highway.

The town of Echuca was a busy port and crossing on the Murray - it's docks used to stretch for three quarters of a mile along the river banks. Only a small section remains, but there's quite a few paddlesteamers in operation as tourist boats from the dock area. Also, some are being restored for private use, as well as there being a few modern-day versions as private houseboats. Interestingly, some of the ones being restored were wrecks. As the industry died out, they were moored on the opposite side of the bank to docks, and abandoned. One by one they would have sunk. In the fairly recent drought times the river got to very low levels, and all these boats started emerging. They were preserved in the mud and water. Some got re-floated and restorations began.

That's the boat I wanted to go on, and did eventually. It's the PS Pevensey. She still has her original steam engine. Built in 1910 as a barge, she was turned into a paddlesteamer a year later, and carried cargo along the Murray. As trade died out, she was left to be a floating museum in the town of Mildura. But luck changed for this boat - she was restored to be the star of the series that made me fall in love with the Murray and paddlesteamers in the first place. She starred as the Philadelphia in All the Rivers Run. I had no idea that the steamer in the series was an original, let alone still operating.

This picture was taken while I was standing next to the loud and sweatingly hot muscle of the Pevensey's steam engine. I watched the man stoke it up, and was awed with the whole thing for a while. The paddlesteamer Etona, in the centre of the view, was and still is a missionary boat, a floating church. It still sports the cross above the wheelhouse to show what it is. On it they would perform things like christenings and marriages. I can just imagine it - hey hun, let's get married next time the boat comes past - whaddaya reckon?

I got one of my dreams - to be on a paddlesteamer on the Murray. I heard the steam whistles, I walked through what remained of the docks, felt my feet on the rickety planks and looked down through the cracks to the muddy water so far below. I stood in constant amazement of this river that is so totally different to the ones I had grown up on. Scraggly, muddy and dusty, in the bare shade of the river gums. This is the Australia I've dreamed about but have only seen in movies.

Yes, it's Vic on the bow of the PS Pevensey with a dumb grin on her face and a section of the Echuca docks in the background. Next is Vic also, still wearing dumb grin, on the upper deck after being in the wheelhouse with the captain.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Mailbox Monday

Dear Ladies, Gentlemen, Non-specifically gendered, Midgets, Dolphins and all other intelligent life-forms of blogville,

For years I have not written a personal letter. Application letters, yes. Plenty of those – my technique must be pretty shocking because I’m still writing them and not hearing back. But personal letters… I fell into that bottomless pit of “I’ll just call”. I think the same has happened to far too many people. In fact, Dive had a rant about it not long ago.

I’ve been getting a few letters lately, and I’d forgotten the happiness that holding a personal letter can bring. These pieces of paper become fragile to me. I hold them gently and with total wonder. I smell them. I keep them safe once I have read them, and look at them frequently. It is a gift I need to pay out more often.

So I’m brushing off the cobwebs on the letter-writing skills. Mostly, my letters consist of drawn-out prattle about daily goings on, and a few questions about health and happiness of the recipient. Am I going to bore this person? I don’t know. Sometimes I have given up on a letter for that reason, with a re-read and the decision of “Vic, you sound like a self-centred prat.”

In conclusion, I hope this letter finds you all in good health (and probably a state of mild bemusement at this post). All the best for whatever activities you may choose to fill your day.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Half-Nekkid Thursday

Happy Hallmark Horrorday

The big Murray Cod at Tocumwal says Happy Hallmark Horrorday to all.

I really should have the last pic made up as a card.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Mailbox Monday

I've been driving around in the country the last couple of weekends, doing my normal thing of looking for weird and interesting stuff.

Something I've always taken for granted is the random letterbox. Occasionally I'll notice one and think hey cool that one's made of plough discs, but I've never put much more thought into it than that. The mailbox has become a little more symbolic for me lately. It represents home in a way. A fixed address. I have a somewhat lengthy temporary address, rather than none at all, but my mailbox is a fading green velvet pinboard in a dining room that I share with a hundred or so backpackers and travelling workers. If I receive something that cannot be pinned on the board, it is an announcement from the human bullhorn who is our camp caretaker for the entire workforce to know that I need to get my arse to the office before it closes, if I want to collect my parcel. The ritual of checking the mailbox has lost it's personal touch.

So... I've decided to start a Monday thing for mailboxes. The Monday Melee got old and face it, I'm over thinking that much about what I hate first thing on a Monday anyway. Mailbox Monday it is. I even came up with a logo just for shits and giggles. Feel free to join in - just drop me a link so I can go look at your box...

It seems that out in this area (somewhere along the middle of the border of New South Wales and Victoria) most of the mailboxes for properties are welding experiments. Pieces of old stuff from around the yard slapped together and welded solid. Slap some paint on it and it becomes a personal feature that marks the entrance to your property.

Saturday, February 9, 2008


Seven wonders of the world according to Vic:

#1 - The chance to see a tiny birds nest in the top of a pear tree from my orchard ladder. Beauty on a such a small, delicate scale.

#2 - That only once have I created a sandwich in which the filling was my lower lip, and the outer comprised of my teeth on one side and an orchard ladder propelled by a branch in high wind being the other outer. While I like the taste of others' lips, I do not enjoy the taste of my own at all.

#3 - I've existed for approximately two weeks without seeing one hill. Not even a mound. I get excited when there's a bend in the road now.

#4 - I am completely in awe of the fact that I seem to be the only female in the workers' camp that knows how to change a toilet roll. More on that later.

#5 - There are roughly three thousand pears in a 430kg plastic bin. An average picker will pick between four and five bins a day. Twelve to fifteen thousand pears per person, per day. Working on an orchard with around a hundred other pickers, this rate of production blows me away.

#6 - My inability to remember a towel when going to the shower block is a source of constant amazement.

#7 - The final wonder on the list is that tomorrow I will continue to put my body through another week of rough treatment, ignoring the rash on my forearm and plastering my feet with band-aids - all in the name of personal growth.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Stolen from Terroni

Where is your cell phone? Underneath my pillow. It functions as my alarm clock (with a couple of hits of the snooze button…)

Vehicle? Under a stand of trees, being neglected and shat on by galahs and magpies.

Hair? Sonic the Hedgehog revisited.

Father? Not a welcome part of my life any more.

Your favorite thing? Kisses, along the line of my neck near my collarbone. Particularly on the left side.

Dream last night? Pears, picking pears with sweat rolling into my eyes.

Favorite drink? Cold water in the hot sun.

Room you are in? Bulk accommodation on an orchard. The rooms are concrete cells with a door that has a solid lower half and mesh or the upper half. It’s like a stable without the straw.

Your ex? Which one? The scary anti-bi drag king? The verbally abusive drunk idiot? Or the boxassed homewrecking child of the devil?

You are? Bored. What do you do in the middle of nowhere in a stable cell in the rain?

What do you want to be in ten years? A human.

Who did you hang out with today? The person I talked to most was the slow-arse tractor driver – in an attempt to make friends so that he would look after me and make sure he moved my produce bin a little faster. Oh and the gang boss, because she likes me enough not to bother checking my work too closely.

What you're not? I’m not impressed with the rotting dead snake smell from the bins across the road from my stable room.

Muffins? It’s been a while, but alright.

One of your wish list items? A bedside table. Any sort of table.

Where is the ____? Bottle shop.

The last thing you did? Looked up weatherzone to see when the hell the rain was going to end.

What are you wearing? Bare feet and a jumper.

Your pet(s)? A couple of bull ants in the shower. They are there to greet me daily.

Your computer? Can’t live without it. I have a coathanger wireless connection – a complex little arrangement where I winch my wireless card into the air and jerk it a little higher every time the connection cuts out.

Your life? Expect nothing: Experience everything.

Your mood? Bored.

Missing? Being curled on my girl’s lounge, watching the must see DVDs with her beside me.

What are you thinking about right now? The flock of galahs I can see outside my stable door.

Your shoes? Caked in mud from the orchard. They were near new a week ago, but they’ll be stuffed in another month.

Your work? Hard, sweaty, lonely.

Your summer? 82% humidity, 34 degrees celcius. What do you reckon?

Your favorite color? It depends on the mood. I think I like most colours. Except peach. And stupid fluffy faffy washed out pastel pink. Oh and also light green.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

vs. Tree and Ladder combined...

---------------- Accident Report ----------------

Location: Big-arse orchard in the middle of nowhere

Parties involved: Vic, orchard ladder, pear tree and approximately 20kg of pears in the picking bag strapped to Vic's chest.

Description of events: Vic mounts second highest rung of ladder in attempt to get bitchy pear from top of tree.
Ladder makes a leisurely exit toward the right of the picker, Vic.
Vic extends arms toward branches to the left and right and attempts to coax the orchard ladder to stay upright for just a minute longer.
Ladder disagrees and makes for the ground.
Vic hangs by arms long enough to squeeze out two perfectly clear swear words - Shit! .... FUCK!
Vic realises the only way is down and loses her grip on the tree.
Picker Vic finishes the plummet on her back, surrounded by pears from the bag on her chest and quite a few that got raked down by her outstretched arms, contemplating adopting the raking as a new tree stripping technique because damn it got the fruit off quick
Vic was relatively unharmed by the incident, scratches but no bruises.

Conclusion: Vic wishes for gauntlets.