A Variety of Jobs

Tuesday, 7th October 1986 

I put the last bits of cheese and tomato into the warm buns and had my last ever lunch break at 1am.

I left the bakery at 6am with a smile on my face and found it very pleasurable to know I was getting the train back from Warwick Farm for the last time.

I got home.

Declan had also started temping for Drakes, so we both rang Bronwyn at 10am for work the next day.  She told us both to ring back at 4pm.

I knew I didn’t need to go to bed as I wouldn’t be working the night after, so I went furniture hunting instead with Declan.

We bought a cheap stereo and ordered a TV from Radio Rentals. We got some pots and pans from the Charing Cross SVP but as they hadn’t a fridge they gave us a number for a chap called Peter who was a specialist in degassed second hand fridges. We rang Peter but he was out.

At 4pm we rang Bronwyn and got some good news.  We had both been allocated to the same job. We were to be unloading shipping containers at Amway in Castlehill. It was for 10 days and it started the next day at 7:30am.  We needed to get to Paramatta railway station.  It was not exactly local, but we both accepted it nonetheless.

We had an early night.


Wednesday, 8th October 1986 

I just managed to wake Declan at 5am.  We skipped breakfast and wiped a flannel across our faces, ran out and just made the 5:35am from Bondi Junction.  We changed at Town Hall and then both fell asleep until Auburn, waking just in time for Paramatta.  We had a 40 minute wait for the private 601 bus and then a 30 minute ride to the very northernmost of the suburbs of Sydney.  The bus deposited us outside Amway at 7:20am.  Two hours door to door !

We had just enough time for a cup of coffee before we went inside the warehouse.  Amway was, we soon learnt, an American corporation that specialised in the delivery of household items to the remotest areas of Australia.  The Castlehill complex consisted of a very large warehouse with very high shelves. There was a large unloading bay, which we were now allocated to, serviced by 4 or 5 yellow fork lift trucks of all shapes and sizes.

We soon got to work. Our job was unloading a large container of soap powder boxes.  The container had arrived from Michigan via Los Angeles.  We had to reach into the container and carry the boxes one by one and then stack them on a pallet for the fork lift to pick up.

Our supervisor was Rick, an Australian in his thirties, and we were assisted by Ken, a scouser in his twenties, and Scott who was a local. Scott was only 18 but he had a car.  He suggested that in future we take the train on to Blackton and he would pick us up there every day in his car.  This would eradicate the bus journey and save us time. We readily accepted it.  He told us to wait at the hot dog stand outside the station at 7am.

The whole atmosphere was relaxed and friendly and although the work was strenuous, we chatted and joked as we built walls of soap boxes on the pallets.  The canteen was good and cheap too.

We went back to Paramatta on the bus and caught a fast train back. We were home in Bondi by 6pm.

Josie, Amanda, Heather and Jez came round.  They were talking with Declan and Simon in the sitting room and I was trying to sleep. I realised the walls in the place were paper thin.  I gave up trying in the end and joined them for wine, wine and more wine until 3am.


Thursday, 9th October 1986 

After just two hours sleep I woke again and went to wake the still drunken Declan.  We managed, with some difficulty, to get down to the station and board the train.  We slept almost the whole way to Blackton and then waited for Scott at the hot dog stand from 7am.

Scott didn’t turn up and so we waited a bit longer. We waited until 7:25 and then caught the 7:30 train back to Paramatta.  We eventually arrived at Amway at 9am, a full 90 minutes late.  They told us Scott had thrown a sickie and had decided not to come in.

We made it through the day, goodness knows how, and we did a half hour of overtime to make up for our late arrival.

We perked up enough to stay awake on the train home and then watch an Australian thriller series on the newly delivered TV.

I went to bed at 10pm with the prospect of a better start to Friday.


Friday, 10th October 1986

My eyes opened to the horrific sight of the alarm clock saying 5:40.  I grabbed Declan and we literally ran to the station without stopping and onto the 5:47 train.  We slept again on the train but made it through the day no problem.  It was a bit of a slow day and we only managed to unload one container.

We left 10 minutes early and caught an early train to the centre intending to get to Drakes to pick up our cheques.  Sadly the train slowed around Lidcombe and we saw ambulances and bystanders next to the line.  A little boy had fallen from one of open doors of the trains.  We trundled past slowly and witnessed the ambulance man putting his blood stained little body on a stretcher.

In a sombre mood we collected our money from Drakes and had a couple of cans of Fosters.

We met Amanda and Mark at the hostel and went for possibly the worst ever Hare Krishna meal.  The hostel looked a bit cold and empty without all the familiar faces.

When we got back, we found Jez, Helen and Josie already with Simon.  Helen went back when she found out the purpose of the evening, but the rest stayed to until about midnight.  Pizza was delivered about half way through.



Saturday, 11th October 1986

I woke up at 10am to the sound of the landlord banging on the door shouting through the letter box.  I thought that the others were all still in the house. I just froze in bed.  I then heard Declan opening the door, exchanging pleasantries and handing over the rent.

I fell back to sleep after that and eventually came to around 11am.  I woke Declan and we went down to the supermarket to shop for groceries.  We got fruit, pasta, bread and then we had lunch of pizza and Pepsi in the Bondi Junction Plaza.  We had to be careful what we were buying because we had still had no contact with Peter and therefore no fridge.

When we got back to the house Josie was there. She was excited and told us that she and a few others had been accepted for a flat nearby.  The flat was situated between Bondi Junction and Bondi Beach and was in a block called Braemar.  The group they had got together was Irish Sean, Kiwi Mark, Guy, Helen, and Josie. This meant they would all be within 15 minutes walk of us, the beach and the station.

We followed Josie back to Braemar and we had a look around their new flat.  We had to admit that it was nicer than ours.  It was on the second floor of a three-floor block of flats.  It was  bright, airy and it was furnished.  There were three bedrooms  accommodating all six of them.

On the way back out we noticed an old fridge outside.  We asked their landlord if we could buy it.  He quickly sold it to us for $120.  We carried it home between us.

Amanda and Heather came around at about 6pm. We were intending to go to the Rex and then on somewhere afterwards. We had a few cases of wine between us and a few glasses of Fosters.

We went on to the Propaganda night club in Kings Cross.  I didn’t remember much except being very tired.  We came out of the Propaganda slightly disappointed and in no hurry to revisit it.

We made a few cheap calls to Britain using a trick we called “the 10c system”.  Many, not all,  of the phone boxes accepted 10c coins as dollars.

At 3:30am  Steve, Helen, Guy and I taxied home. Nigel and Amanda went off alone and Declan also strayed.


Sunday, 12th October 1986

I woke up at 11:30am to find Victor back from the Blue Mountains. He was slightly disappointed that it had been a flower festival and not the music festival he thought he had been going to.

We learned of Declan’s adventures with a stray girl the night before and joked with him that he had probably caught something.

Josie and Helen walked over from their new place and we all trained it into Kings Cross for the carnival there. It was an interesting affair taking place in a closed off Darlinghurst Road. There were lots of stalls and it was very crowded. We managed to lose each other a few times.

There was a neat concert stage with little children dancing to “God Bless Australia” tunes.  Clutching my free Hare Krishna books on reincarnation and vegetarianism I went over to the Rex for a steak sandwich with extra salad.  We walked back afterwards via a different collection of stalls and Declan bought a Tee Shirt.

I went back to the house by myself and sat listening to a new Chris De Burgh tape – Into the Light.

In the evening we started a new Sunday night tradition of watching the film on Channel Ten together. The first one was Police Academy.


Monday, 13th October 1986

We went back to Amway. We got there on time and worked a full day. At the end of the day we were told they didn’t need us any more.

We phoned Bronwyn for more work on Tuesday. Declan got National Panasonic and I got Johnson’s Wax.


Tuesday, 14th October 1986 

I spent the day on the production line at Johnson’s wax screwing the tops onto plastic bottles of “Charge” “Goddard’s Silver Polish” and “Hand Cleanser”


Wednesday, 15th October 1986 

I was at Johnson’s wax again.

Johnson’s wax was easier to get to than Amway.  It meant a change of train at Wynard but that meant I could get a nice sausage roll for breakfast from the little cafe they had there.

The canteen at Johnson’s was good too.

It was supposed to be a bus from Ataumaron station, but one of my work mates Joe, a large Fijian, gave me a lift in his Toyota to and from the station. He had a newborn baby and he was being kept awake at nights.

For some reason a lot of the staff at Johnson’s were oriental. They were Chinese and Malaysian’s mainly.  They were all nice guys.


Thursday, 16th October 1986

I spent a third and final day at Johnson’s wax.

I was told that the person I had been covering for would be back on Friday, so I would not be needed.

At 3pm I phoned Bronwyn to ask if there was any work for Friday. There wasn’t she said, but she had an assignment of 4 hours that very evening. It was unloading a container and it was nearby off Falcon Street at unit 6-9 Castleray Avenue.  I snapped it up.

Joe was kind enough to drive me over there when we had finished on the line at 3:20pm.  He dropped me at the end of Castleray avenue at 4pm and I walked up to unit 6-9 expecting to find a warehouse or a small industrial unit.

It was just a private house.

I double checked the address Bronwyn had given me before ringing the door bell.

A Japanese lady answered.  She didn’t speak much English but she seemed to know who I was and invited me in.  She offered me green tea and served it with a mix of Australian biscuits and Japanese sweets.  In the meantime she made calls to her husband, who I had worked out was the director of a large Japanese corporation in Australia.  I mentioned to her I was interested in visiting Japan one day and she gave me her father’s address in Tokyo.

Using her phone I called Drakes back and they clarified the whole thing. There was a container full of furniture on its way to us. It was stuck in traffic.  Lloyd, another temp who had only arrived on British Airways the day before, was on his way in the van too.  I was needed because the truck driver had refused to unload and was only driving.

At 6pm, after an almost 2 hour wait, Lloyd and the truck driver, Ken, arrived.  It took the two of us 35 minutes to unload the furniture and place it in the house where the lady instructed us. Ken sat out in the van reading the paper.   When it was all done the Japanese lady thanked me and bowed. I bowed in return.

Ken, who was not a bad chap, offered me a lift back over the Harbour Bridge.  We stopped off at an address in the Rocks to drop off the crates and eventually got back to Martin Place.  I got the train back.

When I got back Simon had a message from Bronwyn for me;  I was going to be working at Colgate Palmolive the next day.


Friday, 17th October 1986

I had to get out of bed at 4:30am the next morning to get the 4:48am train.  It was a bit of a ride out to Clyde in the western suburbs.  The Colgate Palmolive factory was an early start at 6am.

There were 4 of us from Drakes. There were two Australians, Brian and Adam, and another English guy Dominic. We were divided into two teams of two and assigned to loading large boxes of full of packets of “Fab 2” washing powder into the back of lorries.

Brian had been taking amphetamines all night so he and Dominic paired up and worked a bit faster than Adam and myself.  The job was pretty dexterous and the cases of washing powder were pretty heavy.  Nevertheless, we worked hard and the four of us filled nine trucks in seven and a half hours.

As we were leaving we were approached by the union rep and asked to pay 5 dollars to join the union.  We paid up and we were then informed that our pay had now risen from $9:25 to the union rate of $11:40.  He also mentioned that as we had worked unsociably early from 6am until 7am we would get double time for that hour too.

There were a few nice characters at Colgate too.  There was Mick; a vastly overweight truck driver and Nessa; a lovely little woman in the canteen who cooked us chips and salad at half time.

I was out of there by 2pm and got the train into Sydney.  I went to the bookshop and got myself a book on “How to Teach yourself Japanese”  and then went over to the Japanese cultural centre at Wynard.  I started to think of how I could get to visit Japan.

Finally I called in at Drakes where I had a few cans of Friday evening beer. I was told there was no work as yet for Monday.

I was already a little bit dizzy when I walked out of Martin Place with Declan.  We went home to change and then caught a taxi to the Rex.  We had more drinks in the Rex and then home to the Cock and Bull with Simon, three girls and a Japanese lad who we had seemed to have picked up at Kings Cross Station.

We went home and started to prepare our house to host a party for Amanda’s leaving do. Most people didn’t turn up until later, so I ended up talking for an hour or so about Japan to our new stray friend.  When Amanda finally turned up we decided to abandon our house and go instead to Annabellas Discoteque.

We danced for about 4 hours. I was nearly dropping.  I eventually left staggering home just a little bit on the drunk side.


Saturday, 18th October 1986

The next thing I knew it was 1pm and I was being woken by Josie and Hannah and being invited to the airport to see Amanda off.   Victor went out. Then Simon and a beetroot-faced Declan walked in.  They had fallen asleep on the beach.

Still feeling hung over, at 2pm we taxied over to the airport with, as if to rub it in, a teetotal taxi driver who told us he had previously been an alcoholic.

Amanda was sitting in the middle of the departure lounge with about 10 of her friends. They spent about 3 hours talking. I spent the last hour or so feeling sick and throwing up a mixture of lucozade and milk in the airport toilets.

I was revived enough to receive my farewell kiss from  Amanda as she boarded the 4:30pm Olympic Airways flight to Athens at Gate 2.

I fell asleep at 6pm when we got home and woke only for an hour at 10pm.


Sunday, 19th October 1986

I woke at 10am having slept for more than 15 hours.

We painted our wardrobe white to give us something to do.

I did my washing.

Hannah came around with her Australian friends

Sally came round with some tickets for the opera house for Wednesday


Monday, 20th October 1986

I made a couple of fruitless phone calls to Drakes but didn’t manage to secure anything.

I did a bit of shopping up the Junction plaza. I managed to buy a cucumber instead of the intended courgette.

I watched American Werewolf in London in the evening but fell asleep to it.



Tuesday, 21st October 1986

I rang in again in the morning, but there was still no work at Drakes.

I went shopping again and had delicious pizza breads from the Baker’s Oven at Eastgate.

I rang Drakes at 4pm and found out that I had got work for the next day in a seat factory

I spent the rest of the afternoon sunbathing in the garden in the back garden.  I was totally alone except perhaps for the odd funnel web spider that was lurking in the bushes.   I had 2Day FM blaring out on the stereo to try to scare them off.

A friend of Hannah’s came round with some stuff for  Simon. Unfortunately he gave us information about himself that we really didn’t want to have.  He boasted to us that his “hobby” was stealing jewellery from rich houses in suburban Sydney.  He produced a necklace he had stolen and then showed us a bag with 3,000 dollars in 50 dollar notes in it.

He left us all a bit shook up and we debated what to do. We decided we certainly didn’t want him back around the house again.


Wednesday, 22nd October 1986

I left home before 7am and caught the train back out to  Atarmoran station and walked up Clarkson Road to Speedy Seats.  I was carrying a paper cup of coffee in one hand and a sausage roll in the other.

Speedy Seats turned out to be smaller than I had expected. In fact it was much smaller.  It wasn’t much bigger than a large shop.  It was basically just a long workshop. I walked in through the open roller shutter door and met the owners,  Ivan and Tony.

They were making specialist car seats for rally cars and such like.  There were 4 people working there in total.  Dave was welding the car seat frames together and Tony was finishing them off and packing them. Ivan was helping the process but he was also selling the seats and got called to the phone a lot.

Jessie, who was the butt of the other three’s “dumb Shelia” comments, was the secretary and accounting specialist. She also did all the “Shelia” jobs like making the tea.

I was just thinking how untidy the whole place was when Ivan said “you are probably thinking this place is untidy”.  I nodded.  “Your job is to tidy up and throw out all the bits we don’t need” he explained.  I set to work immediately, but it soon became apparent that they didn’t want to throw anything out.  I got used to cries of “not that”, “leave that alone”, “we need to keep that”.  In the end I just swept the floor a few times and moved a few boxes so they could move around.  They were happy with that.

They were lovely people to be with but it was clear they had no real work for me to do.  I made the coffee and went to collect the lunch from the take away around the corner.  The order was prawn toasts and hamburgers for everyone but no beetroot on the burger for Jessie.  The food from the little cafe around the corner was actually quite delicious.

In the afternoon they taught me to drill and fix one of the seats together and then they had me pack another seat into its box.  I must have done about an hour’s work the whole afternoon.   I was totally taken aback when they said they would need me again the next day.

I went home, washed and showered and then caught the train back to Circular Quay and walked down to the Opera House, one of the icons of Sydney.  I waited outside the box office for first Declan,  then Sally and finally Josie to turn up.  Josie made it just 8 minutes before the last call for the performance.  We made our way into the beautiful auditorium. We were in the cheapest seats. They were a little hard, but we had a good view.

Despite Josie’s initial loud cry of “oh no it is not in f***ing Italian is it?”, The Marriage of Figaro was much easier to understand than I had imagined it would be. I enjoyed the whole thing. It was 4 hours long and we broke twice; once for ice cream and once for Fosters.

As we made our way back to Martin Place for the journey home, we all agreed that we should see more opera.  I am sure that none of us actually thought we would though.


Thursday, 23rd October 1986

I worked all day again at Speedy Seats.  I swept up again, made the coffee, went for lunch and chatted to the four of them.  They managed to produce about 4 seats all day.  I was amazed when they said come back again in the morning.

I stayed in watching the TV in the evening.

 Friday, 24th October 1986

I turned up at Speedy Seats and found they did even less work on a Friday than the other days.  In fact I must have been one of the hardest working employees, sweeping up three or four times, getting lunch and boiling the kettle.  They managed to produce two whole seats all day.   It was clearly mad. I wasn’t at all surprised when they said “See you Monday!”

In the evening it was Sally’s leaving do. For some reason, Declan and Simon opted to stay in and watch the Great Escape on the TV.  I suspected they were up to something more than watching the TV but didn’t ask.

I made my way back to Kings Cross and to the “Down Under” hostel where we met up with everyone else.   There was Sally, of course, Victor, Stephen 1, Jill, Stephen 2, Sean the Irish guy who was living in Braemar, plus two Australians, Ian and Jane.  We headed off to Chinatown and we found a restaurant there called New Tai Yuen.

The food was fabulous. We confused the waiter with our orders but we assured him of a decent gratuity.  After the meal we adjourned to the nearby Covent Garden pub.  The main discussion topic was the merits of Australia, the good points and bad points and Australia versus the UK.

Jane didn’t defend the home side too much but Ian was quite vocal and he kept shouting at all of us, and telling us that Britain, or “pommieland”, as he put it, was going down the drain fast.

I didn’t drink too much for once and on the train back I spoke a lot to Sean who had a job at a department Store in the wine department.  He had travelled extensively and I asked him about his route through Cairo, Kenya, India and finally South East Asia.


Saturday, 25th October 1986

Saturday began without a hangover for a change and I took myself on a shopping trip to buy the ingredients for a Vegetarian Lasagna.

Josie visited in the afternoon.

In the afternoon I achieved what I had wanted to do for a long time, start running again.  I set off around the beautiful Centennial Park.

After Declan and Simon had returned from playing squash, we went with Hannah and Josie to another Chinese restaurant at Bondi Junction.   It was nowhere near as nice as the previous night but the chicken and black bean sauce I ordered was very good. Hannah made a pretty childish scene taking the chicken to the toilet to try to wash the honey off.  She had not expected honey on the chicken so this was her little protest.

We hit the Cock and Bull and had a few drinks there before going to a house party at a Swedish girl’s place.  I left Declan there talking to a Swede and returned home and to bed.


Sunday, 26th October 1986

We found a new corner shop. We already had one corner shop; there was a Chinese-run grocery store on the next corner down our street.  But by turning once and then going down a block we found another shop. The bread prices were cheaper and the produce looked fresher.  In the morning they sold Newspapers and lovely croissants in two flavours;  almond and chocolate.

I had another run and made a  vegetarian lasagna.  I decided to give up meat for a while.

Victor’s friend Simon visited us in the evening and the three of us had just started to watch the film “Partner’s in Crime” when Declan and Simon ran in with news that there was a fire at the Dennison Hotel.

We all ran down to have a look. There were two or three fire engines there, but we couldn’t see any flames or smoke.   It turned out it was a false alarm down to fumigation.  The fireman we talked to didn’t seem to be bothered but the word was that the caretaker had fumigated illegally.


Monday, 27th October 1986

I went back to Speedy Seats and was employed doing much the same tasks as the previous week. I was surprised when Ivan talked to me after lunch and told me I wasn’t needed the next day.  He explained that they didn’t really have enough work for me.  I thanked him for his honesty and went to call Bronwyn.  She didn’t have anything for Tuesday either.

I watched Sons and Daughters and the Long Good Friday on the TV.

It rained heavily in the night and the bathroom roof leaked.


Tuesday, 28th October 1986

It was still grey when I got up at 9am. It started raining again and was wet all day.

I was home alone.  Declan had a job in a newspaper printing works, Steve was out working and Victor, although he complained he wasn’t getting enough hours, was working a lot at the hotel.

I phoned for work but there was none. Bronwyn told me that Drakes were having a quiet time at the moment.


Wednesday, 29th to Friday, 31st October 1986

I phoned twice a day for the next three days but there was nothing.

I spent the days walking around Sydney on foot and dining at Hare Krishna’s on the way home.

I spent the evenings watching films on TV.


Saturday, 1st November 1986 

I spent a quiet Saturday at home.  It was the first for a long time and it was definitely a side effect of the work drying up.

Simon bought a little model of the harbour bridge from a tourist shop and made it up.

He stuck it on the top of the TV to amuse us.  It annoyed me.

I started to lose a bit of confidence in myself and I began to wonder if what I was doing in Australia was really for the best or even what I wanted.


Sunday, 2nd November 1986

We went to see the 10 year old British film A Clockwork Orange. It meant a half hour trek through the back streets of Glebe to the tiny Valhala Cinema.

Glebe seemed to be “little Britain” with a lot of British pubs and milk bars.  The cinema audience seemed to be mostly British too.   The film was worth the effort getting there  and we all thought it was terrific.  We caught the last train home at midnight.


Monday, 3rd November 1986

I called Bronwyn and she told me there was a job unloading a container in the centre of the city.

As often happened with Bronwyn  she had the wrong end of the stick.

I went to the address in the centre and arrived at 9:30am to find it was actually a removal company called Farrel & O’Riley.

I was assigned to help two permanent employees Steve and John.  They were both in their early thirties and were the usual easy-going Aussie workers. Another younger Australian, Glenn, from Drakes turned up too so we were a team of four.

The job was helping to move a company called Thermagrade from their old office in Edgecliff to a new location in North Sydney. Thermagrade were a very posh company who specialised in Kitchen Equipment.

The offices they were moving from were small, only about 4 rooms, but very stylish. The offices they were moving to were slightly larger but even more stylish. The old offices were on the first floor but the new ones were on the ground floor.

The managing director of Thermagrade was in his fifties and we met him first in the old offices. Before he disappeared to help unpack the stuff at  the new office he told us to be extra careful with the mahogany desk in his office as it was worth well over 2,000 dollars.

We spent most of the day clearing out the three rooms, carrying the furniture down the narrow stairwell and loading it in the van before making the 30 minute trip across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the other office.


By 4pm we had made two round trips and had almost loaded up for the final one.  We planned it so that the mahogany desk would be the last item loaded. We left enough space for it in the van and Steve and John went up to get it whilst Glenn and I waited at the bottom of the stairwell.  As they came down the stairwell we heard a loud crunch followed by laughter.  They had misjudged the corner and taken a large chunk out of it on the metal work of the stairs.

When we got to the new office the Managing director was still waiting there.  Glenn and Steve carried the desk in and he noticed the damage immediately. He went ballistic at Glenn and Steve. They both stayed silent.   Eventually Steve did point out that Glenn was not to blame but the MD wasn’t having it and just yelled obscenities at poor old Glenn.  Glenn was raving mad at Steve and John and phoned Drakes to complain.

In the end it calmed down enough for us to leave. We got out of there about 5:30pm leaving the poor old MD looking at the chunk taken out of his desk.

I celebrated my first day of work in a week with another free meal at Hare Krisna’s.  My seventh day as a vegetarian.



Tuesday, 4th November 1986

Declan had been offered the night shift at Buttercup Buns and he was just returning when I left the house at 9:30am to go to the phone box.

I phoned Bronwyn.  She didn’t mention the desk incident but she told me there was no work for the day.

In the afternoon I went to see the Australian film “Malcolm”.  It had won 8 AFTA awards. I wasn’t sure it deserved them. It was the story of an autistic boy helping to rob a bank.

It was Melbourne Cup day. The whole of Australia stopped to watch the race apparently. I missed it as I was walking round the Rocks recovering from the cinema.  I had a lovely walk around the shoreline in the beautiful sunshine.

I went back to Drakes at 3:30pm and Bronwyn offered me a job in Chatswood loading Gyprock. She warned me that it would be tough and laborious work. She smiled and said she wondered whether a “pom” would really be up to it.

I went home and caught the last of the evening sun sitting out in the back garden with the radio on 2day FM again.


Wednesday, 5th November 1986

I got off the train at Chatswood as directed and was at the address Bronwyn had given me on time at 7:30am.  It was a concrete tower office block about 6 floors high.   I had been  told to take the lift to the third floor, but I found the lift wasn’t working at all.  I eventually found a fire escape around the back and made it up that way.  There were two builders working on the third floor.  A Scottish guy was in charge and his Aussie mate was helping.

They told me that the lift wasn’t switched on until 8am, not to worry and then introduced me to Wayne, a twenty something Aussie from Drakes.  The two builders were using Gyprock to create new partition walls on the 3rd floor to make a new office layout.   Just near the entrance way outside were 67 large sheets of Gyprock.   I was to work with Wayne and our job was to carry the sheets up the stairs two at a time.

It was hard work but it wasn’t quite as bad as I had expected.  By 8:40am we had done three trips and carried up 6 sheets.  We were just about to lift the next two sheets when Wayne suddenly said something to the tune of “f**k this for a game of soldiers, I am going to throw a sickie”.  He marched off into the lobby and using the receptionist’s phone he called Bronwyn and told her his back “was suddenly crook” .  He handed me the phone and marched out.

Bronwyn didn’t sound too pleased, but she told me to wait as she would send someone else. She didn’t laugh either when I mentioned that it might be a good idea to send someone who was British.


I broke the bad news to the two builders and then waited in the 4th floor canteen chatting to the lady there about her daughter in Europe and the Americas Cup Yacht Racing.  After about 50 minutes, I was told that another one of my countrymen had turned up.

James was from Cheltenham, he was 25 and had worked as a fitness instructor.  Together we lifted 2 sheets every fifteen minutes.  We had a break at lunch for some Victoria Bitter and then finished the whole job by 3:20pm.   We rang a delighted Bronwyn and she told us she had put us both on Collgate Palmolive at $11:40 for the next day.   She assured us that Wayne wouldn’t be helping us.

That night we heard the tragic news that Declan’s brother had been in a car crash back in Ireland. Bronwyn had sent a taxi to Buttercup Buns for him.  That was nice of her I thought


Thursday, 6th November 1986

It was back to a 6am start at Clyde. We were loading Fab2 into containers again.  There were four Drakes there.  James and I worked together and the other team was Lloyd (the British lad who helped unload the Japanese furniture) and an Australian called Brian who was in his thirties.  It was roasting hot outside and even hotter inside the containers.

We took Staminate Supplement and filled 11 containers, 3 of them 40 footers.   We clocked off at 1:30pm and Brain dropped us all at Redfern Station in his battered Toyota.

Lloyd and I called in at Drakes on the way back and Bronwyn gave us container unloading at Johnson’s Wax the next day.

 Friday, 7th November 1986

We turned up at 7am, by catching the 290 bus from Wynard and spent the day unloading boxes of 4 different flavours of C’est Ca deodorant that had been produced in New Zealand for the Aussie market.

We had an interesting conversation with a truck driver from Brisbane.  He told us that there were no tachographs, 24 hour shifts were common and he showed off the Kangaroo-killing “roo bars” that were bolted on the front.  He explained they were a necessity as a collision with a “roo” could really wreck a truck.

We clocked off at 2pm and called in at Drakes on the way back.

I spent Friday night with the guys at Braemar and then in the beer gardens on the top of the Wentworth pub.    Sitting on the roof with the beer, I remembered a conversation I had had earlier on at Drakes. I had mentioned to an Australian guy that I was getting a little fed up of the irregularity of the work.  I had worked at 3 different places in one week and it was getting me down.

He suggested that I call Kellogg’s or Kodak direct as both places often needed help.

In fact, Kodak were almost always looking, he said.

Map from diary