Tuesday, 26 February 2008

The Machinist is Having an Affair


The Machinist is having a love affair with the secretary. It’s true. He can’t keep his eyes off her. She walks into the machine shop, and he stops what he is doing. Sometimes, when he is welding, he will detect her perfume (White Linen, Estee Lauder) and suddenly, cut the arc, reaching for his welding helmet to lift up the visor. He confides in his workmates that the secretary is really ‘hot’. He also confides that he gets the secretary to sit on his knee in the office. Fortunately, his workmates are diligent to remind him that the office door has glass in it and that they can see right in. The Machinist says he is the luckiest, most blessed man alive to have a love affair at work, in the tranquil setting of the Australian countryside…

Monday, 18 February 2008

A Random Day in the Life of the Machinist's Wife

I wake up, and go to the bathroom. On the way back to the bedroom, the Machinist asks "Would you like a cup of tea, Doll?" To which I reply, "yes, please". Get dressed. Return to the kitchen. The YA YA YAs have started putting raisin bread into the toaster. There's a bit of discussion about the health and taste benefits of ground coffee beans in espresso as opposed to instant coffee.


The Machinist and middle daughter have the last of the coffee beans. (First up, first served). Eldest daughter and number one son settle for instant coffee.
The toasted raisin bread pops up, and number one son starts to butter his piece. We sit together at the kitchen table. The ladies are dressed in overalls, for a hard day in the workshop. Pretty hair combs and red lipstick, with blue logo workshirts and metal capped boots.
The workshop crew leave the kitchen. "Have a nice day at the office, dears". I can't help myself.
I load up the faithful old Simpson washing machine and turn it on. Then, moving quickly through the front room and the family room, picking up, making neat, fluffing cushions, taking away used dishes from last night. Open all the curtains, and windows throughout the living areas. The lace instantly billows with the gentle and (gratefully) cool breeze.
Then outside to fetch the washing in off the washing line, leaving it ready for the day's load.


When the washing machine is full, on goes the second-hand commercial dishwasher, which the Machinist INSISTED I have. I gather the dishes from around the kitchen, scrape them and stack them, ready for their turn in the stainless steel box of diluted bleach, power-spray fury. With each basket load, I challenge myself. Dry and pack away, as well as reload spare basket before wash cycle is complete. I win every time!
Washing machine finishes cycle. I put another load on, then peg out clean clothes.
Counter tops now clear and disinfected, I begin making bread. Two loaves today, as Iwill be in the city tomorrow. Number one son comes in, searching for food. He's always hungry. I promise to make him more toast, and to take it out to him. I start that straight away, as I know that production is low when stomachs are low.
While the bread is rising, I take a plate of hot buttered toast out to the workshop. The Machinist is delighted "We didn't have breakfast that long ago...", he muses, as he takes the thickest piece of toast off the plate. I go into the office and check for any business emails while I am in the machine shop. None. The pesky fax machine is still playing up. It won't receive. It will scan, print, copy, send, but not receive. Is it a telephone line or equipment problem? Note to self: try another angle on the fax machine problem. It has to be sorted. This is a business.
Back in the kitchen, I note that the first rising of the bread is complete. The dough is punched, split and rolled into four balls; two for each bread pan. More rising time.
Another load in the washing machine. More clothes to hang outside.
Bread goes in the oven. As it bakes, I chop mushrooms, squares of real butter and add to pan (Jamie forever!).

I then chop green and red capsicums and onions. They go in another pan with olive oil.

Both pans put on high, then turned down to low.

Whisked eggs are added to the capsicum and onion pan and left on low heat.

I carve the bread, but it's 'doughy' in the middle so I have to toast it.

While the bread is toasting, I go out to the front of the workshop and see oldest daughter cleaning stainless steel products. She sees me. I point to the house.
She turns to the rest of the crew. "Lunch!" she cries
BREAK
Lunch is over, there are dishes to wash, but I really need to hang out more washing.
The Machinist hopes to finish early today, as we are going into the city to pick up second daughter's first car from a migrant family staying in a motel who are leaving the country on Wednesday. Before we go, I have to prepare business papers and summaries, along with application forms for our accountant. I also have to write a few business letters. After we pick up the car, the Machinist will be driving said car back home, along with number one son. Middle daughter and I will be taking our second lesson in Italian.
Areva derci!

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Country Roads, Take Me Home...

This is what the highway looks like as we travel home from the city......



To the left of this picture, are a series of vineyards, draped over the hillside. The bushes on the right were 'sprayed' on to the nature strip, which divides the two double-laned highways. When the road was first built, the nature strip and sides of the road were sprayed with a pink mixture. From this grew a variety of native shrubs, and these are what we can see today.


Ever since the new highway has been built, a lot of our area is flooded out in flash rainfalls. The land is so flat and low; that is why it is called the "Southern Tablelands" of New South Wales.


This is the view of our road, just as you turn off the highway....


Further down the road, towards our tiny village.


Another shot of the home road...


This bridge dates back to the 1880's. "It is safer to drive on the right hand side of the bridge", my dear dad insists (as it appears here). "The termites have eaten most of the support poles on the left hand side". He should know - he's been under there, camera in hand, shooting close ups of the crawlers!


This is the creek which runs under the bridge, as well as the back of our garden. Ibis, ducks and pelicans love to hang about at the local creek!



The Young Adults use the trip home as a chance to catch up on a bit of light reading.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Country Life

As I sit and type, I can hear the mechanical grinding and clanging of an old, but trusty slasher, dodging the many pot-holes as it cuts the grass in the paddock next door to our house.




The thing I love so much about the country is the way one can barter, or perform favours, and often – well – just do something for someone because you want to. Such is the case with one of our locals – Michael, the guy doing the slashing. The Machinist had offered to pay him to cut the grass in our paddock. “What makes you think I want to charge you?” Michael asked.

“I’m used to paying”, the Machinist responded.



I have to chuckle, because every now and then, the slasher blades will hit a high point and it sounds like Mother bashing the gong to call her children home for lunch. Sometimes, it seems that odd items actually ‘grow’ in the long grass next door. Items that were probably lost long ago seem to surface after so many years and present themselves, proudly and nobly, just as a set of sharpened mechanical blades happen to whir over them.

So far, we’ve found and old whistle, numerous medicine, beer, and apothecary bottles, a man’s bracelet ( a human-looking bone was unearthed next to the bracelet), old tins, animal skulls, rusty tools, bricks, thick, wooden fence stumps (that weren’t there at the last Cutting of the Grasses) and oil / petrol cans.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Logistics

Pumpkin Seeds for Sale:



These past few days have been abounding with arrangements for the annual Village Pumpkin Festival, which attracts over 5000 people to our tiny (200 resident) hamlet. What do they call arrangements nowadays? Logistics? I have seen that word splashed around regulary (and wondered what it meant) on copious amounts of business brochures, and even as paid advertising on the sides of huge trucks that we overtake on the highway as we drive into the city.

(Logistics. Sounds quite technical really. Hmmmm... the logistics of housekeeping? Now that's something I'm proficient at. Ask the Machinist).

When I volunteered as secretary to the Festival, I thought I would be typing up letters, agendas and minutes of meetings. Little did I know back in October 2007 that I would be shopping for groceries, decorations, stationary, organising caterers, taking bookings for bashes and balls, banking, calculating profit and losses, debating risk assessments, conferring with council men, refereeing committee members, nursing hurt egos, taking bookings for stall holders, coordinating stall holders, smoothing stall holders' squabbles,

What was that?

Smoothing stall holders' squabbles?

Letters to Stall Holders:


(and all she ever wanted was happy Punkin People.....)

Monday, 4 February 2008

BLACKBERRIES; THE EATING KIND

Each year, my mam asks me when we are going blackberry picking. As a child, she picked blackberries with her sisters, and ate more there in the brambles and undergrowth than she took home to her mam. My nan would always know, though, as the girls came home with blue fingertips, or blue lips, or tiny seeds caught in their teeth.

Mam still loves to go picnicking and picking fruit. While my dad was away in Yorkshire, and later Hong Kong, mam often took us on walks. Golden Gates, Elvaston Castle, Borrowash Dam. Those are the destinations I remember the most. Mam would lug bags of food and drink for the five of us, while periodically ordering "get down off there", or "hold Gary's hand", or "Stop fighting!" or "hurry up". And all the time she had one eye on us, she had the other eye on the hedgerows. Scanning the countryside, searching frantically for blackberry bushes, not wanting to stop, otherwise we would all stop, and it would be hard and tiring to get us all moving again.

Years later, the contageous blackberry picking fever has been passed on. Her grandchillens go blackberry picking too. In Australia, a blackberry bush is a 'noxious weed'. It gets poisoned. The park rangers spray poisons on the blackberry bushes. In the supermarkets, we pay $7 for a punnet of sprayed, noxious weed blackberries.

Not today though. For today, we have organic blackberries by the bowl full. Thanks to the YA YA YAs who went picking in the rain...Getting their faces distorted in the brambles, and coming home with dermographic hands... Resulting in this bounty:



Mmmmmmm.......

Mmmmmm.........some mmmmmmore...........


Thinking of you, my mam!

PS - Promise I will save you some. Promise.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Riding in Cars with the Machinist

The time has come for our middle Young Adult to buy her first car. When asked what car she would like, she answers “a red one, preferably automatic. Oh, and it must have air conditioning”.
The weather forecast predicted that it would be cooler, with drizzle. Instead, hot, hot sun, bright and high in the sky. Walking from car yard to car yard, made our shoes smell like the rubber on the parked car tyres themselves. For a couple of car yard inspections, I remained in our car, reading the motor sale ads in the paper. Not many of these ads ended up circled, as price almost always dictates what car most of us will end up with.

I reflected on what extent of subterfuge some car dealers used to make sales. On one occasion, we entered a more popular car yard, checked out the best in stock around the front, and then moved to the back where the cheaper, first car owner’s prospective purchases were parked. Not even Tweety, Lighty, or Twiggy could have squeezed between them, so tightly were they crammed together. (What’s with that mindset? If customers can’t get to see the cars, touch them, sit in them, twizzle the steering wheel, pump the clutch, move the sun visor and play with the buttons, how will they be sold?)

As we were leaving said establishment, a young cocky salesman accosted us.

“See anything you like, Sir?” he asks the Machinist. The Machinist, pre-occupied with checking out older styled cars, muttered “We’re just looking, thanks”

“What were you looking for in particular?”

“A small, preferably automatic car and it must have air conditioning”. The Machinist was too much of a woos to tell him it had to be red. Men don’t bother about the colour of a car. Two out of three. Not bad.

An older, sun scorched prune of a man, with an enormous cowboy hat on his head interrupted “You’ve got two chances of finding a small, automatic car: Zero and Buckleys” he uttered, in a legendary Aussie drawl.

Zero and Buckleys? Zero and Buckleys? Nah. Sounded too much like a chain store. Angus and Robertson. Marks and Spencers. Pick and Pay. My mind wandered..... So did my feet – swiftly off the property. Even if they had a red, automatic, economical, small car with air conditioning for $100, I knew I wouldn’t buy it there.

The Machinist obviously felt the same way. He caught up with me. “Did you hear that, Doll? Zero and Buckleys? I knew straight away I wouldn’t buy anything from them. Just that attitude puts me off. They looked like they’ve just arrived in town from the farm”.

No disrespect to farmers. We really appreciate all they do, and how undervalued they are, but these guys didn’t seem to have an idea about customers, discretion, older model cars, and the plight of a young adult looking for her first car. I constantly find it amusing, though, – the way in which we sort of call people names or use (sometimes derogatory) statements about them when they don’t do or say or behave like we would like them to do or say or behave.

Feeling really hot and bothered and fed up and and and and about ready to beg the Machinist to take me for a coffee, and not wanting to look at another car for the next ten years, I suddenly felt revitalised; for there it was – in all it’s classic glory and splendour; a Jaguar. A white one. I knew it was a Jag, not because I’m a boffin at identifying cars, but rather that I love the classics. (After all, my dad had worked for Rolls Royce in Derby, England, as a coded welder).

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” asked the salesman, from his shelter under one of those enormous canvas umbrellas, wiping his dripping face with a white piece of towel. “Would you like to take it for a test drive?”

By this time, the Machinist had joined me. His eyes turned into Betty Davis eyes and became glassy. The Machinist isn’t a man of many words; his body does the talking. It took Zero and Buckleys persuasion to slither into the Jaguar, inhale the fragrance of aged dashboard, engage the chromed, slender gear into the ‘D’ slot, and drive away. I had this insane split second thought to just drive away and not return the classic piece, but fortunately, it was just that; a split second thought. Insane. The Machinist pulled over and ordered me into the driver’s seat. “You look like you belong there, Doll. It suits you. You suit the car”. Great! Old and classic.

The next few minutes were oblivion, as I took my turn behind the imitation wood, small wheel with power steering. I can’t remember much about that short drive at all, other than the fact that we seemed to float down the side streets of the industrial area. I wanted this car. I wanted it bad...

On our reluctant return, Mick the Irish born salesman, (we were now on a first names basis. It’s common in Australia) kept the engine running a while. “Listen to it purr”.

It wasn’t a purring sound, it was more like the snarl of a lactating lioness. Deep, gutsy and throaty. No convincing necessary.

“If we bought this car, it would be pure indulgence. You don’t even consider fuel saving with something like this”, the Machinist declared.

I know. I want it. I still want it. It’s all about me. Machinist, if you’re reading this, I want it.

And what of the middle child’s first new car? Wasn’t that our priority for the day? What chance did the poor girl have once we clapped eyes on the Jaguar?

Zero and Buckleys.



Friday, 1 February 2008

Productive Production

The Machinist and the YA YA YA's have been extremely productive. They have been welding, cleaning, buffing and polishing stainless steel frames for a local kitchen fabrication company These frames are referred to 'sleigh frames'. It's monotonous work, but someone's got to do it. I find if there is joking and larikan-ing around, it helps. Not too much, mind you, otherwise the YA YA YAs could get carried away. Everything's competitive. The Machinist hates to leave his post in the welding bay, as he doesn't want the others to be ahead of him. The YA YA YAs have their own inter-sibling competitions, too. It is quite the study on human nature, although sometimes, the competition isn't human!

During the morning coffee break, I took a few close-ups of the Machinist hard at work. He shouldn't have been working, as his coffee was going cold, and the froth was 'dying' as his daughters call it. They should know; they're both baristas. I just love to watch the Machinist at work, and I especially love it when he welds. It's the sparks, you see. They're mesmerising. The Machinist, aware of my looming presence always tells me not to stare at the arc, as it gives you 'welder's eye'. I assure him that it's not me looking at the arc, but the camera.



I move over to the YA YA YA's, who are debating who is going fast, who can't keep up, who does the best finish on stainless steel. Blah blah blah. I ask them to pose for the camera (not me, the camera. The camera with character!) They oblige, and each of them grab a sleigh frame, hold it up, single-handedly, and frame their faces.



The Machinist and I - we love putting the YA YA YAs to work!