The end of the road is nigh! Alas, my time as a steam-rolling, gravel-shifting, hi-vis workie has come to an abrupt end as the bosses are unceremoniously, buggering off. They gave us a few day’s notice, which is truly impressive considering they ordered 21 tons of the wrong thing the other day, but it means I have to take another leap into the ever-bustling, never-sleeping Alice Springs job market! Woooh!
First up though, a re-cap of what has gone before. The Aboriginal guys who introduced me to Dreamtime and gang signs, all unceremoniously buggered off last week. They’d had enough of the bosses it seems, although when these same bosses had hired them it made local papers – “Indigenous lads come good” etc. So all a bit embarrassing in the end really. In their place, a wee French guy, who popped up in a jeep not too dissimilar to Gina at a campsite we were resurfacing, and asked for “un travail.” He became a lot better at the steamroller than me sadly, although my seniority meant I was allowed to drive it anyway, despite the wonky lines in the gravel.
There were a couple of recent hiccups. One involved the tar hose detaching from the lance, which when attached, sprays the tar evenly over areas ready to be gravelled. However, the detached hose violently sprayed tar very unevenly all over me and a nearby wall belonging to our client. Tar isn’t easy to remove from your skin (or your client’s wall). You have two options – Degreaser, which is meant for machinery and the burning of your skin tells you so, or baby oil, which is slightly less effective but far less blindly agonising. My shelf in the bathroom looks like I’m an infant mechanic. Another hiccup involved the night-time job we did resurfacing the local Alice Springs KFC car-park (no free zinger burgers unfortunately). I was asked to ensure the taps on the back of the truck that sprayed tar were all activated. I missed a couple. The truck then sprayed the whole car-park with two great chasms of nothing seared down the middle. To fix this was a hassle. The bosses, and the bloody cheeky French guy, let me know this repeatedly.
But I am now tar-free, and straight into the illustrious world of juice making! This new occupation involves forcing various bits of fruit into blenders and whisking them off to tables of alternative types in yoga pants and woven hats. It’s a bit of a contrast to the tar, but a welcome one to be sure! For one, there’s a lot less swearing and casual racism, and for two, my back doesn’t ache from shovelling stones for hours on end. It’s all power smoothies and super foods now! Another plus is that Catriona works at the same café, which means we get to see a bit more of each other, even if it is her pitying my attempts at carrying two beverages at the same time. Without the construction work, I lost the pick-up truck they lent me to get about town, so I purchased a bike. I’d bought and built one for Catriona a couple of weeks back, which was a mighty hassle, so asked K-Mart (the cheapest purveyor of flat-pack bikes in town) if they could assemble it for me. “Certainly Mr Thurlow, not a problem Mr Thurlow. Just pay $16.50 and pick it up next week.” Wonderful. So off I trotted today to collect my shiny new stallion. Within ten minutes of riding the thing towards home, both tyres were punctured and believe it or not, THE HANDLE BARS CAME OFF. They hadn’t so much as assembled it as gathered the bits together in close proximity to one another. I phoned up their customer service and asked them if they could repair the bike. “Inner tubes don’t come under the warranty Mr Thurlow.” “Well, maybe as a courtesy to me as THE HANDLE BARS CAME OFF, you could give me inner tubes free of charge when I pop in, by foot.” We’ll see. I’ll be there on Monday with my diplomatic hat on, and a detached hose filled with bubbling hot tar.
We’ve managed to see a bit of the surrounding countryside thankfully – Mount Gillen on my 30th birthday, which was spectacular and Ellery Creek, which is a cliff-flanked spring pool in the middle of the arid ‘Red Centre.’ Properly impressive. I went for a swim in it and would happily compare its temperature to Loch Ness in winter. A bunch of locals were egging me on as I waded in beyond the point of no return (the balls) and before I knew it I was under and losing my pulse rapidly. We are planning our next wee adventure to Uluru, which is the politically correct way to say Ayers Rock. Like Inuit for Eskimo, or ‘K-Mart bike technicians’ for ‘a shower of incompetent bastards.’ Off for a smoothie!