The whole day revolve around work at the pub.
The Woodman stands on the outskirts of the village of Wormley West End. The surrounding countryside is typically English: narrow lanes, wooded hills, hedge-rowed fields, horses, & quaint cottages and manors. We started at 8:30 a.m. & Ray & I re-stocked the shelves while Linda vacuumed and cleaned both bars. We had a break from 10 till 11 when the pub opens. Ray gave me a training run on the computerized tools and I pulled my first pint of McMullens Country Bitter¹.
It wasn’t a busy day and we got through to closing time at 2:30. Ray took Linda and I down to Cheshunt and we did some shopping there and in Hoddesdon, a 20 minute bus trip away. It was bitterly cold with sleet and rain and we caught ataxi back to the pub in time for the evening session, 5:30 till 11. That session wasn’t too busy either and at 10 Linda came out for a lesson on the tills and her first taste of pints pulling in an English pub.
By the time we had cleaned up it was nearly 12. It had taken till about 11:30 to kick out the last of the locals, most of whom are simple-minded country folk², and we went upstairs and fell into bed exhausted.
¹McMullens of Hertford is a long-established, family-owned brewery founded in 1827 in the town of Hertford, the capital town of Hertfordshire. NB as of 2019, McMullens no longer owns The Woodman, which is now known at The Woodman and Olive, a daft mish-mash of names if you ask me!
²Stay tuned to read about just how badly-behaved some of these rustics really were!
Linda and I spent they day doing our final chores in this country. I went to the dentist & got a hole filled, we changed the last of our money over & bought a few things for the journey. Went up to the St. Andrews & said goodby to Betty and Shorty¹, Neil and the Bruvvers.² Went back to the flat & spent all afternoon cleaning up.
We had tea in Charlotte & Kalina’s³ flat and I rang Joe⁴. I stood in a Melbourne phone-box in the pouring rain & talked to him as if he was right next door. They had snow on the tops last night. We went to bed at about 9:30 and slept our last night in Australia with the rain tapping on the roof.
¹ The pub’s owners
² Brad and Richard, my former workmates
³ Our neighbours were some Danish backpackers.
⁴ My brother who at that time was living in the town of Fairlie, on the edge of the South Island high country.
During our time in Melbourne, I travelled to work each day from the suburb of Balaclava, where we lived, in to Flinders Street Station in the centre of the city, then by tram up to Fitzroy where I worked.
In those days, the transport system used tickets called the Inner Travelcard, printed on yellow cardboard and checked by ticket inspectors who clicked a notch out of the day’s date with a hand-held punch. I quickly worked out a money-saving scam whereby I spliced a small billet of yellow cardboard, with the correct date number on it, cut from an old, disused ticket, into the gap made by the ticket inspector’s hole punch, then cut out a punch-shaped hole in the next day’s date.
By tapping the spliced-in piece with the handle of a knife I could make it blend seamlessley into the ticket and the cursory glance the inspectors gave easily passed it as a new, freshly-punched ticket. By this means, I could get away with only buying a ticket once a week, on Monday morning, thus saving myself $2.40 per day from Tuesday to Friday.
Penguins on Parade!
Russ drove us down to Phillip Island which is a large island about 130 km from Melbourne. Our first stop was on the way was the Fountain Gate shopping complex on the outskirts of the city where we spent an hour or so watching boring people wrapped in their boring lives bustling round in a large and very boring shopping centre. We described our time in that hell-hole as “An Enema Tour of the Asshole of Suburbia.”
After leaving there, we drove for an hour or so to reach the island. We went over a rickety old wooden bridge to Churchill Island which was lovely – sheep grazing beside an old homestead surrounded by old Macrocarpa trees with the sea shimmering all around.
Re-crossing the old bridge, we drove round to Cowes for a can of drink at the end of a pier rocking gently in the breeze with calm tranquil water lapping the piles & turning the rows of kelp washed up on the shore.
Back in the Mazda¹ again, we drove out to “The Nobbies” on the western end of the island. This place was really beautiful. The coastline of the island is rough & broken & comes to a point where 2 rocky islands rise out of the sea and and are home to penguins,
seals & sea birds. The swells wash up around the black, rugged rocks, swirling and foaming into deep and treacherous pools and a blowhole foams and wooshes under the cliff. We spent an hour or so there then drove down to the penguin reserve to see the show.
The place was crawling with tourists, screaming babies, and generally boring people. We sat in a concrete grandstand facing out into a wide curving bay with gently breakers washing up onto the sandy beach. As the sky darkened and the horizon faded, the Southern Cross shone on the waves as groups of little blue and white Fairy Penguins struggled ashore. They had been at sea since the early hours of the morning and during the course of the day would have swum up to 50 km in their search for small fish.
They come out of the surf in small groups, being tumbled over by the waves time & time again before they stand out of reach of the water then begin their journey across the flood-lit stretch of sand and into the safety of the dunes. They are like little workmen coming out of a factory in their overalls, lunch-box in hand, standing round in groups saying “see you tomorrow” to their workmates then hurrying off in their own directions, bound for their own little street of burrows!
We left the penguins to their dark windy burrows and headed back to the city where people live in their own little streets of dark, windy burrows.
A Weekend on the Great Ocean Road.
We left Melbourne at 8:00 on Friday night and drove out to Geelong¹ in Russ’s car. We camped the night in light rain in a camping ground at Anglesea with the surf rolling in a hundred yards from our tent.
Next morning we drove to Lorne for a breakfast of disgusting pies then began our trip along the spectacular coastline. The day was warm with a cool sea breeze blowing off the
sea and a swell large enough to send waves crashing high up against the sheer cliffs where the flat, barren island continent meets the strength of the great southern ocean. Millions of years of wave action have chipped & weathered the old rocks into huge monuments bearing names such as The Twelve Apostles, London Bridge, The Sentinel, Thunder Cave and The Blowhole.
For me, the most beautiful and mysterious was Loch Ard Gorge where the sailing ship “Loch Ard” was wrecked in 1878 with the loss of 54 lives. The graves of the four bodies that were recovered lie at the top of the cliffs at
the entrance to the gorge amongst the bleak, windswept scrub. Buried there too are several pioneer families who spent their lives breaking in the harsh country inland from the gorge. The only 2 survivors from the Loch Ard were a ship’s apprentice and the daughter of an immigrant family from England. They were swept into the gorge clinging to wreckage & the young lad climbed the cliffs & walked 5½ miles thru the scrub to reach a farmhouse.
Standing on the sandy beach of the gorge and looking out to the swell surging through the narrow entrance, you can almost feel the power of the waves that tore the ship as it foundered on the reef outside the mouth of the gorge. A truly beautiful place.
We camped that night at a bush camping ground on Cape Otway and drove home, back to the smell and noise of the city on Sunday.
¹ Geelong (pronounced “J’long”) is an industrial city south of Melbourne.
My 26th Birthday.
LInda, Russ, Gareth, Manda, Roger & Me went to a Jamacan restaurant for dinner.
“The Night of Madness”
At about 4:30 on Tuesday afternoon it began to rain. And what a rain it was. It absolutely pissed down. In about 45 minutes, nearly an inch of rain fell on parts of Melbourne along with a massive display of thunder and lightening. By about 5:30 it had stopped and I walked up to the station to find that the Sandringham train wasn’t running due to flooding. I caught a packed tram down to Swanson¹ and joined the hundreds of thousands of people trying to get home. The trams were jam packed with people and were caught up in snarled traffic which stretched from Swanson right to Balaclava². I joined the throngs of people who were legging it home, splashing through puddles and listening to On the Beach³ while thousands of pissed off commuters sat in their stalled or jammed cars. It took about 2 hours to walk home and I got there to find Russ† & Linda there with stories of their own to tell. Russ had walked all the way from Fitzroy and still had 2 hours walking left. Linda had been on the last Sandringham train and it had gotten bogged in 2 feet of water and slips coming down from the embankment. They had waited for an hour while the thunder roared and the lightning crashed overhead and then had been evacuated from the train via a plank & up the embankment & she had walked home from Pharham in the pouring rain. The radio called it the “Night of Madness” & it goes to show what chaos a big city can be thrown into when something like a big storm happens. As Jethro Tull put it in the song Dun Ringill:
LINES JOIN IN FAINT DISCORD
AND THE STORMWATCH BREWS
A CONCERT OF KINGS
AS THE WHITE SEA SNAPS
AT THE HEELS OF A SOFT PRAYER
¹ Swanson Street railway station
² The suburb where we lived
³ A Chris Rea album I had on tape.
†Our friend from cherry-picking
– this is a poem that was on a billboard at South Yarra station.
STAR GUIDED, BEATING ALONG THE SOUTHERN TRAIL
THIS YEAR AGAIN THE FLIGHT OF CRANES.¹
HIGH IN THE MIDNIGHT SKY I DO NOT KNOW FROM
WENCE, OR HOW TO LIGHT THE MOON.
HOLDING THE BEDPOSTS TIGHT I MEASURE
THE PULSE OF YOUR BREATHING
IN THE DARK, AND I SEE YOUR STREAMING HAIR
AND YOUR FACE WEDGED IN THE WIND.
¹ Thirty years later I would still use the phrase “the flight of cranes” to caption occasional photographs.