Saturday, January 24th 1987
I woke up later than planned and got the train out to Warwick Farm, Liverpool. I watched the fast moving traffic passing the “No Stopping” signs on the Hume highway and I started to think that trying to hitch to Canberra was not such a good idea after all. I walked a few hundred yards to try and get a better position, but I didn’t really hold out much hope of finding one. I stuck out my thumb anyway and, to my amazement, after just five minutes a brown car swerved towards me and stopped.
The driver was a dog trainer and he was taking his greyhound from Warwick to Moss Vale. Moss Vale meant turning off the Hume highway about a quarter of the way to Canberra, but I wasn’t bothered as this was just the start I needed. We chatted away about cricket and poor old “Forum Parade”, the dog, whose recent racing performance was not as good as it should have been.
An hour later I got out at Mittagong and left the trainer to head to Moss Vale. I stuck out my thumb again and five minutes later another car pulled up. The lady driver was accompanied by a mongrel dog in the front and she asked me to get in the back. I was quickly introduced to Bapu the dog. We got on well and Bapu spent a lot of the time licking me. The lady herself was a yoga teacher from Coogee in Sydney. She explained she was off to Canberra. She explained she was originally from Switzerland, had visited London and actually picked up a lot of hitchhikers. She told me about how she had saved the life of an injured Kangaroo once too.
The time flew by and we passed the famous large ram sign at Goulbourn, turned past the mysterious Lake George and sped on towards Canberra. At 12:30, just 4 hours after leaving Town Hall Station in Sydney, I was standing in the tourist information office on Northbourne Avenue. I had arrived in Australian Capital Territory.
I walked into “Civic”, the centre of Canberra. The whole city was well planned and spacious. I found a pizza parlour and ordered a pizza. It was burnt and soggy. Whilst I was flicking through the guide book wondering what to do with the rest of the day, I noticed that there was a warning in there to avoid the very pizza parlour I was sitting in as it was particularly terrible.
I went on a long hike around the town and ended up at the Australian War Memorial complex. It was interesting and it charted Australia’s involvement in Gallipoli, Vietnam and, of course, World War 2. There was a Spitfire and a Lancaster bomber on display.
On the way back I secured a bed at the Anslie Village Complex. I never worked out what the purpose of the place was, but I suspected it had been some kind of young offenders’ institution that had been converted to a kind of dole hostel. The rooms were certainly like cells and were housed in a couple of long barrack type buildings. The other residents were mostly Australians on the dole.
I left my stuff and went for an early evening walk back to Civic and to Lake Burley Griffin to see the Captain Cook Memorial Geyser at sunset. Back in town I had an enjoyable open salmon sandwich and a drink under the shade of some trees at a cafe.
I decided to spend my evening by going to see the Australian film “Dogs in Space” at the Electric Shadow cinema. They had tofu Ice cream and muesli bars for sale at the cinema but I declined the opportunity to try either of them. I bought a can of Coke instead and was astonished to find that it was still one of the tin ones that disappeared years ago from the UK. I thought that it was a little off that people in Canberra were progressive enough to be eating tofu ice cream but still drinking from nasty old tin cans.
The film was all about drugs and rock and roll in Melbourne. I found it interesting enough. It was quite a long show though and it was 11:30pm before it finished. I ran back to Anslie Village, climbed into bed in my cell / room and fell fast asleep.
Sunday, January 25th 1987
I woke up the next morning, showered and shaved and went out again. I got a picnic lunch from Coles consisting of skimmed milk, bread, cheese and fruit and ate it outside the old parliament building. The parliament was very much on the Westminster model and a Scottish lady showed me round the chambers and some of the committee rooms.
It was raining when I came out but that didn’t stop me going to inspect the site of new parliament under construction on Capital hill. I had a peep in at the museum on the history of Canberra at Regatta Point too before deciding I had seen enough. I caught a bus to the station and boarded the 5.05pm express train to Sydney; one of just two trains a day from the nation’s capital city to its largest city.
I had expected an XPT train, the Australian derivative of the British Inter City 125, but instead the “Canberra Monaro Express” was formed of an old diesel locomotive and a few ancient carriages. The train smelt musty and the seats were covered with seat covers of the sort you would find at your grandma’s house. It didn’t move very fast either. We took 5 hours to reach Sydney.
I bought a coffee from the steward in the antiquated buffet car. He told me that the XPT was a very nice train. I decided that I would just have to take his word for it. I settled back in my seat and was joined at Goulborn by a young lady on her way to the north of Sydney. She was a trainee accountant making a trip to Europe at the end of March. We chatted for a few hours about Australia, Europe and all the differences between the countries.
I got back to Sydney Central at 9:50pm. Back in Kings Cross I discovered that the hot water in the hostel was not working. This discovery was slightly mitigated by the fact that it was Australia Day the day after and I wouldn’t have to get up and shower for work.
Monday, January 26th 1987
Australia Day dawned and I spent the day on the beach at Bondi with Basil and Simon. I had my tarot cards read by a tarrot card reader who had installed herself in the pavilion on the beach. She looked at the cards and told me that I was undergoing a kind of change. Living in Australia would be a challenge. The UK would be “futile” and America “the devil. My romantic life would be particularly well starred.
What a load of rubbish I thought and regretted spending the money immediately.
The evening was spent back at the New Tai Yuen restaurant again.
Friday, January 30th 1987
The rest of the week passed in the normal routine. I worked at Kodak during the day and spent the evenings at the hostel with Al, Mike and John or around “Braemar” watching TV.
On Friday evening after work I went to Visionhire at Bondi Junction and gave them a $2,500 cheque as a deposit for the loan of a National Panasonic A2 Video Camera. In the excitement of getting the deposit they actually forgot to charge me the S100 rental fee.
I had rented the camera for one week and I had done a deal with John and Al on the charges. They had agreed to film me over the weekend and in the evenings. For $30, I had agreed that they could borrow the camera during the weekdays to make their own film whilst I was at work.
Saturday, January 31st 1987
In case you have the wrong idea, I should stress that the film I intended to make was just a bit of an explanation of Sydney aimed at showing the folks back home what was going on.
We spent the day touring the city with me standing in front of the sights explaining things. People added little monologues with their impressions of life down under. It was a little daunting at first as passersby would stop and try to listen, but I got used to it.
Our biggest challenge was actually keeping the batteries on the camera charged. We would be forever nipping into pubs and back to the hostel to keep them topped up.
Sunday, February 1st 1987
On Sunday we continued to film. This time we concentrated on Watson’s Bay and on Bondi Beach. We were extra careful on the beach as I was mindful of the $2500 cheque. I was paranoid about sand getting in the camera.
In the evening we went round to Braemar and watched the interim results on the TV there. I was quite impressed although I realised that I had developed a bit of an Australian accent. I collapsed on the sofa and fell fast asleep.
I went straight into work on Monday without going home.
Monday, February 2nd 1987
The lady from Visionhire called me at work and told me she had realised she had forgotten to charge me (Damn). I called in with the money on the way back and then spent the evening filming the next segment of the blockbuster – “Sydney at Night”.
Tuesday, February 3rd 1987
It must have been the pressure of filming and speaking on the camera because I woke up with a raging sore throat and other flu-like symptoms.
I called in sick and stayed in bed a full 24 hours whilst watching John and Al start making their own film.
Wednesday, February 4th 1987
I felt a little better and went into work but refused overtime.
I took the camera around to Braemar in the evening to tape Newsworld for Simon and again ended up spending the night on the sofa.
Thursday, February 5th 1987
I felt much better and went into work and did overtime too.
Again I took the camera around to Braemar and filmed some more scenes with the newest British resident there; Terry (he had replaced Jez). Terry had worked on local radio in the UK as a DJ and was trying to get some work on Australian radio.
I spent yet another night on the sofa.
Friday, February 6th 1987
I got the first train out of Bondi Junction back to Kings Cross to hand the camera back to John and Al. They would be finishing filming and then taking the Camera back to Visionhire for me.
They raved about the Hunters & Collectors gig they had been to the night before at Selina’s.
Work passed sleepily and slowly but when I got back to the hostel I was relieved to discover that John and Al had the cheque back from Visionhire.
I was not only an accomplished filmmaker, I was financially secure again.
Mike left the room and moved to Victoria. His bed was taken by a Swedish lad.
Saturday, February 7th 1987
I called round at Braemar in the afternoon and ended up in a long session of eating and drinking. We went first to the Wentworth pub and then to the French Restaurant nearby. It was all in aid of someone’s leaving party (John, Rob, Guy and Nigel) and I ended up once again on the Braemar sofa, only managing to sleep at 4am
Sunday, February 8th 1987
I stayed around Braemar for most of the day. We watched England win the one- day test on the TV and after watching the 4 lads depart at 4pm, we had chicken curry in the evening.
I finally returned to the hostel at Kings Cross. I felt I was paying for an empty bed, I was away from it so often.
Thursday, February 12th 1987
Work passed routinely from Monday to Thursday.
I finally got a leaving date at Kodak, we would be finishing at the end of March. I had mixed feelings. It was extra financial security, but it meant living at the hostel for another six weeks and I was itching to get out of Sydney and see more.
In the early evening I got a phone call from Simon. He had decided to leave on his trip a week early and was off the very next day. I rushed round to Braemar for the next in a long list of leaving parties.
Once again I ended up on the sofa.
Friday, February 13th 1987
I left the flat at 5am, caught the first bus to Bondi Junction and was at work by 6am.
I cut out of work early and went first to the Chilum Place ANZ bank to get some traveller’s cheques. Armed with $2,200 worth I queued at the Immigration Department for a form to fill out to extend the visa for 6 months. I lied on the bit where it said “Are you working at the moment?” as I had heard stories that it made it easier.
I queued again and paid 35 dollars and I was told I could collect my renewed visa in a month’s time.
In the evening I went to the Rex for dinner with Al, John and a new girl called Liz.
Al and John were celebrating getting work with Drakes at National Panasonic.
Liz was an English nurse from Hastings who had just moved into the Backpackers. She was working nights at the local St. Mark’s Nursing home.
Saturday, February 14th 1987
I didn’t get a single card. Not even the tarot card woman bothered to send one.
I got the train to East Hills and back (on my own) just for a change of scenery.
I went back to the Rex in the evening and spent the evening drinking on my own.
Valentine’s Day ?
Sunday, February 15th 1987
I spent the morning browsing in the bookstores around Paddington and then the afternoon at Braemar trying to solve the mystery of who had sent Emma a Valentine’s card.
I returned to Kings Cross to hear rave reviews of the Eurythmics concert that Liz, Al and John had been to.
Monday, February 16th 1987
The Swedish lad moved out. Martin, a French Canadian who played the guitar, claimed the 4th bed in our room.
Wednesday, February 18th 1987
Liz began to annoy us a little. She would come round to our room and act all hyper when we were all tired. It was the perils of working nights I suppose.
I bought a $5 steak and took it round to Braemar to have on their BBQ. They were having yet another party for some reason or other. I only managed to eat half of it. It went down well with some terrific potato salad.
I caught the last train back to Kings Cross.
Thursday, February 19th 1987
I ended up watching the Young Ones on TV at the nursing home where Liz was working. It was an austere place but the TV room was empty and I sat there by myself watching whilst she worked her shift.
Friday, February 20th 1987
It was Alec, John and Victor’s last day at work. The manager made a nice speech and he laid on a party too. We all ended up in the pub and, after a few schooners, we piled into a taxi to go back to Alec’s flat in Paddington.
The Asian taxi driver either tried to rip us off on purpose or took a wrong turn by accident. What should have been an $8 ride turned into $10.60 on the meter. Alec decided he wasn’t paying. He shoved $8 into the driver’s hand and walked away. The driver shouted after us and Alec let rip with a piece of his mind.
Alec’s flat was spacious and clean. We listened to music and had refreshments. We finally crawled out of there by 8pm. I walked home via Dalinghurst road and a long detour and I finally made it back before midnight.
Saturday, February 21st 1987
I went out to buy a copy of the National Geographic so I could read the feature on the finding of the Titanic. Martin, Liz, John and Al had been looking for a flat, but so far had had no luck. This was disappointing as I was hoping that I could get out of the hostel for the last four weeks by possibly sharing sofas between their place and Braemar.
In the evening we stood outside an art gallery to watch the Gay Mardi Gras come past. It was a really colourful spectacle.
After watching the parade we went round to Alec’s for what was supposed to be his “leaving Sydney party” (for England). We found him half asleep in the chair and totally drunk. He wasn’t really in a fit state to host a party so most of the guests just left over the course of two hours or so.
I went back to Kings Cross and got a much earlier night than I had bargained for.
Sunday, February 22nd 1987
I spent the day sunbathing on Bondi Beach and then went round Braemar to watch TV in the evening.
Monday, February 23rd 1987
The atmosphere at work was a lot quieter without the trio of John, Alec and Victor to liven things up.
There was still a lot of work to be done though. I was put on the 6am shift and on “put away”. It meant an earlier start but even more money.
Tuesday, February 24th 1987
I started a new routine.
I would get up to the alarm clock at 5:15am and then quietly get out of bed so as not to disturb Al, Martin and John too much. I would reset the alarm for 6:30am for them just before I left the room. I would then creep out, dressed in T-shirt and shorts (my work clothes), into the dark morning streets. It was always a bit strange at that time because Kings Cross was only just going to sleep by then and a few people were still eating pizza and acting drunk from the night before.
I would get a copy of the Sydney Morning Herald at the station and then board the train for the short ride to Town Hall. I would wait outside Woolworths for the 5.54 Annandale bus. There were nearly always the same people on the bus. A couple of Kodak people, a night worker returning home and another bus driver on his own way to the depot to work. The bus picked its way through the inner western suburbs and deposited me outside Kodak for 6:10am.
I would say good morning to Maurice the security guard and then “bundy on” using the “bundying on machine”. I would always bundy on at 6:15am but somehow be paid from 6am. I would then have a coffee and a chat with the lads. Then at about 6:45am I would go to wake up the driver of the large articulated truck that had arrived overnight from the Melbourne factory. The truck was always sitting outside and I would guide him as he reversed it slowly into the loading bay.
It would then take me another half an hour to get all the pallets off the truck and into the holding area using the electric forklift. The truck would normally leave at about 7:30am and there would be another coffee break until 8am. I would then spend the rest of the day putting the items in their places in the warehouse.
I would work a full hour until 9am and then grab a bacon roll in the canteen for a half hour. Two more hours of work putting the stuff away was generally interrupted talking to Brad, Paul, Lucas, Ray, Wayne and Carl. Lunch in the canteen would be 11:30am until 12 noon. There would be an hour’s work until 1pm, a half hour coffee break and then a final hour’s work until 2:30pm.
2:30pm was the official finishing time but normally we would be told there was overtime available. Overtime until 5pm was paid at time and a half. We would work on till 2:50pm. There would be another 30 minute break followed by a further relatively long stint of work from 3:20pm to 5pm.
After 5pm it was paid on double time. At 5pm I would nip out to the vegetarian shop across the road for a nutmeat and salad sandwich and a goat’s milk yoghurt. I would be back at work at 5:30pm for another longish stint until 7:10pm. The last twenty minutes were just winding down and chatting before bundying off at 7:30pm.
I would then either get the bus or, more often, run to Town Hall (My best time was just 24 minutes) and then jump on the train back to Kings Cross. I was usually back for 8:30pm.
Thursday, February 26th 1987
After two 14 hour work days I was feeling pretty “rooted”. I wasn’t up to doing much in the evening. The money that was piling in was nice to think about though.
Victor came round in the evening sporting a new crew cut hairstyle. We went back to his bed sit. It was nice enough, but full of cats. We had a couple of glasses of wine and he made me a present of an old worn out kettle which would come in handy back at the hostel.
Friday, February 27th 1987
I worked just a “half day” of work 6am to 2:30pm. I came home to find that Al and John were out but they had taped my clothes and shoes to the ceiling.
When they came back we went out for the normal Friday night fun at the Rex.