Melbourne – Convalescence

Saturday, 9th May 1987  – Afternoon

When I arrived back at Croxford Street Jenny was quite surprised to see me. She actually seemed quite  disappointed that she and the others would not now be able to go and visit me in hospital.   She had been informed of the accident by Drakes and then she had told the rest of the flat that I had lost 4 fingers.


Sunday, 10th May 1987

 I began a long period of convalescence. I stayed in and kept warm.


Monday, 11th May 1987 

I went down to the Drakes office on Collins Street and started to help with the paperwork for the insurance claim Drakes would be making against ICI on my behalf. The legal team headed by Judith and Kate explained that the negligence was obviously with ICI and they told me I would be given worker’s compensation too.   That cheered me up.

On the way back I visited Brian at the university.


Tuesday, 12th May 1987

I made it back out to ICI to collect my coat and bag. Rod was glad to see that they hadn’t maimed me and he said they were going to let me keep the overalls, glasses and the work boots. He paid me back the $35 deposit. Nick just smiled and said “See, that’s what you get for working hard”.

On the way out of the factory I glanced up at the sign at the entrance.  It now said “413 days without an accident”.


Wednesday, 13th – Friday, 22nd May 1987

With my left arm in plaster and wearing a sling, for the next 10 days I followed a set pattern.

In the mornings I usually walked around Melbourne and went shopping a lot at the Victoria Market.

Old ladies would often ask me about the injuries and offer to stand up for me on the crowded trams. One of them once told me that her husband had done something similar in the war but not to worry as it was only my left hand.

On Tuesdays and Fridays I made my way over to Footscray to have it all checked.

I spent most of the afternoons in the flat talking with whoever was around and watching The  Sullivans on the TV.

I couldn’t write at all but cooking and bathing were the two other big challenges. It once took me 2 hours to dissect a pumpkin. I wouldn’t let anyone help. I wanted to do it by myself.

By the first Saturday I was off anti-biotics and I got drunk to celebrate. I watched Coventry beat Tottenham in a live telecast of the FA Cup final.  I won a $3 bet with Scottish Michael over the result.

On Monday of the second week I returned home to hear that Jenny had packed in her job and was leaving Melbourne. She had told Peter that I was an ideal candidate for the next warden.

On Tuesday I had half the stitches out but retained the splint.

On Wednesday I moved into Jenny’s single room. I was now living rent free and all I had to do was collect the money from everyone else and give it to Peter when he popped around.



On Thursday I went to the Hoyts cinema and saw “84 Charing Cross Road”  I enjoyed it a lot.

Finally on Friday I set off to the hospital to get the plaster removed. I walked out at 10am with the full use of my arm restored. There was a little scar which I was told I would retain for life but no serious or lasting effects. I went back for my final visit to the university and wished Brian good luck on his next field trip to Broken Hill. I would be gone by the time he returned.



Saturday, 23rd May 1987

I woke up and made a spur of the moment decision. I decided to get out of Melbourne for the day and visit Ballarat. I ran for a tram to Spencer St Station and caught the 7:55 train west. The train was short, old but very comfortable.   After 2 hours of flat undulating countryside I was finally deposited in Ballarat at 9:45. It was wet and cold and after sheltering in a Safeway for a few minutes I decided to skip doing a tour of the city and head directly to the main attraction; the museum at Sovereign Hill.


I spent 5 hours walking around the recreated 1851 gold rush town. It was all very impressive. All the staff wore period costumes. I enjoyed a trip down the mine and had a cup of hot coffee by a real wood fire in a typical 19th century café located in the old high street.


It wasn’t very busy with other tourists and the fact there were few other people in modern clothes made it feel quite authentic. Perhaps it was the elation I felt having my left hand back again, but I wrote “Best Museum in all of Australia” in the visitors book.



Sunday, 24th May 1987

I began another week of convalescence.


Monday, 25th May 1987

On Monday I heard that Jenny had made it to Sydney and was working as a stable hand. She had scored a single lift all the way from Melbourne with a Japanese tourist.


Tuesday, 26th May 1987

Peter the landlord was making my life difficult by not giving us enough firewood. Michael started to source phone directories and burn them instead. This created a lot of smoke in the flat.


Wednesday, 27th May 1987

We found out that Peter had had the phone registered under an alias.

People started to protest and refused to put money in the little jar next to the phone when they made calls.

Even as “warden” the phone money, thank goodness, was not under my control.  Peter used to come in an collect it himself.   I worried about it though.


Thursday, 28th May 1987

There was a record win on Australian Sale of the Century.

Mrs Thatcher was slumping in the polls at home.

The Fiji crisis continued



Friday, 31st May 1987

After a final successful check up at the hospital in the morning I decided to call it a day with Melbourne.  I began to make preparations to leave Australia as well too.

I bought an open ticket from Sydney to Perth on the Indian Pacific Train and another open ticket from Perth to Singapore on Malaysian Airlines.  I put initial dates for the train as mid-July and for the flight as early-August. I would now spend the rest of the time travelling.

I would follow a route that looked like a reversed figure of “4”. I would first hitch north to Ayers Rock and Darwin, then across to Queensland, down to Sydney and then across again on the train to Perth.

I called in at Drakes to collect my last insurance payment and for a last Friday night drink at the office. Whilst I stood drinking with the regular crew I met three 3 new girls. They told me they had just started working at ICI the previous Monday. I smiled when they also told me that they had spent the first 3 days undergoing intensive safety training.

After the free drink at Drakes was finished a lot of us adjourned to the English-style Sherlock Holmes pub across the road.   We drank pints of Tetley’s at $4:30 a glass before adjourning again, via two trams, to the excellent India House Curry restaurant in Swanston Street.

By chance whilst in the pub I got talking to an English guy, Mark, who had just finished with Drakes that very day and was now off on his travels.   He had persuaded a Kiwi friend, Tony, who owned a Ute truck, to drive with him to Ayers Rock via the Great Ocean Road and Adelaide.

They were leaving on Tuesday and were looking for a third person to share fuel costs. Did I know anyone who might want to join them?   I told Mark that actually I did know of one such person, myself!


Monday, 1st June 1987

Monday was the 20th anniversary of the release of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band and we were serenaded by the Beatles for most of the day.   The radio played tracks from the album every hour and the record shops that I visited had it on as well.

After much thought, I made the important decision that I would put Andrew, my former roommate, in charge of the hostel.   He seemed pleased at the chance for peace and quiet in the single room.

Despite my accident I had enjoyed my time in Melbourne. It wasn’t a bad place to spend a few months.

I packed my stuff and got an early night.

The Great Ocean Road