Alice Spring Rising

G’day from the desert ya great dingo! Well life on the road has now quite literally become life on the road as I have a new job, as a road construction worker. In the middle of the desert. With some Aboriginal guys. I said in Melbourne I wanted to head inland to see a bit of “real” Australia – I think I may have found what I was looking for.

First impressions of Alice Springs were negative to apocalyptic. This was because A) we were comparing it to the groovy metropolis of Melbourne and B) it was May Day Holiday when we arrived and everything was shut down. Everything. And there were tonnes of Aboriginal people sitting on the grass outside all the closed up shops like they were guarding them. Compared to the skinny jeans and mocha-lattes of the city, this was a bit of a contrast. The flight over the undulating and impossibly vast desert confirmed that if we wanted to leave, we’d have to fork out for another plane ticket. 7 months of forking out on the road meant that forking wasn’t an option anymore – we had to stay and we had to make money. One week later and it’s looking like a steady plan.

First up, Catriona landed a waitress job in an old Italian restaurant that appears to be a front for some kind of clichéd underworld activity, or that could just be her imagination. On her first shift she got talking to two Yorkshiremen (father and son) who run a road resurfacing company desperately understaffed. One frantic text to me, who was sat in the nearby cinema about to endure the new Avengers movie (which is TOTAL GARBAGE by the way. I think it was edited by a monkey with a hedge strimmer) and I was running out the screening to have an impromptu interview over a thin-crust Hawaiian. “Have you got any construction experience at all?” “Not really.” “Do you want to give it a go?” “Yes. I am skint.” (Although not skint enough to pay for the Avengers: Age of Ulcers) “Welcome aboard!”

Three shifts in and a welcome pay-rise later, I am officially a roadie, or a workie, or whatever you call it.

So far I have seen four snakes and my first attempt at driving the steam roller almost ended in a multiple homicide situation (of people, not snakes) but I am learning all manner of man-skills that have previously proved untenable. There are three indigenous guys I work alongside who provide daily doses of “well that’s bloggable” material. When they’re not regaling lustily over all the cars they nicked in Darwin they tell me the old Aboriginal tales about the nearby hills (which were giant caterpillars in a previous life, or the ‘Dream times’ as they call it). I was also informed of the traditional male rite of passage they conform to, which involves being circumcised with a sharp stone without any pain killers. If you don’t go through this ordeal, which sounds like something from ‘Saw’, you are not considered a man. I tried to explain that in Scotland, if you can burp on command and gob in the pub toilets you are considered a man. This fell on deaf ears.

So Alice Springs will be home for the next 3-4 months, a weird and increasingly wonderful wee place, with the red expanse of Tatooine/the outback on its doorstep and a small collection of quirky wee bars and cafes to salvage it from the sand. We have a room in a house belonging to a local maths teacher and we have a town that’s so filled with contradictions you could call it David “One Country” Cameron and pop it (or him) on the barbie. Mine’s a Coopers! Ya rippa! Et bloody cetera!