Saturday, 8th November 1986
It was a quiet Saturday.
Victor was at work. Simon and Declan were out. I made tuna fish casserole for dinner. I watched the “Ten Commandments” on TV.
Sunday, 9th November 1986
It was also a quiet Sunday.
I woke to the news that Australia had again beaten the “Poms” at rugby and everyone on the sports programmes thought that that was obviously splendid.
I went round to the corner shop and got a chocolate-covered croissant and a copy of the Sun Herald. The headline read “Aussie Men less potent” (apparently due to pollution). I smiled at the guy behind the counter and asked him he had stayed up to watch the rugby.
I went out by myself in the afternoon. I wandered around central Sydney, took some photographs of the bridge and other buildings before heading back to the bookshop in Kings Cross. I bought a copy of “Pictures of the Water Trade” – the story of an Englishman in Japan. To complete the Japanese experience I got a Japanese-style vegetable omelette from a shop near the station and quite enjoyed it.
I returned to the house and sat by myself. I tided the house a bit, mended the door and rearranged my mattress.
Declan and Simon returned from work (licking envelopes) and we watched the Return of the Poseiden adventure on Channel 10.
Victor came back at 11. Everyone was in bed by 12.
Monday, 10th November 1986
I called Drakes at 7:30am to see if there was any emergency work.
I got the phone directory and got the numbers for Kellogg’s and Kodak. I waited until 8am and then I called Kellogg’s. They had no work either.
I called Kodak straight after and was asked to come in at 11am for an interview to be a storeman. They said the job was casual and would last until Christmas. They gave me instructions on how to get there. It was in Annandale which meant a train to Stanmore and then a bus.
I arrived at 11am and I was interviewed by the warehouse manager. It wasn’t the best interview I have ever done. When he told me he was from New Zealand I told him I was surprised as I thought he had an English accent. He admitted to living in the UK for 5 miserable years. He told me he had hated the place and was obviously aghast when I said he sounded English.
I didn’t hold out much hope.
I went back home and phoned them at 3pm as instructed. Somehow I had got the job. It would be 12 dollars an hour and there would be overtime at higher rates occasionally. I was asked to start the next day.
I started thinking of complimentary things to say about New Zealand.
Tuesday, 11th November 1986
I was at Kodak by 8am.
I was quickly introduced to my work colleagues and to the job.
The colleagues were nice lads and all very convivial.
The work was basically packing the various orders that were being sent out to the customers all over New South Wales and Queensland.
The orders would arrive at my station in plastic bins on a conveyor belt accompanied by a despatch note with the address on it. The contents of the bins could be a single box of film or several items even including something large like a whole slide projector. I had to find a suitable box from the array of packaging I had behind me, pack the items and then fold the despatch note and put it into a transparent seal which I then stuck to the top of the box.
On Tuesday night I told Victor about the job and was surprised when he told me he would ring for an interview. I agreed to put in a good word with him.
Thursday, 13th November 1986
Victor came in for an interview at Kodak at 7am and was told in the evening he had got the job.
Friday, 14th November 1986
I found a better route to work; I would catch the train to Town Hall and get a bus from there to Kodak.
The work went quickly. They asked me to come in again on Saturday starting at 6:30am. Saturday would be paid at double time they explained. They also suggested that Saturday work may be a regular thing.
On the way back from Kodak I called in at Drakes to pick up my last pay cheque. I got a right telling off from Bronwyn and realised that I had neglected to tell her I was working at Kodak. She laughed it off in the end and wished me well. She really was a great person actually.
I got home to find that I had received a cheque from the UK for my £400 tax rebate.
With the new job at Kodak and now the UK cheque, I started to feel a lot more financially secure. It was also great not having to ring Drakes up every morning.
Declan had finished at the envelope licking job and had now been taken on full time at Hewlett Packard’s. Things were looking up for all of us.
I went out to look at the Japanese film festival in Paddington. There was a horrendous queue at the Cinema so I gave up.
I spotted a neat little Indian takeaway on the way back and promised to give it a go in the near future.
Saturday, 15th November 1986
I got up late and missed the train. I got to work 10 minutes late at 6:40am but it didn’t seem to matter too much.
Simon and I went to try the Indian take away I had found. It was expensive, the same price as the restaurant, but it was all good stuff and the Sri Lankan chicken was excellent.
Simon and I went to a party at Braemar again. I fell asleep on the sofa there watching music videos I woke up eventually and had KFC (For the first time since San Francisco) on the way home.
Sunday, 16th November 1986
A very rare quiet day spent at home.
Monday, 17th November 1986
Victor started at Kodak.
We now settled into a new routine each morning. We would get up and be out of the house by 6:45am, walk down to Bondi Junction and get the 7:10am train to Town Hall. We would wait for about ten minutes until the 468 bus turned up, we would flash our “Red Travel Pass” at the driver and get on. We would arrive at Kodak about twenty minutes later and be in work by 7:50am to clock on or “bundi in” as they said themselves.
Victor was assigned to help me on the packing. There hadn’t been an awful lot of packing anyway, but now with Victor helping we really found that we really had to make an effort to go slow enough to stop running out of work. People would come over and chat. There was also free coffee available in the staff room and we could go and get a cup whenever we liked. Those things together usually slowed us down sufficiently.
The coffee breaks were unbelievable. As well as the freedom to stop and go and get a coffee when you liked, there was an official coffee break between 10am and 10:30am. We would have lunch in the canteen or sit on the roof and sunbathe from 12:30pm to 1pm.
We would work again until 3pm when we officially finished. If we were working late we would instead have a 30 minute break at 3pm until 3:30pm and then work until 5pm. If we were working until 7:30pm there would be another break from 5pm until 5:30pm.
More often than not we would be working until 5pm and most nights it was until 7:30pm. Over time was paid at time and a half for the first two hours and then double time thereafter.
Overtime needed the manager’s official permission, but he never seemed to say no. The other guys used to boast about the “reasons” why we needed to do overtime: someone needed to buy a car, someone else was behind on a loan payment or someone was having an extension on their house. They were only half joking too.
I had never seen anything quite like this before. The shop steward who had organised all these breaks deserved the special order of Lenin or some kind of award like that. The manager had seemed fierce in the interview but it was clear he stopped short of upsetting the workforce and never came close to suggesting they should work just a little bit harder.
I set up another bank account at the ANZ to save the extra money and get higher interest.
Tuesday, 18th November 1986
Victor’s friend Andrew arrived fresh from tobacco picking in Canada.
We spent the night at the Grand getting drunk with Josie and some lads from Huddersfield, Ian and John, she had met. They were talking about plans for buying VW camper vans and stuff.
Thursday, 20th November 1986
Thursday night was drinking night at home.
This was probably not a good decision as it was a big stock take the day after at Kodak.
I ran down to the Cock and Bull for a large case of twist top Foster bottles.
Friday, 21st November 1986
I regretted my decision to get the extra Fosters bottles as I counted the Kodak stock with a headache and other effects of a hangover.
Saturday, 22nd November 1986
We all admired Steve’s new Ford Falcon. It was a 72 V6 that he had picked up for 1100 dollars.
I completed 5 aerogrammes ready to send home.
I sunbathed in the garden with Victor. I didn’t go with him when he went to see “At Close Range” at Hoyts cinema.
I continued my journey through Australian literature by buying a copy of the Patrick White book The Twyborn Affair.
Sunday, 23rd November 1986
I had my favourite breakfast of apples, coffee, branflakes and almond chocolate covered croissants from the store around the corner.
I spent most of the day sunbathing in the garden. It was certainly getting warmer as we approached December.
Declan and Simon returned from a weekend spent the weekend at Hannah’s.
Monday, 24th November 1986
The Pope visited Sydney for a day. He arrived for a whirlwind tour of the whole continent.
Maggie, Victor’s sister, arrived too. It was her birthday so we all went to an Indonesian BYO restaurant. We had fish in coconut sauce, hot vegetable puff and cold sago pudding in milk as a dessert. It was quite an agreeable time and we ended up afterwards at the Rex having a few schooners too.
I was chauffeured home by Pat and Basil (two Australian friends of Hannah’s) in their 3 litre Suzuki pick up. I rode in the back and got a very unusual view of Sydney facing backwards.
Tuesday, 25th November 1986
Maggie moved into Braemar.
Canadian Tim from the hostel returned from Queensland.
He was on his way back to Canada via Yuletide in New Zealand. We agreed to put him up on our sofa for a week
Wednesday, 26th November 1986
Although we had been in the house less than two months we were all getting fed up of the place. The biggest problem was the prevalence of fleas. The place was full of them and we just couldn’t seem to get rid of them. We were all getting bitten constantly. We were all covered in red spots.
In comparison with Josie and the people in the much nicer and cleaner flat at Braemar, it was clear we had got a bad deal.
We discussed it at length. Victor suggested that we try to move into the empty flat at Braemar next door to Josie’s.
We decided against it. Declan told us he had plans to leave for Perth with Josie in January. Simon was planning on leaving for Asia in February and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.
We did agree on something; we decided we would move out on January 3rd.
Meanwhile, the Pope hosted a youth rally at the Sydney Cricket ground.
Thursday, 27th November 1986
The boys from Huddersfield came around again with Josie and Hannah. They were in their new car. it was a Holden panel wagon. I can vouch for it not being able to start very well as I helped push it down the hill.
They all went drinking.
I went to bed early as I had some more overtime starting at 6am.
Friday, 28th November 1986
I returned late after working overtime.
Saturday, 29th November 1986
I worked overtime again and came home at 4pm and slept straight away in the afternoon until 10am on Sunday.
I woke up just once for 10 minutes to collect $25 from Tim for the “sofa”rent.
Sunday, 30th November 1986
The chocolate croissants had all gone so I was forced to purchase an almond one.
I went to Kings Cross to do the laundry. Victor and I had agreed to share the laundry over alternate weeks and it was my turn this week.
I sat in a wonderful pavement cafe called Geoffrey’s on Rosslyn Street in Kings Cross while the washing cycle was finishing.
I sat drinking my cappuccino whilst I watched two dog having a tantrum. There were also lots of tourists sunbathing and feeding the pigeons in the little park that separated the El Alemain fountain from the Ramada hotel.
Monday, 1st December 1986
We began another whole week of work.
Everyday was pretty much the same.
Friday, 5th December 1986
For once we finished early on a Friday and we had the afternoon free. We had the prospect of Saturday off too.
Saturday, 6th December 1986
I celebrated my Saturday off by visiting an Italian barber on Oxford St, Paddington and having a crew cut. It didn’t take him long to take a razor to my head and I felt a lot better afterwards walking around in the warm breeze.
I had finished the Twybourn Affair and went shopping for a new book. I found Bobbin Up; the story of Sydney in the 1960s by Dorothy Hewitt. It was shortly to be made into a film.
I then went down George Street and, on the spur of the moment, caught the hydrofoil to Manly. It got me there in no time at all.
Manly, a famous beach resort at the mouth of Sydney Harbour, was a place I had long wanted to visit.
I had a prawn sandwich and visited the aquarium. It was quite impressive and it included real man-eating sharks. I had a walk through the shopping mall and then to the beach. I sat there for an hour or so and then went back on the ferry to circular quay.
It was a sunny and enjoyable 4 hours. The ferry took just 30 minutes to get back. I got a hot chocolate and then went home on the bus.
In the evening Simon, Declan, Jez and I got drunk on Swan lager via a very unusual drinking game with dice.
I left the game for bed at 11pm.
Sunday, 7th December 1986
I woke at 10am and found that Victor had also been drinking and had been sick on his sleeping bag.
I went to buy a croissant but cancelled my breakfast until 5pm.
Monday, 8th December 1986
I got a funny reaction from everyone at work to the haircut.
There were now new people at work including 3 people from Drakes. Brad was a young Australian, “Storeman Norman” was a Geordie with 15 years in Australia (and was a veteran from the previous Christmas at Kodak) and Elliot was a working holiday maker from London with a politics degree from Manchester university.
The routine went on.
Pallets and packing by day and TV by night.
Auf Wiedersehen Pet on Monday, The Bill on Tuesday, Only fools and Horses on Wednesday and Remmington Steele on Thursday.
Thursday, 11th December 1986
We all went for a drink at the pub at lunchtime at Kodak for first time.
I sat in the lounge yet again watching the TV and thinking that all I seem to do is work and watch TV.
We already had a lot of Christmas cards displayed in the lounge.
I watched the report on the America’s Cup yacht race and then went to bed.
Friday, 12th December 1986
A full day of work and TV again in the evening.
Saturday, 13th December 1986–
Work finished as usual at 2:30pm.
Declan, Simon and I couldn’t find anything to do so we decided to play the dice game again in order to get drunk as fast as possible using Swan Lager and vodka orange chasers.
It took longer than I thought and we made an audio tape of ourselves whilst doing it.
Eventually after a lot of hard dice throwing we achieved what we had set out to do.
I collapsed onto the bed and was sick all over the blankets. Simon was sick into the banana tree and Declan was sick in the back yard.
I fell asleep.
Sunday, 14th December 1986–
I woke at 2am to find I had placed a large milk bottle of water, a tube of aspirins and some toothpaste next to my bed. I used all three at once and fell back to sleep.
Simon came in at 8am to remind us that today was the day Declan and I had reserved to go around and photograph life in Sydney with him.
It was a beautiful day weather-wise and if we hadn’t have had thick heads and fragile compositions it would have been a first-class experience.
Our first stop was Kings Cross at 12 noon. We killed two birds with one stone; we took the photographs we needed and we put up a notice about our vacant house in the hostel. The note said it would be available for rent from 3rd January.
We walked up William Street for a photo of the view looking back on King’s Cross and then on the spur of the moment we decided to visit the Australian Museum. It was quite a good decision. The collection of skeletons and old aboriginal artifacts went a long way to curing the hangover for some reason.
We emerged back into the sunlight to see a group of policemen on horses around the Captain Cook Memorial. We then got some nice shots of the Queen Victoria Building and then, a long held ambition, we went up to the top of the Centrepoint Tower. The three of us sat on the floor of the lift on the fast climb to the glass-enclosed observatory at the top.
There were lovely views of Sydney from the top and an interesting model of the new Darling Harbour Development as well.
We made the short walk to Circular Quay and then stopped again in Martin Place so that Declan could have a photograph of himself under the big Christmas tree.
We bought ice cream at Circular Quay and filmed a man playing the accordion nearby. We went for a short walk to the Opera House where we met Maggie and Victor who had been enjoying a Sunday afternoon concert and were just coming out.
Finally, we took a picture of a meat pie with a picture of an Australian flag in it.
In the evening Declan and I took ourselves off to see Elton John in concert. Elton was less of a spectacle than we had been lead to believe by the hype of the media, but admittedly Candle in the Wind was very good.
Monday, 15th December 1986
We worked late on Monday.
We played cricket down the aisles whilst the poor manager was trying to work out how to get all the orders completed before Christmas.
Tuesday, 16th December 1986
We had a new ritual of watching the very dour Clive Robertson on TV. He was Channel 7’s Newsworld presenter and had a wry humorous outlook on the days’ news. This week saw him bashing a Santa Claus model on his desk.
Wednesday, 17th December 1986
We worked late for the second time that week.
I went to Circular Quay and got the ferry to Kiribilli and Neutral Bay in search of the perfect Harbour Bridge photograph.
I met a guy called Peter on the ferry. He was a resident of Neutral Bay and a worker on one of the harbour cruise ships. He pointed out the submarine bases to me and told me the reason why Neutral Bay was called Neutral Bay. He promised to send me a free ticket to Taronga Zoo as he bade me farewell. (The ticket actually arrived a few days later)
I got off at Circular Quay and went in search of a photo of the Christmas tree on the electricity building lit up.
Thursday, 18th December 1986
We had expected someone to come around about the house but no one had been. We had also arranged for anyone interested in the house to telephone Braemar as they had a phone and we didn’t.
When Josie, Jill and Sean came round in the afternoon we got our hopes up that they had a message for us.
It wasn’t anything to do with the house. They had arrived to discuss Christmas. Sean had taken on the task of organising it. We would all put 10 dollars in and that would guarantee us a champagne breakfast, wine and snacks on the beach and then some real Christmas tucker in the evening.
We would then put an extra 5 dollars in for the chance to buy each other a joke present. The distribution of the presents would be random and be drawn out of a hat.
We all agreed.
Friday, 19th December 1986
We worked late for the third time that week.
I went home via North Sydney and took some more pictures of the Harbour Bridge and also of the Opera House. I met and chatted to a Japanese guy doing the same thing.
I passed by Kings Cross and found that the note about the house had been ripped down from the hostel board.
Saturday, 20th December 1986
There was no work for Saturday.
I sat alone in the back kitchen in the morning until Josie burst in looking for Declan.
She was angry with him as he had suddenly told her he wasn’t going to Perth with her after all. She now had to sell the car she had bought for the trip.
I escaped and went to Paddington. I picked up my last bunch of slides from the USA and then, not wanting to go back, I just caught a train on the blue line going south towards Helensburgh for the ride.
I came back tired. There was no sign of Josie or Declan.