One morning, Morris and I were in the hay barn practicing throwing our knives into a bale of hay. I had my German-made sheath knife I just bought and Morris had his Puma white hunter that he had bought while still living in England.
"Watch this!" I said to Morris as I threw my knife towards the bale. As the knife slid out of my hand it put a reasonably large cut on the base of my thumb.
"Oh shit!" I said.
Morris said, "What happened Yorky?"
"I just sliced my bloody thumb!"
Right at that moment Defoe walked into the barn.
"What are you two bludging bastards doing?" He said as he strode towards us.
"I'm just practicing throwing my knife." I said, as blood was dripping out of my thumb.
"Jesus Christ!", said Defoe as he looked down and saw my thumb. "What are you trying to do Yorky mate, cut your bloody thumb off?"
"No Bill." I said as I wiped my thumb on my work pants.
"It's pretty bloody obvious you two pommy bastards don't know what you are doing." said Defoe.
He turned to Morris and said, "Show me that bloody knife. God Streuth Morris, where did you get this Puma?"
"I bought it in England a couple of years ago."
"Jesus mate, this must have set you back a bloody fortune!"
It wasn't cheap." said Morris. "I had to save up for ages till I had the money."
All of a sudden, Defoe spun round and threw the knife at the bale of hay. It stuck in the hay, almost up to the hilt. I was stunned that he stuck the knife on his first throw.
"How did you do that?" said Morris.
"Well it's bloody easy when you know how, right. It's the same as everything else in life. Go get the knife Yorky and I'll teach you two bastards the basics of knife-throwing."
I retrieved the knife and handed it to Defoe.
"First of all, you never throw a knife like you did Yorky or you'll cut your bloody hand every time. You hold your hand like this and put the knife there like that with the blade sticking outwards, that way you don't get cut. Get out of the bloody way Morris."
Defoe stepped up to the line that we had made with our boot on the ground.
"The idea is, the knife is only supposed to spin once."
With that, he threw the knife at the hay bale and it stuck again.
"Pick up that empty fag packet Yorky and fasten it under the string on that bale."
After I had done this, Defoe hurled the knife again. The knife stuck right in the middle of the empty fag packet.
"You're pretty good with that knife Bill." said Morris.
"Practice Mate!" Defoe said as he hurled the knife again.
Defoe gave Morris his knife back and said to him, "Look after that knife mate, she's a bloody beaut!".
"Hey Bill, try mine will ya? I said. "Mine doesn't want to stick in the bale."
"It's not the knife's fault." said Defoe as he took my knife and hurled it towards the bale. It stuck in the bale the same as Morris's knife did.
"Nothing wrong with that knife." said Defoe as he handed the knife back to me.
"Alright you two, put those bloody knives away now. We got a lot of work to do today." he said, as he strode out of the barn.
As he walked away, I heard him yell at the top of his voice, "Dave, come here ya curly-headed pufta'! I got a fuckin' job for you mate. C'mon get a bloody move on."
Morris and I put our sheath knives away and were ready for another days work.
Friday, June 17, 2016
One bright sunny morning as I was splitting a few logs in Arthurs' backyard I heard the sound of hoofs trotting behind me, somewhere. As I turned around I saw a magnificent-looking chestnut stallion, snorting and throwing his head back as his shiny, long main danced in the mornings sunlight.
Just then, the side house-gate opened and Arthur came walking out,
"Ya got a new horse Arthur?"
"No mate, why?"
"Look over there, near the silos. Isn't that one of yours?"
"No way Yorky. I dunno' who owns him and besides he's a blood stallion. I can't think of anyone around here who would have a blood horse on his property. They can be pretty cranky at times."
As Arthur walked towards the horse, he lifted his front feet off the ground about 2 feet and threw his head back and gave a happy, neighing sound. Arthur kept walking straight towards him and when he got a few feet away, the stallion turned and ran off up the yard towards the fence. When he came to the stock ramp, he cleared it in one mighty leap and ran around the paddock, obviously to show off his breeding.
"Let's get some tucker for him Yorky. We'll put a bridle and saddle in the back of the Ute and take a few handfuls of horse-nuts. I think he's hungry."
"What's the saddle and bridle for Arthur ? Are you going to ride him?"
"No mate. You are!"
"Me! He's a race horse Arthur. I've only ridden stock horses mate, that were well-broken in!"
"No worries Yorky. There's always a first time for everything mate!"
"Tell ya what Arthur, you ride him first and I'll ride him after, alright?"
"Sounds good to me Yorky, lets git the gear."
Once the gear was in the back of Arthurs' old work Ute, we drove over the ramp and into the paddock where the racehorse was cantering around. Arthur stopped the Ute and got out to get the mall bag of nuts. He walked over to the stallion with his hand out-stretched and palm up so the horse could see what was on his hand. As soon as he smelled and saw the nuts he came cantering over. Arthur let him eat what was on his hand and at the same time he was talking softly to him.
"Fetch the bridle over Yorky.", he said softly and don't make any jerky movements or he may shy,"
Very easily I got the bridle out from the back of the Ute and took it over to Arthur who now had the racehorse eating out of his hand, without a care.
Slowly Arthur slipped the straps over his head and palmed the bit into his mouth and all the horse was interested in was some more nuts.
As soon as the bridle was in place, Arthur walked him around the paddock in a large circle. Then he said, "Grab the blanket and saddle Yorky. Here mate, you hold onto him while I saddle him up."
The horse didn't seem to mind the saddle too much but every now and again he'd jump sideways as Arthur said, "Whoah boy, steady on there big fella'."
Once the saddle was in place, Arthur took the reins and mounted the big horse. He was a bit frisky but Arthur was a great stockman so it only took a minute or so before the horse knew that Arthur was in full control.
"I'll ride him down the Lucerne paddock Yorky and we'll put him in the big open paddock across the road till I can find out who owns him. Follow me down in the Ute mate, will ya?"
"No worries Arthur.", I said as I hopped in the drivers seat. I was, by this time, a pretty good driver.
When Arthur and the horse got close to the ramp, the stallion took a great big leap with Arthur on his back. He very easily sailed across the six-foot stock ramp.
"That looked great Arthur!", I yelled from out of the Utes' window.
"Open the gate across the road there Yorky.", called Arthur.
I pushed the large gate open and Arthur and the big stallion rode through and I closed it behind them. Arthur dismounted and held him by the reins,
"Come on Yorky, hop up on him. It'll be a good bit of experience for ya mate. This is an 800 acre paddock mate, give him his head and let's see how good he really is!"
"Your fuckin' joking Arthur.", I said as I swung mi leg over him. "What if I fall off? I'll break mi fuckin' neck mate!"
"Come on Yorky, you're not gonna fall off. Just remember to keep ya knees tucked in tight. She'll be right mate."
The stallion was no fool. He knew that I was nowhere near the horseman that Arthur was and as soon as I let a' bit of tension off the reins, he was off like a bat out a' hell. Straight up the big open paddock he went, gaining speed at every stride. It was only a matter of seconds till he found his pace and then started to pull away, towards his top speed. With mi squatters hat jammed down hard on mi ears, I was hangin' on for dear life. I tried to rein him in a bit but there was no stopping him at all now. I applied a bit more tension to the reins but it made no difference whatsoever. He just kept pulling away. At one point, I looked down towards the stirrup and the ground seemed to be a brown blur.
'Oh what the hell', I thought. 'There's no turning back now.' I gave him a bit of encouragement by loosening the reins and giving him his head. A good dig from my boot heels and he knew what to do.
The fence posts were turning into a blur as he reached out for more ground. It was what I would have imagined it to be like, going around the race track. I was starting to like this so I stood up in the stirrups and leaned down over his neck like I'd seen the jockeys do on mi dads' TV. The fence was coming up soon so I put a bit of pressure on the left-hand rein and the stallion started to veer off to the left. We made a very large turn and he pushed the ground from beneath his feet as he pounded them at full gallop. The blood was pumping through our veins and the brim of mi squatters hat was standing straight to attention as the wind made it quiver. His long chestnut mane was straight back as the wind whipped it from side to side.
'What a movie!', I thought, as I looked out over his large head and ears.
I started to rein him in as we flew past the last pine trees. We still had a fair way to go to where Arthur was standing. I was taking no chances because he was a strong horse, plus the fact that I'd already experienced being thrown over a fence by Patches and I didn’t need that little experience again. It took me all my strength to pull him in and I thought I was pretty strong. The more I pulled, the more he tried to pull against me. I was almost going to panic when I felt him ease up a bit. He was hardly even blowing when we cantered up to where Arthur was standing by the old Ute. I think my heart was beating harder than his when I finally dismounted.
Arthur held the reins and I slid out of the saddle onto a pair of rubbery legs.
"We could make a jockey out of ya'", said Arthur, with a big grin on his face.
"Fuck you Arthur!", I said, as I walked around in a circle. "There's easier ways to make money than that."
"Ya' did pretty good Yorky, at least ya' stayed on him but I had my doubts at one point there."
"Yeah mate. Once he got wound up into his stride there was no stopping him. I was gonna' walk him back but he had other ideas."
"OK mate, let's turn him loose. There's a dam in this paddock so he's got some water and we'll fetch him some chaff down after breakfast, then I'll make a few phone calls tonight, see if I can find out who owns him."
As we drove back to the house I rolled a Drum and said to Arthur,
"That was a pretty exciting start to the day, eh."
"A good ride, first thing in the morning, gets ya heart started Yorky. Ask any married cocky around the Bush. They'll all tell ya the same mate."
Saturday, June 28, 2014
It did not take very long for me to get to know all 16 boys who were emigrating to Australia with the Big Brother Movement. The reason for this was that we only had two cabins between us. Also, there was an Escort Officer who was to accompany us on the journey to make sure we didn’t get into any sort of trouble. He was also available to give us as much information as possible on our new home.
Our daily routine consisted of getting up at 6 O’Clock every morning. At 7 O’clock we were expected to run around the ship at least 5 or 6 times. After that the Escort Officer took us all for P.T.which consisted of push-ups, pull-ups and various other exercises which were meant to keep us sound in body and mind, in other words, it stopped most boys from going nuts while we spent 7 weeks at sea.
The food on board ship was remarkably good as far as I was concerned. Every day there was a change in menu and we had at least a couple of choices as to what we would like to eat. The dining room was quite large so the mealtimes were broken up into two sessions. Tables were allotted to everyone so no one had to worry about missing out on a meal or fighting for a place at the table.
The Aurelia was registered in Italy so all the ships crew, including the waiters were Italian. Our waiter, who served us throughout the whole trip a small, handsome man called Usepi. No matter what the conditions were like at sea, Usepi always had a kind word for all of us boys and he usually wore a good smile on his face.
“What it will be today Boysss?”, he said as he handed us all menus. “The roast-a the biff taista very the good-a and the fish-a is not a the bad-a.”, he’d say in his thick Italian accent.
It was on the second evening that we entered the Bay of Biscay. I had only ever been on a small fishing boat before and not that far out to sea, so I couldn’t see the land. When the ship started to roll around from the 20 foot high waves I found it very exciting. The large ship would roll up to the top of a giant wave and then down the other side it would go. Sometimes it would roll sideways as it went up and down. On many occasions our plates of food would go sliding off the table if we did not hang on to it. Glasses of water and wine would spill all over the clean white tablecloths. Some people would be throwing up as they tried to navigate their way down the steps to their cabins.
Myself and a few other boys went upstairs onto the deck to see the size of the huge waves. When the ship rolled down the side of a big black foaming wave all we could see towering above our heads was a wall of water. It was not long before a deck-hand spotted us hanging onto a railing. He came over to us and yelled to us to go back inside as it was too dangerous to be out on deck tonight. Just as were going back inside a large wave crashed over the side of the ship and drenched us all through. Gallons of water hit the top deck, then ran off the sides as the old ship reared up and rode another wave.
When we got back down to the dining room where the other boys were still sitting and hanging on tight to the table, it looked as though a herd of cattle had run rampant through the place. The floor was covered with broken glass. Broken plates of food, knives, forks and spoons were sliding all over the place and to top the whole scene off, people were throwing up everywhere.
“Look at that old girl over there chucking up her guts.”, said a Liverpool lad.
“Oh look at that young bint.”, said a Geordie boy. “She just heaved it all back on the tablecloth.”
“Have a butchers hook at that small kid over there.”, said a London Cockney lad. “He’s just having a big yawn all over his mothers lap!”
I had never seen so many people throwing up all at the same time. The dining room scene made us all laugh like hell. Then all of a sudden, one of our boys came stumbling towards us us on his way out to the toilet. His face was white with a slight tinge of green around the bottom of his jaws.
“Look out boys!”, said a Midlands lad, “He’s going to try and dump it in our shoes and turn-ups!”
We gave him as wide a berth as possible.
“Let’s go and help him. He looks really sick.”, I said.
“Bugger you Titch.”, said the Liverpool lad. “You can help him if you like but I’m not risking him chucking up on mi good drain-pipe trousers. I bought these especially for the trip and I’ve only had ‘em on once and already there’s some warm bile and carrots stuck to ‘em!”
That evening, as I lay on mi top bunk, I could see the giant waves out of the porthole window that was level with my pillows. The Aurelias’ engines growled, hummed and vibrated all night long. It was a bit hard to rest that first couple of nights but after about a week at sea it began to feel really good going to rest and listen to the nonstop sound of the ships droning engines. Those first few nights were the worst weather we experienced and from then on it was quite a pleasant trip.
Every morning I would look out of the porthole and all I could see was water. Every evening before resting, all I could see out of the porthole window was more water. The movie out of that window never changed for about 12 days at sea.
During the day we lads would amuse ourselves by playing table tennis and coyts out on the top deck. We had a golden rule that was agreed upon before we played ping-pong. Whoever smashed the ball over the side into the ocean had either to go get it or buy another one. Since the first option was out of the question the latter one was always enforced. Although the balls were not very expensive, some lads lost quite a few shillings of their spending money on that trip. At the end of the journey we were all skillled ping-pong players.
Some days, all we would do was sit around in the deck chairs reading magazines, smoking fags and drinking fizzy pop. One of the Escort Officers’ rules was, no Little Brother was allowed to consume alcohol on board the ship. This did not stop some of the older boys who were 18. They promptly told the Escort Officer to “go to hell and back!
“We’re not fucking kids, so don’t try to bung it on with me or I’ll give you a fucking good stoush.”, said Bob, the Liverpuddlian. A few days later Bob and the Officer had a big scuffle so the Captain of the ship had Bob thrown in the Brig until he sobered up and cooled down.
There was a geeky, red-haired boy who was part of our group. We all called him ‘Ginger’, as a nickname. Ginger was always bragging about how tough he was. One day as he lay on his upper bunk bed with his arm hanging over the side, a couple of the older boys gave it a right good whack on their way past which resulted in a broken arm for Ginger. From that day on I wouldn’t say he was quiet but he never bragged out his toughness any more and his arm remained in a cast for the rest of the trip.
Life on board ship really suited me. I loved the wide open spaces and at nighttime I would sit out on the deck in one of the chairs. The air, although cold at times, was fresh and pure just like the air and winds on my beloved Yorkshire Moors.
As soon as we sailed into warmer waters we would see all sorts of ocean life. One day we saw a large school of Flying Fish. They would literally fly about 3 or 4 feet through the air as they swam along side of the big Liner. Someone said they were after the scraps of food that were tossed overboard after each mealtime. On another occasion I saw a school of wild porpoises that jumped and frolicked in the clear blue water. They looked very much like they were smiling as they swam and played for hours on end. Sometime they would all dive out of sight and then come up out of the water on the other side of the ship. When we raced over to the opposite side they would make their laughing sound as they lept out of the blue water. It was like they were saying HA! HAA!, we fooled you stupid boys.
Some of our evenings were spent in the lounge bar. The ship had its own Italian 5 -piece band that used to play for a couple of hours every evening. On quite a few occasions I played my trumpet with them. I only knew a few Italian songs and they knew 2 or 3 Jazz songs but all in all everyone enjoyed themselves and we all had a good time.
One evening, as we all sat around a few tables listening to the band and watching some of the other passengers dance, a boy in our group decided to get drunk. Just for a joke, some of the other lads spiked his beers with some hard liquor. Towards the end of the evening he became quite violent so the Escort Officer and a couple of the ships crew had to muscle him out of the lounge and tie him to his bed for his own sake. Even at the bests of times, he was not what I would call a stable-minded boy and the overindulgence of alcohol didn’t do anything to enhance his intelligence. From that night onwards the cocktail bar staff were under strict orders from the Captain not to serve more than 3 drinks to each boy who was 17 and over. Thee oldest boy in our group were 18 and I was the youngest at 15. While I may very well have been the youngest and smallest there was no doubt in my mind, whatsoever, that for sure I displayed the most intelligence.
Our first stop on the journey was to be Port Said. Although we were not allowed to disembark, we stayed there for a day while the ship loaded up with fresh fruit, food, meat and fresh drinking water.
The native people who live in Port Said would row their small boats over to the side of the huge liner. Their boats were full of all the junky stuff that tourists are notorious for buying. Standing in their boats they would throw up a rope with a basket tied to the end of it. Whatever some of the passengers wanted to buy was placed in the basket and hoisted up the side of the ship and over the rail. The money was then put in the center of the basket and sent back down to the man in the small, loaded-down boat. One of our boys decided he would like a small trinket he saw in one of the vendors small boat. The vendor placed the item in the basket and sent the trinket up the side of the Liner, on the rope. Once the money was in the vendors hands it got really sticky, he did not want to give it back. So the boy ordered another item from the boat. The vendor tied the large leather suitcase to the rope and the boy pulled it up on deck.
“Two more English Pounds!”, said the native.
“Fuck you!”, yelled the boy and took off with the suitcase.
The Arab vendor was furious. He climbed up one of the ships large thick ropes that anchored it to the buoys. In his teeth he gripped a large sheath knife and I could hear him cursing and swearing in his own language. As he climbed over the ships railing the older British immigrants, who up till that point had been having a good time, all scattered in various directions when they saw the knife between the mans’ teeth.
‘It’s just like watching a pirate movie’, I thought, as I backpedaled away from the angry vendor.
“Someone get the Captain!”,yelled one of the passengers.
The man ran between the crowds of people and made his way down the first flight of stairs to look for the boy. The Purser and a couple of Dock Police caught the man and muscled him down the side of the ship and back into his small boat.
“I’m not finished with that thieving Arab bastard yet!” said the boy.
“What are you planning to do about it?”, I said.
“Come with me and I’ll show you.”
Three of us boys followed him as he made his way back down to our cabin.
“What are you up to Dave?”, I said as we all trooped into the cabin.
“Just watch this, Titch.”, he said to me.
He walked over to the bunks, then climbed up on the top one. He opened the porthole and stuck his head out.
“Just as I thought. Get me a large jug of water, Titch.”
After I filled up the jug I said, “What are you going to do with this ?”
“Open that other porthole and stick your head out.”
Looking out of my porthole I could not believe my eyes. Straight below me about 20 feet down and 10 feet to my right was the Arab vendors small boat. As soon as I saw the boat I knew what Dave had in mind.
“When I throw the jug of water on the thieving bastard, pull your head in Titch and close your porthole.”
Dave emptied the large jug of water all over the Arabs’ head and we pulled our heads back through the porthole and closed it tight.
“That will fix the bastard!”, said Dave. “And just for luck, I’ll give him another.”
The large jug was filled to the brim with water again. Then Dave opened he porthole and instead of dropping the water first, he yelled down to the vendor, “Have a drink of water you thieving Arab bastard!” As I watched from my porthole I saw the large jug of water hit the Arab right on his head.
“I fucking kill you white bastard!”, he yelled up to Dave.
“Your mother fucks donkeys, you Arab bastard”, yelled Dave.
Now this little interchange really got the Arab mad. He pulled his knife out of his belt and threw it straight up at the porthole window where Daves’ head was hanging out of. As Dave pulled his head back in, the knife bounced 2 inches from his right ear.
“Fucking hell, that was close.”, said Dave. “I felt the wind of that knife as it bounced off the side.”
“I think that’s enough Dave. Someone is going to get hurt really bad if you don’t stop now.”
“OK Titch, perhaps you’re right.”
“It’s not worth getting a knife stuck in the middle of your head.”, I said as we closed the portholes.
“Let’s go back upstairs.”, said Dave
When we got back to the top deck we very carefully peered over the side from another position, further along the rail. The Arab vendor was still cursing and screaming while shaking his fists at the other passengers.
The Arab vendors’ boats pulled away from the big liner. The ships large tie-off ropes were removed. The monstrous large diesel engines slowly droned back to life and once again we were moving.
Before long,the Purser announced to all the passengers that we would be going through the Suez Canal. He said it would be a wonderful experience for the passengers who were interested in taking photographs.
The Suez Canal was much wider and longer that a Yorkshire lad would have been able to imagine. It looked somewhat like a big river but for the fact there didn’t seem to be any current. Arabs, dressed in their traditional white robes, rode their camels alongside the Canal and at various different locations small dredging operations were ongoing.
Once we were through the Canal and back out at Sea we headed for Aden which was to be our next stop. The weather was now really warm so we boys spent a lot of our time swimming in the ships’ pool. The pool itself was not very large but there was always enough room to have a good time messing around.
Myself and a few of the boys devised some games such as water-soccer, fighting and dunking and diving from the pools’ small springboard. The springboard was a lot of fun and as the days rolled by we all became quite good at somersault diving, back-flips and jackknifes. Throwing a shiny shilling or two-bob piece into the pool and diving down to get it became one of my best games.
On board, there was a German family who was emigrating to Australia with their two teenage children. Their young daughter was about 16 so the older boys were always trying to chat her up. The main obstacle to their success was that she didn’t speak any English. Her older brother who was probably around 17 had a short crewcut, a fat face and weighed about 14 stone. The older boys had a lot of fun trying to teach ‘Fritz’, as they called him, English. As you may well guess, Fritz was not interested in learning the Queens English. He was more interested in foul language and the boys were more than willing to help him in his educational endeavor. For example, sometimes ‘Fritzie’ would come over to our table in the cocktail bar of an evening.
“Hello Fritzie, you big, fat, squat-headed Hun.”, one of the boys would say.
Fritzie had no idea whatsoever what the boy was saying, so he pulled up a chair, sat down and started to smile. One of the other older boys would say, “Hey Fritzie, fucky, fucky your sister.” Fritzie would light up with a big smile and nod his head in agreement, although he had no idea of what he was smiling for or agreeing to.
One evening, one of the boys taught Fritzie to say, in English, ‘Will you please fuck with me.’ He then pointed Fritzi in the direction of one of the younger female passengers. It was quite hilarious to watch really. While the band was playing and the passengers were all dancing, Fritz goes up to this young girl who was about 19, smiles at her and offers her his hand whilst saying, “Would you like to fuck with me?” The young girl got up from her table and red-faced she made a swift exit.
Later, the Purser, whom we all knew quite well by now, came over to our table and said, “All right boys, a joke is a joke but I think this little joke has gone quite far enough. Please see to it that it doesn’t happen again.”
There were quite a few young teenage girls traveling on our ship, but most of them were accompanied by their parents, who kept a good eye on them. While the parents were not looking the girls would eye up us boys as we all sprawled around a couple of tables of a night time. It was obvious from their behavior that they had watched one too many ship-board romance movies. A couple of white lace handkerchiefs were accidentally-on-purpose dropped by our tables when the girls walked past. Seeing as there was no chance whatsoever of being alone with them the white lace handkerchiefs stayed where they were for the cleaners to pick up.
The entertainment staff devised many a night of fun and games for the passengers to play. We all wore paper party hats and generally sat there taking the mickey out of the old couples who were trying to participate in the games and have some young fun.
Our Escort officer had latched onto a very pretty woman of about 30. Each mealtime he would sit at the dinner table with the young woman and her old mother. He was really acting out the part of an English Gentleman by placing the chairs for them as they sat down at the table. For the rest of the meal he would entertain them with his well-educated accent and a few after-dinner stories.
I got to know the daughter quite well over the 7 weeks. She felt quite motherly towards me as I was quite small and only 15. She was a very good-looking woman so I did not mind her attentions at all. Whenever I was sat around the swimming pool, on my own, she would pull up a deck chair and sit next to me for hours. We read magazines and smoked as we lounged away the hours of sunshine.
One day she said to me, “I’d better go now Richard. I don’t want your Escort Officer to get more jealous than he already is. He doesn’t thinks its a wise decision for me to spend so much time with you because of our age difference plus when I’m sat here with you, he’s walking around the ship on his own like a lost hush-puppy.”
One day, the Escort Officer said to me, “Don’t you think you’re spending a bit too much time with Patricia, Titch?”
“No.”, said one of the older boys. “He’s not, but it’s obvious to us that you’re not spending enough time with her!”
We all laughed out loud as he shrank with embarrassment and slithered off back downstairs.
“That told him.”, said the boy. “He’s just a jealous old bastard, Titch. Don’t you pay any attention to him. Paricia seems to like you very much, so don’t let that old fart ruin your good friendship with her.”
By the time we had been at Sea for a month, I noticed most of the passengers had put on a lot of weight. I guess it was understandable really, because all everyone did was eat, drink and make merry. During the day we’d all just lay around on deck like well-fed Sea-lions.
One morning, the Purser announced that we would be passing over the Equator at around 11 O’clock, so for all of those who were interested, there would be a small party around the swimming pool. At 11, King Neptune came up out of the ocean and over the side railing and the party began. King Neptune was really one of the ships’ crewman who had volunteered to play the part and he was really good at it. He wore a gaudy robe covered in shell jewelry, a long wavy beard and wig and a cardboard replica of a trident.
“I am King Neptune.”, he said. “I am King of all the Oceans. I came on board today to give each and everyone of you mortals a ritual bath. So who wants to go first?”
A young man volunteered. King Neptune dipped the large shaving brush into the warm soapy water then proceeded to scrub the man with his brush from head to toe. After this part of the ritual was over, two of King Neptunes’ courtiers grabbed the man by the arms and legs and threw him into the swimming pool. We all had a great old party that afternoon and as soon as there were no more volunteers left, King Neptunes men grabbed a couple of young bikini-clad girls and soaped them up. “One, two, three!”, roared the crowd and into the pool they went.
Our next stop on the long voyage was to be Aden. On the morning we arrived, four small tug-boats came out to meet our Liner. Long, thick ropes were thrown down to the tugs and securely fastened. The tug-boat pilots were experts at maneuvering the large ship through the small channel and into the docking berth.
That afternoon, about lunchtime, our Escort Officer called a meeting in one of the cabins.
“We’ll be staying in Aden for a few days boys while the ship takes on more fuel and supplies for the rest of the journey. We will not be stopping again until we reach Freemantle, Australia. Everyone will be allowed to leave the ship this afternoon For those of you who decide to go, do not forget you travel document and be very careful walking around. Do not go anywhere by yourselves because foreign ports can be quite dangerous and we don’t want to lose anyone.
“Where’s Liverpool Bob?”, said one of the boys.
“Bob will not be allowed to leave the boat as he has caused far too much trouble. The Captain and I agreed it will be better for him to stay on board.”
Our group of boys did not like this decision so a loud roar of disapproval erupted from everyone of us.
I really enjoyed myself in Aden for the few days we were there. We just wandered all around the streets looking at the old buildings and watching how the local people lived. Nighttime was quite an eye-opener for me. At one point we looked past a large building with round, stone pillars. All around the outside wall of the building were hundreds of street beggars who were sleeping in small groups on the ground. They had no possessions whatsoever except for what they wore and an old dirty old blanket to keep them warm.
At 15 years old I had never seen anything like that in my whole life. It reminded me of the times when mi mother used to say, “You have no idea how lucky you are my boy. Some people don’t even have a bed to sleep in.” I could now see for myself, first hand experience, that her words were true.
One of the other things I noticed was the lack of dogs in the streets. Instead of street dogs, the dirty streets were crowded with thin, scrawny-looking goats. My heart and compassion were working overtime as I walked those streets. The more streets we walked around, I had the distinct feeling that I had lived in this place at some other time. Plus the fact that wherever we walked I kept recognizing certain buildings and people. I was not brought up with the concept of reincarnation so I had no explanation as to the phenomena that was happening to me. Sometimes I would lapse into a trance-like state as I stared down certain streets or up at the surrounding hills.
“Are you alright Titch?”, said on of mi pals.
“Oh yes.”, I said as I came back to the present. “I was just seeing an old movie go through mi mind.”
At one of the street-vendors stalls I saw a triangular,red piece of jewelry that was edged with silver twisted wire. In the center of the red triangular stone was a few strange markings. I do not know what it was about that piece of jewelry but it felt like I’d owned it before and intuitively I was very attracted to the marks and symbols on it, so I bargained with the Arab vendor and bought it from him for about 5 shillings. I wore that triangular medallion for the rest of the voyage and when we got to Freemantle I packed it up carefully and sent it back home to mi mum.
That evening, back on board the ship, all the boys were displaying the cheap wrist- watches they had purchased from the street vendors.
“Look at this!”, said Angus. “This cost 5 Quid in Aberdeen and I got it off one of those Arabs for 10 Bob. It’s a pretty good deal, eh?”
Eight hours later the watch had stopped and refused to go again. After Angus prized off the back with his small penknife, he discovered that all the jewels had been picked out of their sockets. The 17 jewel watch was now a no-jewel watch and no matter how much he shook and banged it,the watch refused to go, so out of disgust and frustration he threw the watch over the side of the ship and into the dirty harbor waters. Four other boys bought themselves a flash-looking watch but within 8 hours they all ended up in the same place.When one boy bought a watch on the street, he said to the vendor, “Does it go or have all the jewels been taken out?”
“No, no this first-class watch. You listen Mister.”, he said
The vendor put the watch against the boys’ ear. The boy smiled as he listened to it tick away quite nicely.
“OK, I’ll take it for 10 Bob.”
He handed the street vendor 10 Bob and the vendor gave him the watch and then disappeared in a flash. When the boy put the watch up to his hear it was as dead as a Dodo. Just for the hell of it he took the back off and when he got it open there was no trace of innards in it
Later on, the boy was telling one of the ships’ waiters about the watch. The waiter started to laugh.
“Why are you laughing?”, said the boy.
“I’m-a sorry young-a man but I got caught like-a that before myself-a. Those Arabs have a long thumbnail and they’re very clever at making a ticking sound with it between the winder and the case.”
We all had a great laugh over that one.
The Aurelia Liner was now refueled and restocked with food, fruit and water. The 4 dumpy tug boats pulled her back out to the harbour exit and once again we were headed for the high seas.
For the next 10 days we never saw land as we crossed the Dead Sea.
By the time we had been at sea for 7 weeks we were all glad to see the West Coast of Australia. Our first port of call was Fremantle. I felt a lot of excitement as we got closer and closer to land and at long last the Australian tug boats made their way out to the liner. Once again the Ships large ropes were thrown down, then fastened to the strong, little tug boats. The tug Captains navigated the big, old liner into the inner harbour and then pushed it into its berth where it would remain for 24 hours.
Our long journey was just about over now and Freemantle was where a lot of the immigrant passengers disembarked. Patricia and her mother had some relations in Freemantle and she also had a school-teaching job that had been arranged for her before she left England.
I said my goodbyes to her and her mum and watched as they walked down the gangplank onto Australian soil. I felt a bit of sadness arise inside my heart as I waved to them from the top deck. All I seemed to do in the last couple of months was say goodbye to people, not knowing whether I would ever see them again.
As soon as all the disembarking passengers were safely ashore, the Pursers said that the remaining passengers could disembark now but not to forget the ship was due to leave Freemantle the next morning on its way to Melbourne. That afternoon a few of us boys each put in some money and paid a Taxi man to drive us around Freemantle so we could at least have a glimpse of the place before we were due to sail.
What I remembered most about Freemantle was that it was a really beautiful city. The single-story Bungalows were not cramped together and every suburban house had a really beautiful flower garden growing in the front.
At evening time we went back to the ship for dinner, then we walked around the docks and checked out the pubs and club scene. The youngest members of our group did not go into the bars. We were content just to look at the buildings and shops and whatever else there was to see.
When we arrived in Mellbourne and unbeknownst to us boys, the Big Brother Movement had booked a couple of city tours for us. The Australian bus driver showed us all the old colonial buildings and the beautiful Botanical Gardens. We also saw the first house that Captain Cook was supposed to have lived in.
It did not take much longer before we arrived in Sydney. Mi mother had kept in touch with Bruce Whipp and that evening he and his family came to the ship to pick me up, as promised. His promise to pick me up and show me around Sydney was the only link with England I now felt I had left. We drove over the Harbour Bridge to the Northside and back over the Bridge and then out to one of the Suburbs where Bruce and his family lived. Bruce had a very big house with lots of garden space, so I said to him,
“You must be really rich now Mr. Whipp. This house must be worth a fortune.”
“I wouldn’t go as far as to say we’re rich, mate, but we’re not too bad off. Life is a lot easier for us now that we’re living in Australia.”
I told them all about my trip but it was nothing new to them as they had made the very same voyage a couple of years previous.
“Wow! what’s that sitting on the stove Mr. Whipp?”, I said.
“He had a good chuckle to himself as he watched my surprise.
“It’s called a possum, mate. It’s a wild one. If we leave the kitchen window open, of a nightime, he comes inside and drinks his saucer of milk every evening before we hit the sack.”
“I’d like a pet possum.”
“There’ll be thousands of ‘em where you’re going mate. You won’t need to have a pet one cause there in just about every tree there is.”
I only visited Bruce Whipp and his family for about an hour because it was quite a long drive back into Sydney and he had to work in the morning, but I was so pleased that he’d kept his promise to me. It meant a lot at my age, connecting with someone from my past. When we got back to the ship I thanked them very much and said my goodbyes again.
“Don’t forget to visit us sport, if ya ever comes down to Sydney again.”, said Bruce.
“I will do Mr.Whipp and thanks again for meeting me.”
“No worrys sport.”, he said as I watched his white Holden station wagon pulled away from the curb.
That evening as I lay on mi bunk in the ships cabin I shed a few tears. I don’t really know why but that’s how it was
The following morning we all said goodbye to our Escort Officer. He was not a bad chap really, and I felt quite compassionate towards him as he walked off down the gangplank. It must have been really hard for him, at times, trying to look after 16 young, headstrong boys who had just left home and were sampling their sense of newfound freedom.
At around 12 O’clock on the 23rd of April, the Big Brother Movement sent a large, single-decker coach to pick up all of us boys with the exception of Liverpool Bob who did not want to be sent out to the Bush to work. It was decided that he would work in Sydney as a mechanic so the Big Brother Movement could keep a good eye on him until he reached the age of 18. After 18 the BBM would no longer assume responsibility for any of us boys. I never really saw any of the BBM Directors so it felt like we were on our own, after they found us our first job in the Bush.
Sunday, April 20, 2014
(I’ve only been resting about an hour,
when I hear Defoes’ loud Australian voice
booming and echoing through the Army-style barracks.)
Get out of those fart sacks you pommy fucking bastards! It’s time to eat, that’s if you mummies little darlings are not too fucking tired! (As he walks down the line of beds he says;)
Who the fucking hell took it upon themselves to clean up the fucking outer-dairy-yard without fucking asking first? Which one of you pack ‘a pommy bastards did it?
I did. (in a nervous voice.)
What do you mean ‘I DID’, you little fucking pipsqueak? Who the fucking hell helped you?
No one. I saw it hadn’t been done and it needed doing. I’m the one to blame.
(Defoe strides down the shed and stands in front of me.)
Show me you hands.
(I open mi hands. There are about 6 or 8 blisters on them.)
I would not have believed it unless I saw it with mi own eyes. Perhaps I misjudged you, ya scrawny looking Pommy bastard. That's what I like to see.
(He roars as he stands in front of me, looking back down the line. Then he turns to me.)
Good lad, you’re going to make it in the bush. Now go outside and piss on your hands. That’ll heal your blisters and toughen ‘em up. Where’s that ugly little bastard called Morris, and that big curly-headed pufta called Dave? Ah, there you are. You two can take the little bastards job in the kitchen and if you can work as good as him I’ll git ya a job in the Bush. Now fucking move you limey bastards, ya dinners getting cold!
(After the meal we all sit around a bit. Some of us talk and some of us write letters home to our families. At about 9 O’clock the lights in the large Nissan hut are turned out and we all try to get a good nights sleep.)
(Early the next morning I can no longer rest so I get up and dress myself in mi work clothes ready for my first days work. Just for a joke I grab mi old trumpet from under the bed. I pop the locks, put the mouthpiece in, then with a great lung full of air I blow the morning Reveille.)
Oh shit! Put that fucking trumpet away Titch. It’s only 5 O'clock!
(A few seconds later 2 or 3 pillows come flying across the room in my general direction. Then a large work-boot with a rubber heel bounces at my feet.)
Alright boys. Just a little joke, but don’t let Defoe catch you in bed ‘cause he’s likely to do anything, you know.
(At 6 O’clock we were all in the kitchen tucking into a large plate of lamb chops, eggs, bacon and toast and a tin mug of piping hot tea. Defoe comes into the kitchen, gets himself a large plate of breakfast, then disappears back outside again. After breakfast we all go back to our beds for an extra few minutes lay down while our big breakfast digests. It is not long before Defoes’ big, rough head appears in the doorway.)
Alright you Pommy fucking bastards,on your fucking feet. Time to go to work! Who blew that fucking trumpet this morning?
Get it out and play me a tune, Squirt.
(I pull out the trumpet and play Defoe a couple of Trad songs, then just for fun I play the theme music to the Lone Ranger. Defoe seems to love the trumpet and when I put it away he comes over and says)
Why do you want to work on a farm in the bush ,squirt?
‘Cause I can’t get it out of mi head. Ever since I knew it was possible for me to come out here to Australia, that’s all I ever wanted to do.
I’ll get you a job in the Army Cadets and after that you’ll get bumped up to the regular Army. You’ll make real good money and you won’t have to go through any shit in the Army band. You could make yourself a real beaut career out‘a music, Squirt. So have a good think about it, alright?
I can tell ya right now Mr. Defoe, I don’t want to join any Army band. I just want to get out to the Bush and work on a farm.
Just think about it.
(He turns and walks out of the Nissan hut.)
(That day we all busy ourselves milking cows, driving tractors, cleaning the place up and whatever jobs one generally does around a farm. In the afternoon Defoe says to us boys)
Can any of you lot ride a horse?
(A couple of the boys raise their hands).
Go and catch old Patches over there and saddle him up. You can all take turns in riding him. It’ll give you a bit of experience in case you need it some time.
(Patches is a big, strong-looking black & white Gelding. One of the boys throws a saddle across him and is trying to do up the cinch.)
Not like that ya Pommy bastard!. Go back in the barn and get me a saddle blanket.
(As soon as the boy returns, Defoe places the saddle blanket over old Patches back.Then he throw the Aussie Stock Saddle on the top of the blanket as he says,)
Don’t forget to pull the far side stirrup iron over the saddle,’cause if ya don’t, when ya throw the saddle over him the stirrup iron will hit him under the guts and that’ll spook him and make him kick. This old horse has seen more Pommy bastards then any other horse alive in Australia today and he’s not particularly fond of ‘em. So watch him cause he’s not afraid of kicking and he doesn’t mind biting a piece of Pommy arse now and again. Once the saddle is in place, once you’ve got the cinch up tight, walk him around a bit because he’s a cunning old bastard. He’ll puff his belly out to make you believe the cinch is tight and when you go to mount him he’ll let the air out and you and the saddle will go arse over head in the dirt,OK? Now after you’ve walked him around a bit, if he still keeps his belly puffed out ya give him a real good swift kick in the guts like this.
(Defoe kicks Patches right in the guts and in turn Patches kicks up both of his back legs high in the air and Defoe pulls hard on the cinch .)
Now you’re ready to mount, so watch carefully or you’ll get bit on the arse. You always mount from the left-hand side, and make sure ya hold the far-side rein tight so he can’t bite ya. Ya put ya left foot in the stirrup and then ya swing ya leg up and over in one easy movement like this.
(Defoe is now looming above us as he sits astride Patches.)
Ya give him a good, firm dig with the heel of ya boot, then away ya go, mate.
(After he walks Patches around the yard for a while, he gets off.)
Alright Squirt, hop on ‘im and have a go mate.
(I’d only ever ridden a donkey on Blackpool Beach as a kid for sixpence a ride but I take a deep breath and with great determination I stride up to Patches who put his head down as soon as he sees me approach him.
Grab those reins tight, Squirt! Pull on the far side one until he lifts his head up again!
(As I pulled on the rein, Patches swung his massive head around and tried to bite my bony little arse.)
Look out Squirt! The mean old bastard will have a piece of ya arse if ya not careful mate.”
(All the boys laugh. Patches knows he’s the center of everyones attention, He swings his head around for another go at my arse.)
That stirrup iron is too long for ya Squirt, so adjust the strap like his mate. That’s good enough mate. I’ll do the other side for ya.. Git up on him and watch out for the cunning old bastard. He’s likely to do anything. You got to be thinking one step ahead of that old bastard ‘cause if not, he’ll take over and run the fucking show on ya!
(I mount Patches just like I’d seen on the cowboy shows. I give him a couple of good kicks with the heel of mi boots and Patches starts to walk around.)
Good on ya Squirt.That’s the idea. He’s real hard in the mouth so you’ve got to ride him and show him who’s boss ‘cause if not he’ll take over. Oy! open that gate ya curly-headed pufta so the Squirt can go for a ride in the cow paddock.
(Dave opens the gate and Patches and me ride through into the paddock.)
Go down to the bottom of the paddock and keep ya wits about ya.
(Down the sloping paddock me and Patches ride.)
This is a piece of cake!
(Cowboy Dick rides along with one arm down at his side.)
What a great life it is, riding the Bush Range in Australia. Maybe I’ll get misen a job droving cattle around the Bush now that I can ride a horse.
(We reach the bottom of the long paddock. I’m still fantasizing misen as a cowboy. I almost pull out one of mi imaginary six-guns that are slung low at mi hips. Just then Patches turns around, totally unexpected, and takes off back up the paddock at full speed. All I can do is hang on as mi new bush hat flies off mi head into nowhere. Faster and faster Patches gallops up the field. I’m shit-scared but at the same time the excitement of the gallop is amazing.)
Oh oh! Now what do I do? 30 or 40 yards ahead of me is the barbwire fence where all the boys stand cheering and yahooing.
Ride the old bastard!
(The fence now looms dangerously close and my fantasies are long gone. All of a sudden Patches applies the horse brakes and I see misen flying through the air, headlong over the fence. The next thing I remember is Defoe pulling me up onto mi feet. The back of mi head has a throbbing, dull ache in it and mi arse feels like someone has just kicked it with a size 10 boot.)
Jeesus bloody christ mate! What the fuck are ya playing at! You’re supposed to stop when the horse stops! You’ll bloody well hurt ya self getting off a horse that way. Now git back up on the old bastard and try it again.
I don’t think I’m cut out for riding horses Mr. Defoe.
Fucking bullshit lad. You’ll make a fucking good jockey if ya stop eating. Now git back on him ‘cause if ya don’t you’ll end up scared of horses, and if ya scared of horses ya rooted for Bush life.
(Someone catches Patches and hands me the reins. Defoe gives me a leg up.)
Now watch the old bastard. He thinks he’s got it all over ya !
(Defoe is absolutely right ‘cause as soon as we go through the gate into the paddock Patches refuses to go anywhere.)
Give the rotten old bastard a decent kick in the guts!
(The heel of my boots makes contact with Patches sides. He did not take a liking to this command, so he decides to buck. Up on his hind legs he stands. Then he goes down again and at the same time he kicks his back legs high in the air.)
YaHoo! Ride him cowboy!
Show the bastard what you’re made of Pommy!
(I give Patches another good command. Up and down he goes, kicking and bucking for his worth. My arse and knees are now feeling the pain as Patches continues to try to hurl me to the ground again.)
Make the bastard go down the paddock again!
(By sheer willpower I get old Patches to walk forwards and down the paddock again, only this time there are no cowboy fantasies playing around in my head, only the dull throbbing ache. When we get to the bottom of the paddock I am one step ahead of Patches. I now know what Defoe is trying to teach me. Instead of letting Patches run the show, I hold the reins in tight so he can’t have his head. After a few seconds I say to Patches in mi broad Yorkshire accent,)
OK Patches, you fucking old bastard, this time I’m running the fucking show! Now move you Aussie bastard! Yahhhh!!!!”
(Patches needs no command from my boot heel but I give him one anyway just to let him know who'se boss. Off we go at full gallop. I give him another good heel and for good measure I give him a hefty slap on his arse with mi right hand. Yah! I yelled at the top of mi voice as Patches thunders back up the long paddock. We pass my new Bush hat and for a split second I think I might lean down and snatch it from the ground like a Russian Cossack but dismiss the thought at once.)
(Up the paddock we gallop, the barb wire fence is now getting closer. As we get about 10 feet away from it, Patches applies the brakes and this time I lean back in the saddle and pull on the left hand rein with mi feet stuck out at the front. Patches does not like this at all so he gives a few good bucks to show his disapproval.)
You’ve got it all over him now, Squirt. Ride him back here so one these other puftas can show off his horsmanship!
(I dismount and Patches swings his head around to bite my arse and gives me a look of disapproval)
Good on ya mate. We’ll make a fucking good Bushman out of you yet Squirt. Where ya from in England Mate?
I’m from Yorkshire, Mr. Defoe.
Well, in that case mate, I’ll just call ya ‘Yorky’ from now on and you can call me Bill. We can do away with that Mr. Defoe bullshit, ‘cause you’ve earned it lad. Now ya can lean on the fence and watch Patches give that ugly little bastard Morris a good fucking workout. Come on Yorky.
Come here Morris you ugly little fucking pufta! Up you fucking go mate and show us what ya made of!
(It felt very strange at first to call him Bill, but before long, I start to feel what it was like to be called a man.)
(That evening, after dinner, we hire a couple of taxis and go own to Cabramatta to check out the town. The Taxis arrive and we all pile in on top of each other. As we pull out of the farm Defoe appears.)
Keep ya fucking noses and cocks clean. I don’t want any of you pommy bastards coming home with a dose of clap. This is a fucking training farm not a fucking hospital! So, don’t go rooting around ‘cause there’s a few loose sheilas around Cabramatta. And don’t git in a fight with those bodgies and fucking widgies!
Fucking puftas! (He says to himself as the taxi drives away.)
GREEK TAXI DRIVER
Where ya lika go?
RALPH (Older boy)
Drop us off where the action is.
Not a problem mate. We’re overloaded, so if ya see the cops keep ya heads down or I’ll lose mi license.
(The Taxi Driver drops us off in Cabramattas’ main street. There’s not much happening so we buy some milkshakes and walk up and down the street looking in the shop windows. When we come to another café I go inside and buy misen 2 –2 oz. Packets of Havelock rolling tobacco. I can’t pass it up because it only costs 7 Aussie bob a packet. I see an Army Disposal store and I go in. I know exactly what I am looking for.)
G'day sport.What can I do for you mate?
I’m looking for a sheath knife.
No worries mate, I’ve got sheath knives coming out the Yazoo. Have a Captain Cook at some ‘a these, sport. Ya bound to find a beauty in that case. Give us a holler if ya need some help.
I’ll take this one.
That’s a good-looking knife, sport.
She’s got a beaut blade on her. That’ll set ya back 2 quid, mate.
(I pay the man his 2 pounds which leaves me with 15 shillings to mi name)
Look after yourself mate and don’t get that knife tangled up with a ‘Dago’.
What’s a Dago?
Christ, mate. Where the bloody hell have you been all ya life? Did ya just arrive on the last boat?
Yes. I’ve only been in Australia for two days.
Gawd streuth mate! You pommys are coming out here younger every year. I suppose ya all work up at the Big Brothers dairy farm, do ya?
Yeah. There’s 16 of us.
Well sport, a Dago is a greek and another name for ‘em is a ‘Grill’.
Why d’ya call ‘em those names?
‘Cause at the end of a days work they say ‘day go’ and most of them work the milk bars and they’re always grilling something or other. So that’s why they get the name ‘Grills’ from. Ya see sport? Now we’ve also got a lot of Italians in this great country of ours, so we call ‘em ‘Wops’ and the Abos are called ‘Bungs’ ‘cause if ya hit ‘em with the roo bar of the truck they make the sound ‘BUNG’. D’ya get it cobber?
(he has a good laugh to himself)
Now take you English gentlemen for example. In our country we don’t recognize your class system so we call you blokes ‘limeys’ or better still, ‘pommy bastards’ ‘cause you’ve got skin like pomegranates.
Thanks for the information.
G'day sport, see ya around like a rissole.
(We boys are sitting around on a couple of street benches outside the Post Office. It’s 9:30 at night. The year is 1964. The local kids are tearing up and down the streets in their hotted-up Holden cars. A couple of young girls are walking down the street in their stiletto-heeled boots and hiked-up skirts. They’re absorbed in conversation as they come near to the benches we’re sitting on.)
(One of the oldest of our crew.)
Hello darlings. Where are you two lovelies going?
Root ya fucking boot ya pommy bastard!
Charming, I must say.
Fuck you, ya pommy bastard!
You’re a real charmer with the Ladies, Peter.
How would you like to take those two home and introduce them to your mum?
Not bloody likely! I hope that’s not an example of the everyday Aussie chick.
(It’s getting late so we call a taxi service and head back out to the Farm. We all pile out of the Taxis and pay off the driver.)
Look what I found in Town!
(Opens a brown paper bag and pulls out a small box of fireworks.)
You’d better not set them off here Ralph or Defoe will kick your ass.
Bullocks to Bill Defoe! There’s no bangers, there’s only Fizzers and Catherine
(Ralph walks over to the fence and stuck a couple of Fountains in the cracks of the
fence post. Then he pins 4 Cathrine Wheels to the fence post and lights them all at once.)
That’s it, the shows over! Let’s go to bed. I’m knackered and tomorrow we’ve got to get up at 5.
THE NEXT MORNING
Get out of those fart sacks you pommy bastards. Who the fucking hell was setting off fireworks last night?
(Pulling the bed covers off his head.)
I was. Why? What do you want, shouting your head off at this time of night?
Get out-a bed you fucking yobo before I piss all over ya!
(He grabs Ralphs’ bed covers and rips them clean off the bed revealing Ralphs’ scrawny body curled up in the fetal position.)
Get ya plates of meat on the deck, boy, before I chuck a bucket of water on ya!
What’s the matter?
I’ll show you what the bloody matter is sport! Put ya boots on and come with me!
What about mi clothes?
Fuck ya clothes! You’ve got fuck all to brag about anyway! Come on! Hurry up!
(Ralph puts is boots on and follows Defoe out of the hut. He walks over to the fence post where Ralph had set off the fireworks. We all follow outside.)
(I see what made Defoe mad. Gray smoke is drifting out of the wooden fence post. The whole top of the post is now a large piece of black charcoal.)
Ya stupid, fucking pommy bastard! Look what you’ve done to mi fence post! Had ya have done that in dry bush country we’d have a bloody bush fire on our hands now mate! If ya had another brain in your head, lad, it would be fucking lonely, ya silly yahoo bastard! Go and get ya strides on and after breakfast I’ll show ya where the fence posts are kept. Ya can dig that bastard out and stick a new one in. Then I’ll show ya how to re-strain the fence back up!
(Ralph is standing in his boots and underpants, looking half-asleep so Defoe kicks him in the arse,)
Wake up to yourself, ya sleepy, pommy bastard. Go and get some gear on!
(Ralph gives Defoe a dirty look and takes off at the double, back to the hut to put his work gear on.)
(A few days later Defoe gives 6 of the older boys 5 pounds each
and a train ticket to a Bush town.)
The Cocky will meet ya at the station. Good luck lads’. This is Gods’ own country and with a bit of hard work and a few brains ya should do all right for ya selves.
(Later, after all the boys, except Morris and me, have left.)
What about me and Morris, Bill? Haven’t ya got a place for us to go to yet?
Ya sure ya won’t change ya mind about going in the Army?
Quite sure Bill. I’m itching to get out to the Bush. I’ve been looking forwards to that for 2 years now.
Alright mate. Ya old enough to leave home so I guess ya old enough to make decisions for ya self. You and Morris will be leaving tomorrow morning, so better roll ya swag bright and early.
(It is difficult for me to sleep,‘cause all I can think of is red dust and kangaroos. In the morning I am packed, so I make my way across to the kitchen for some breakfast.)
DEFOE (Enters Nissan hut)
Here’s ya ticket Morris and 5 quid for ya start in life. Here’s your ticket Yorky and here’s a fiver mate. Make sure you look after it, ‘cause you’ll have to work bloody hard in the Bush for a fiver.
Thanks Bill. You’re a real good bloke. You’ve really helped me a lot since I’ve been here.
Root ya boot Yorky. Ya train leaves at 2 O’clock from Sydney Central so don’t go fucking around Sydney and miss ‘em or you’ll be sleeping on the station all night.
(The jackaroos load our cases into his car and drive us both down to Cabramatta station.)
SYDNEY CENTRAL TRAIN STATION
(Morris and I sit around smoking and eating chips waiting for our trains. The train Morris was to take arrived on time and I helped him put his 2 large bags on board.)
Look after yourself Maurice. Keep practicing with your knife and best of luck to you
Same to you Yorky.
(Goes inside train to find his seat.
(There is no one left in my life now to say “don’t do this” or “don’t do that’. All I have to listen to now is the inner voice of silence that lives in the center of my heart.)
(I’m left sitting on Central Station by myself, feeling rather sad as I sit here thinking about all the people I’ve left behind, mi mother, dad and sisters, the 15 lads I’ve lived with for the past 9 weeks, Bill Defoe. They are in the dead past now. ‘O well’ I’m thinking, as I wipe away a couple of tears that are slowly trickling down mi cheek, ‘all I’m left with is what I started out with, myself’)
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
After I left Barneys' sideshow I got pretty friendly with the Aborigines who worked for Jimmy Sharmans' Boxing Troupe. I got a couple of bucks a day, for a start, to help with the putting up and pulling down of the tent.
One of the Abo fighters was called Sally. He said he'd teach me how to 'show fight', and then I could get a job with the troupe fighting instead of laboring. There were about eight Abo boxers and one white wrestler in Jimmy Sharmans' troupe, plus myself.
Every evening, after the show was closed, Jimmy Sharman would bring four half-gallons of brown Muscat wine and a packet of fags each for all the boxers.
Sharman was an ex-boxer himself but he was pretty old when I met him. He had a medium build and had a dark complexion. His clothes, although old-fashioned, were always neatly pressed.
"How ya going, Yorky?" he said, when he came in the tent. "Sally teaching ya the moves is he?"
"Yeah, I'm picking it up pretty well, Jimmy."
"Hey Sally, grab the gloves mate. Let's see how well he's going."
After a couple of minutes of sparring around with Sally, Jimmy Sharman said, "All right mate, that's good enough. It's about showmanship, see. Ya swing the arms wide. That lets Sally know where they're coming from. He'll catch the punches and take the dives. He's real good at that, is Sally."
"What if he misses one?" I asked.
"That's not your problem Cobber. Anyway, these bungs have got heads as thick as a brick wall. Ya can punch 'em around all day and they won't even feel it. Isn't that right Sally?"
Sally just gave Sharman a big toothless grin and said, "Whatever you say, Boss."
"Start tomorrow Yorky. When the boys walk out on the platform, you hang around with some of the local Yobos. Make out ya one of 'em. It's good for business, mate. Now when I start sprookin' about Sally and call for someone to fight him, you stick ya hand up high and I'll call ya up on the board and we'll make a real good show out of it. The next session we run, I'll call ya back for a grudge match. That way we'll sucker a few more of those local yobos in. All right?"
"All right Jimmy", I said.
"Oh yeah, and don't drink too much of that cheap plunk. It wasn't made for white fellers!"
The rest of the evening was spent drinking the Plunk. I only took one mouthful out of a flagon as it was passed around the circle. I donated my share to the boys. Most of the boys were half-cast Aborigines and two of 'em were full bloods that came from the Northern Territory.
They'd tell me some of their tribal stories once they got to know me but I was made to promise not to tell any mens' secrets to another white fella. I learned about the Kadaicha man who is the tribal executioner. All talk of him was conducted in the lowest of whispers, in case he heard and came after us with his weapon of choice, which was known as 'The Bone'.
The Abo boxers I lived with had no concept whatsoever of ownership, so if I wasn't first out-a-bed, someone would be wearing my good shoes or one of my best shirts inside out. I never had to ask them for anything because whatever they had, which was not much, was shared equally amongst us.
Jimmy Sharman had a really large tent. Of a nighttime we would sleep in it. Of a day we would fight in it. Outside the tent was a tall, wooden platform, which we would all stand on as Jimmy 'sprooked' to the crowd. At each side of the tent hung large posters of well-known ex-champions that, according to Jimmy Sharman, all got their start in the boxing world at his fathers' tent, which was now his.
At one end of the tall platform was a large bell, which was suspended from the steel scaffolding, and at the other end was a bright red, double bass marching drum. Jimmy would stand in the middle with the boxers on each side of him. He'd start by saying, "Ring that bell! Beat that drum! This is what you've all been waiting for! The highlight of the day! The most exciting thing you'll see on this Showground! This is where ya git ya moneys' worth folks! This is where ya see some of the best boxers in Australia! Have a look at those posters there folks. They all started out like this, at Jimmy Sharmans' World Renown Boxing Troupe! Some of the best prizefighters you'll ever see got there start right here. Have a good look to my right and left, folks. These are some of Australias' up-and-coming future champions! Now, this is what we're gonna do folks. We're gonna match up my fighters to some of your local boys. So, if there's any of you local louts out there who think ya pretty good and handy with fists, now's the time to speak up. Not after we're gone! If ya wanna do a bit of of bragging and skiting in the bar tonight, you blokes, this is the place to make a name for yourself. Ya see that tall black feller of mine, down the end? He's called the Northern Territory Tiger. He'll take on all comers, no matter what size ya are! He's 6 foot tall and weighs 180 pounds. Any of you local footballers think ya good enough to stand on ya feet for three rounds with him and I'll give ya 6 dollars. Come down here to the center stage Tiger. Let these local louts see ya muscles! Look at that!" he says, as he felt Tigers' thin biceps.
"Six bucks to anyone who can knock him out or go the distance with him! What about you young feller?" he'd say to one of the crowd. "You look like ya can handle yourself. You're a pretty big bloke for ya age. Ya wanna make ya-self six bucks or have ya no guts unless ya with a bunch of ya mates? Ring that bell, beat that drum, here he comes Ladies and Gentlemen. This is one of your own local blokes. Give him a big round of applause!"
Once Jimmy got one of the local blokes up on stage, all is mates wanted to follow so as not to be outdone. When Jimmy called for a match to Sally, I stuck mi hand up in the crowd. Most times he would match me up with Sally first because I was not that big, so he'd say, "If this little bantam rooster from the back-blocks of New South Wales has got the guts to fight, what's wrong with all you strapping big footballers down there? Don't tell me you're a bunch of puftas'?"
This little challenge to their manhood was usually enough to make them climb up the 15-foot ladder onto the platform. Once the tent was full of local people the fight would start. Jimmy was also the referee, so he'd give the local blokes a large 16-ounce pair of gloves to wear and he'd save the thin 12-ounce gloves for us. That way if any one of the locals were Police Boys Boxing Club trained, which some of them were, we'd still have a good advantage over them. Most times Jimmy told us not to hurt them unless they got smart because if one of 'em got a bit roughed up, his mates would not come forward for a go.
I traveled all through New South Wales and into Victoria with Jimmy Sharman.
We stayed in Warrnabell for a few more days and then it was time to move on to another Showground. Everyday was show day for a 'showie' but for the locals it only came around once a year. "Thank goodness." I heard a couple of locals say as they walked out of the grounds a few dollars lighter.
All the 'showies' were making their way to Melbourne, which was one of the biggest events of the year. Just before we were due to do the Melbourne show, Jimmy Sharman said to me, "I'm putting ya out of the troupe, Yorky."
"Why?" I asked. "Aren't ya happy with my performance?"
"It's not that mate. Ya doin' fine. Melbourne is a real rough show for the troupe and I don't want to see ya get hurt."
"How am I gonna git hurt?"
" There'll be too many tough blokes there, that's why. A lot of those blokes are really hungry for the bucks and quite a few of mi boys got hurt last year. A lot of the ex-cons who can't git regular work show up at Melbourne, Mate."
"Well, couldn't I just try it, Jimmy?"
" No mate, I like ya too much to risk it. Ya can ride to Melbourne with us though and ya can come in the show anytime ya like Yorky."
"D'ya think I'll be able to find a job at the Melbourne Showground?"
"Find one? You'll have ya bloody pick of 'em mate. They're always short handed as hell at Melbourne. There'll be hundreds of thousands of people go through that place, not like these pissy little one-horse towns."
Jimmy was right. I was offered five jobs in as many minutes but they were all small stalls and I'd have no freedom. I could tell from talking to the bosses that they'd expect me to work the stall 16 hours a day.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
“Ya ever had a fuck Yorky?”, said Kevin.
"Na mate, I’m only 15. I doubt whether I'd git one in a brothel with a walletful of money."
We had a good laugh at this one.
"You'll have to come into town and stay at my place one night Yorky. I'll take ya down the main street after dark and introduce ya to the town bike."
"What's a town bike?"
"Not what mate, who? is more like it."
"OK, then who?"
"Who, is a young sheila that loves it. She's called the town bike because everybody rides her, Yorky. Don't ya git it mate?"
"I do now." I said. "But, I think I'll stick to walking until I git a ute."
"Yeh, that'll git ya a sheila, mate." he said with a smile.
After about an hour of joking and driving Kevin said to me, "We'll grease her up this time around Yorky. After I've finished dumping her I'll show ya how to grease her."
Once I became familiar with the header it only took me a few minutes to grease her, which I did while Kevin was emptying out her bin into the truck. Greased and emptied, we set off around the wheat paddock again.
"What's the matter?" said Kevin as I scratched away at my shoulders and the back of my neck.
"The wheat dust is making my skin itchy, mate."
"Yeh, you'll get itchy for the first couple of days, then after that you'll git used to it, mate. Wait till we start stripping the oats and barley. They're much worse than wheat mate."
"How long does it take to git used to that, Kevin?"
"Oh, once you've scratched all the skin off Yorky, you won't notice it anymore." he said with a grin.
Our days passed very much like that for about 8 weeks. One night as we were driving home, Digger said to me, "Grab the rifle off the back window will ya Yorky mate."
"No problem, mate." I said as I turned around to get it.
"There's a box of 22's in the glove box," said Kevin. "Fill the mag up will ya mate?"
"What ya gonna shoot?
"We need a couple of roo's for dog tucker. Diggers' got five dogs and
I've got six of the bastards plus the old man has a couple, so two roos don't last very long between a dozen or so dogs. There's some scrub country up the back of Diggers' place so we'll swing by there on our way home. We'll get two or three quite easy 'cause it's right on dusk now."
"There's a small mob." said Digger, as we drove along side one of his fences.
"Jump in the back with the gun, Digger. Once you've shot one we'll chase 'em down the fence line. If we're lucky you'll git one on the hop!"
Digger very quietly opened the door and climbed in the back of the Ute with Kevin's' 5-shot Bruno 22. BANG! A half-grown roo fell over on its' side and the others took off at top speed.
"Hang on Digger!" yelled Kevin as we bounced over the rough paddock dirt track.
"Wait till we git a bit closer, sport. OK Digger, let 'em have it!"
Digger fired 2 shots and a big roo hit the dust. 2 more shots rang out, but the roos kept hopping.
"Ah, ya useless fucking bastard!" yelled Kevin out the window. "Ya only got one of 'em."
Diggers rough head came into view upside-down in Kevins' side window and said, "You fucking try hitting 'em with a pea rifle off the back of a Ute with no crate on, if ya so fucking good Kevin. It's not as fucking easy as it looks, mate. Anyway, it took me all mi time to hang on. I almost fell out!"
"Ah ya fucking useless Digger", yelled Kevin. "Too much fucking wanking is your problem, mate."
"Well it's cheaper than looking after a fucking wife in town, Kevin."
At first I used to think that they were fair dinkum when they spoke to each other this way but after a while I came to realize that it was all designed to entertain me and entertain me they did.
The Ute pulled up alongside where the roo was now balanced on one leg and his tail and from looks of him he was not in a very good mood.
"He looks a bit cranky." said Kevin, as we got out of the cab.
"He's got a broken leg, that's why." I said.
"They're pretty tough bastards." said Digger, who was sitting on the edge of the back of the Ute.
"They sure are Digger." I said.
"You think you're as tough as a roo, Yorky?" said Digger.
"What d'ya mean Digger?"
"Well, for instance, it would be a bit of a shame to waste another good bullet on him, wouldn't it? "
"I suppose so." I said in my naiveté, not knowing I was in the process of being set up.
"Ya could strangle him, Digger." I said, which was exactly what he'd wanted me to say and I'd taken the bait, hook, line and sinker!
"Yeh, I probably could mate, but I'll bet mi boots a pommy bastard like you wouldn't be able to strangle him."
There was no way out of the challenge now 'cause I was in too deep, so my next line had to be "How much ya wanna bet, Digger?"
"How much ya make a week, Yorky?"
"10 quid. Why?"
"I'll bet ya half a weeks wages."
"You're on Digger." I said as I offered him my handshake.
"Ya words good enough for me, Yorky." he said with a big smile.
"Jesus Christ!" said Kevin. "This'll be a bit of fun. The pommy versus the roo, to the death!"
'Oh shit!' I thought, you let them con you Yorky, now you'll have to go through with it or they'll take the piss out of ya for weeks on end. They'll say that you're a gutless pommy bastard. You'll never hear the end of it.
"Whenever you're ready Yorky." said Digger. "Take ya time mate. He's got a real strong tail. Look how he's sitting up there mate!"
I turned to face the roo, who was now growling and raring to go. As I moved towards him he moved around a bit so he was still facing me, so I moved back around the other way. As soon as I made my move the roo made his, so he was still facing me. I thought, 'I may be able to run around the back side of him', but he saw what I was up to and hopped around on his one good leg and thick strong sinuous tail to face me again.
"Ya not making much headway with him Yorky." said Kevin.
"I think the pommy's scared of him." said Digger.
"If I go at him face on, Digger, he'll kick mi guts out mate!"
"Yeh, he most likely will Yorky." said Digger, who was now chewing on a piece of wheat stalk.
"Tell ya what I'll do for ya Yorky." said Kevin, with a smile. "I'll distract him with a branch and you sneak around the back of him and when he's not looking at ya, run in and grab him mate!"
"OK!" I said, glad for some help. "Go grab a big stick."
Kevin moved over to the side of the fence and picked up a large stick with some eucalyptus leaves on the end of it.
"Alright Yorky!" he said with a big smile. "Git ready mate!"
Kevin walked in front of the roo and shook the stick in the roos face and as the roo turned to face him I made the best of my opportunity. Running towards the roo, I grabbed him by the throat with mi bare hands. This really pissed him off. As I started to squeeze, he put his hands up to my hands that were wrapped tightly around his neck and started to claw at them, so I squeezed his neck much harder now. He fell over backwards on top of me, which knocked me to the ground, but by this time we were both fighting for our lives. As we rolled around on the ground the roos one good back leg kept coming in, up and down with great force as his large razor sharp toenail cut through the air trying to connect with some solid pommy skin. The red dust was flying quite thick now as we rolled around in the dirt. The roos' large, thick tail was thumping the ground as he tried to get his balance back so he could regain his one good leg. We were so close together now that we could smell each other and he sure didn't like the smell of white, pommy, Palmolive flavored skin, so he kicked as hard as he could while at the same time trying to twist his body so he was facing me.
I could hear Digger and Kevin laughing their heads off as Digger said, "Look out Yorky, If he gets turned around to face ya, ya fucked mate! I'll never collect mi five quid!" he roared with laughter.
"Fuck you Digger!" I screamed. "And fuck ya five quid mate. This bastard is a bloody strong roo, even with one leg!"
"Hang on to him, Yorky baby." roared Kevin from the sideline. "I think ya making a bit of progress with him, mate. Try squeezing a bit harder Yorky!"
I could feel the vibration in the roos' voice box as he growled and growled. I was squeezing as hard as I could but it was not making much impression on him as we still rolled in the Aussie dirt. He tried to regain his foot and rolled over on his other side taking me with him as I tried to get a foothold in the dust with mi work boot.
"I think ya getting one up on him, Yorky!" roared Kevin amidst a big belly laugh. "His eyes are starting to bulge a little bit."
"I can't squeeze any harder!”, I yelled to Kevin as we rolled around again.
"If he turns around to face ya Yorky, give him a big kiss. That'll confuse him mate, but be careful he doesn't bite ya lip."
"And look out for his breath!" added Kevin. "It probably stinks. It doesn't look like he's cleaned his teeth for a while, mate!"
"Give us a fucking hand, Kevin!" I yelled. "I'm stuck with him. I can't kill him I can't let him go!"
"Ya going great Yorky." yelled Digger. "I'm getting mi 5 quid out now so I can pay ya mate, as soon as he's dead."
The roo was in no worse shape now than before I started. His sinewy neck was strong as hard-core rubber under the gray and brown fur. The more and longer I squeezed, the more it seemed to piss him off. I felt like he knew I'd lost before I started and all I could do now was to hang on to his neck so he couldn't turn around and kick me to death.
As I eventually regained my feet I yelled to Kevin, "Bait him with the stick mate, I'm gonna try to let him go!"
"No.", he said. "Hang onto him Yorky. You're doing great mate!"
"Fuck you Kevin! You take over if ya want but I'm lettin’ him go right now mate, so grab the stick!"
I let go of the grip I'd had on the roos' throat and as I opened mi hands he shot forwards and regained his feet. I shot backwards as fast as I could go without losing mi footing. The roo had turned around again as he'd gone forward so now we stood face to face with each other at a distance of about 8 feet.
As we both stood there, breathing hard and gasping for breath, Digger said, "I think you've just about got him fucked Yorky. Dive on him again mate and give him another good dose. Show him what you're made of Yorky!"
"Fuck you Digger!", I said between gasps. "He's too good for me mate."
Digger was sat on a can in the back of the Ute still laughing away to himself as Kevin shot the roo and stuck him in the back of the Ute with the other one.
"Alright.” said Kevin. "Let's go. It'll be ten O'clock before I get home at this rate. The missus will be wondering where I got to."
When we got back to the homestead we threw the 2 roos into the dog pen and Kevin opened 'em up with a sharp pocketknife so as to make it easier for them to get at the meat. When we walked away the Kelpies were all fighting to maintain their positions in the pack and some of them were fighting to move up a position so they could eat before the rest of 'em.
"Look at the bastards!" said Kevin. "They won't work for a bloody week after a feed like that."
"Yeah." said Digger. "It's just as well we won't be needing 'em for a while."
That evening, after a good shower, Digger related the story of how Yorky had tried to strangle a roo on the way home. Dick Skipworth had a good laugh between mouthfuls of cold mutton and Ruby said to me, "Be careful of those two boys of mine, Yorky, they'll kid ya up a tree and chop it down it ya let 'em."
"I can see that, Mrs. Skipworth. I'll watch out for 'em from now on. I owe Digger 5 quid."
Digger started to laugh and after he'd finished he said, "I'm canceling the bet, Yorky. That's the best 5 quids worth of entertainment I've ever had in mi life, mate."
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
"Hey Yorky mate, are we playing anywhere on Thursday night?"
"Yea Bob, I've got a Jazz gig at a bar on the North Shore, nine till twelve."
"Well good on ya, mate. That's on my side of Sydney. What time are you gonna pick me up?
"Probably about 8:15. The gigs not far from your place so there's not much use in getting there too early."
"Have you got any gigs for over Xmas yet?"
"No mate, I was thinking of having a few nights off."
"That would suit me fine. Mi mate, who plays in a three-piece, needs a piano player. The regular bloke is off to Tassie for the week with his old lady. She's been whinging about going down there for months."
"No worries Bob, I'm off up to Coffs Harbour for three or four days."
"Jesus mate, they grow some off the best Ganja this side off the black stump. How about bringing some of it back down to Sydney with ya?"
"I'm not a real connoisseur of Ganja Bob. I've only smoked it a few times, and I've never bought it before."
'It's real easy Yorky mate, you just hand over the bucks and they hand over the stuff, ya can't go wrong pal."
"How much does it sell for in Sydney?"
"Twice as much as you can get it up there for. You could make yourself a couple of easy bucks. It would pay for ya holiday."
"I don't know anyone down here who would buy it."
"Jesus mate, my mate Bernie will buy as much off it as you can get. He's stoned 24\7. He even smokes it in his sleep; besides it's in short supply down here, no one has any.Ya' can't go wrong sport."
"Well, you contact him and see what you can do. If it's as you say, I'll think about it."
"I'll give him a ring after the next break. How's that sound?"
"Sounds good to me Bob."
After the next set, Bob came back from the bar and handed me a beer and said
"Here ya go, Yorky mate, get this into ya, I called mi mate and he said whatever the Ganja costs you he'll double ya money as long as it's good stuff."
"OK mate I'll see what I can do."
A week later I found myself heading out of Sydney in a Northeasterly direction towards Coffs Harbor. Once I got out of the northern suburbs, it was a very pleasant drive as the road, more or less, followed the coastline all the way up to Coffs. My old orange 78 Holden Station Wagon was purring along, and the sun was reflecting off of the ocean. If you've ever wanted a great, memorable experience, drive all the way up to Queensland on this road; ya can't go wrong.
After about seven or eight hours of driving I hit the outskirts of Coffs. Coffs Harbor used to be a small coastal town. That was before the developers got their greedy, bloody claws into it. Now, from what I could see, they had ruined the place. I saw malls where small shops used to be, and big new houses where once stood good old Aussie Bush, (the Bastards).
Oh, there's a familiar site; an old, large, colorful Windmill that some Old Dutch bloke had shipped out from Holland in pieces. The local people said he was homesick and that’s why he had it moved, thousands of miles, on a boat, to Coffs. Thinking about it, it might have been easier to go back to Holland for a bloody holiday. Once it was reconstructed, he turned the bottom section of it into a high-class restaurant, which I must admit looked quite unique. I drove straight out of town, past, the Plantation Hotel and onwards to my mate Ken's place. On the right hand side of me was the beautiful Pacific Ocean and on the left was acres and acres of Banana Plantations. In Coffs, bananas grew all over the hillside. This scene was much more enjoyable to me than the over developed township. After fifteen minutes more driving I was knocking on Kens' front door.
"Yorky Mate!" he said, as he opened the front door. "Good to see ya mate. Ya made it all right. How was the drive up?"
"Not bad mate." I said, as we shook hands. "I'm bloody glad to be out of Sydney for a while. Your old lady doesn't mind me hanging out with you for a few days does she?"
"No mate, she'll be glad to talk to another Pommy Bastard. She gets sick of talking to me every day; that’s when I'm not out wind surfing, which is most of the time."
"Jesus Ken, you've got a great place here, right on the beach. You couldn’t get any closer if you tried mate."
"Only place for a life-long surfer to live Yorky. Mi daughter loves it too. She's like me. We can't keep her out of the water. Anyway, come in Yorky mate. It's too bloody warm standing on the doorstep."
A few hours later after our socializing was done, Ken and I took off for a couple of cold middies at his local Hotel. Once we got situated in some comfortable chairs I introduced the subject of Ganja.
"Hey Ken, do you know anyone around hear who and sells Ganja?"
"Jesus mate there are more marijuana growers around hear than there are Banana Plantations. I don't know any of my surfing mates who don't smoke."
"Do you still smoke mate?"
"Nah Yorky mate, my old lady really cops the shits when I smoke these days. She thinks it’s a bad influence on mi daughter. Can you fucking believe that? It's her bastard pommy upbringing that does it."
"Don't you have a puff before you go Wind Surfing?"
"Some times. The problem is; if I smoke too much, I stay out in the surf all fucking day. That really sends her over the top."
"She gets cranky eh?"
"You could say that. Put it this way; no pussy for a month lets me know she's not real fucking happy."
"Jesus Ken are you shitting me?"
"No mate, I'm Fair Dinkum."
"Let me ask you another dumb question. What's the use of being married if you're not getting any?"
"Good fucking question, Yorky mate. I've asked miself that more times than once and every time I come up with the same answer. Mi daughter mate. It would really put the kibosh on her life if I pulled the pin on her mother. Not to mention the fact that sometimes she's just bloody like her. Drink up Yorky mate it's my shout. Anyway, what are you so interested in ganja for? I thought you didn't smoke."
"I don't, well not very much anyway. Let me explain the deal to you."
Kenny listened while I went through the saga of the ganja and at the end he said,
"Sounds like a good plan to me Yorky, I'm sure I can line you up with a score before you go back to the Big Smoke, I'll call this bloke I know when we get home. Him and his mate are big time dealers around here. They're sure to have as much as you need. "
Later that evening, at Kens place, the doorbell rang. Kens old lady answered it.
"Its for you Kenneth." she said, as she walked back in the room. I don't want that Yobbo in my house. Take him down stairs to the den. I heard on the grapevine that he's a big-time drug dealer!"
"Jesus love, he sells a bit of Ganja now and again. That’s not drug dealing, that’s a hobby."
"I don't care what you call it Ken. You know my views on drugs!"
"Ok sweetheart, I'll take him in the basement. We can have a game of pool. Lets go Yorky mate. This is mi mate Bruce, Yorky. Ya' got any weed for sale?"
"Does a Roo shit in the bush mate? In all the time you've known me have you ever not seen me without weed for sale?"
Bruce was a sleazy looking Bastard if I ever saw one. His shifty eyes were all over the place except where they should be, in his head.
"Yorky's looking to buy a bit of Ganja to take back down to Sydney with him."
"We'll mate, you're talking to the right bloke." He said, as his shifty eyes quickly scanned my way, averting my eyes in the process.
"How much are you looking for, a couple of Pounds?"
"No mate." I said. "More like a quarter."
"Ounces or Pounds?"
"Jesus Christ mate, I could smoke that in a fucking night on mi own."
"Yeah well, maybe you could Bruce, but I'm not a big time smoker."
"How much is it anyway?"
"For you mate, $200 an ounce and that’s cheap. You won't find it anywhere else cheaper than that. Me and my mate have the best prices on the east coast, and the best Ganja, I might add!"
"You got any with ya now?"
"Don't be silly mate. Ya think I drive around with it in mi old Ute. The cops have been watching me for months now. They're only waiting for one little excuse to pick me up. I've been busted before. One more time and I'll be vacationing in Grafton for a few months."
"Well you won't have far to go Bruce." said Ken, laughing. "Grafton's only an hours drive from here. Your mate could visit you on the week ends with a joint."
"Very fucking funny Kenny! You should be in the clubs mate. You're a laugh a fuckin' minute."
"I'm only joking with ya Bruce, for fucks sake. So when ya gonna bring us a bud around to try out?"
"Don’t you fucking trust me mate?"
"Sure I do Bruce but Yorky doesn't."
"Ya don't trust me mate?"
"Well, it's not that I don’t trust ya Bruce, but I would like a sample before I buy."
"Jesus Christ, what am I dealing with here, a bunch of fuckin' novices? Alright then, when ya going back down to Sydney?"
"I'll be back tomorrow with a small sample. I'm not a fucking charity ya know. People around here trust me. I've got my good name to consider!"
"Don't get the shits Bruce." said Kenny. "Yorky's right. He doesn't know you from a bar of soap. You could be a real gouging Bastard for all he knows."
"I've never gouged any bastard in mi life; 'Honest Bruce' is who I'm known as!"
"We're not accusing you of anything mate. Just like to be on the safe side, ya know." "Ok, I'll see see ya tomorrow evening, about the same time."
The next evening Bruce dropped off a reasonable-sized bud, which Ken and I tried, with no hesitation. Ken was much more of a toker than I was and he reckoned that the Ganja was well worth $200 an ounce.
Driving back down to Sydney with mi 4oz of Ganja tucked under the front seat; I was smiling to myself, thinking about all the money I was going to make when I got home.
'I can sell it for $400 an ounce. That would be double mi money and still a fair price for Bobs mate to pay. This little caper is too easy; if every thing goes well, I may decide to do this more often!'
The first thing I did when I arrived back was to call Bob. He said he'd send his mate around to pick up the stuff.
"Tell him to bring the cash with him. I don't do credit." That was the last thing I said to him as I put the phone down. An hour later Bobs mate, Bernie, was ringing my doorbell. "How are ya mate?" he said as I let him in.
"I'm Bernie, Bobs mate."
"Yea I know mate, Bob said you were on your way over."
"Ya got the weed?"
"Yea, sit down at the table Bernie I'll go get it. Here ya go mate." I said, as I handed him the bag,
"Ya got the money?"
"Yea. Ya don't mind if I check it out first do ya?"
"No mate, go ahead."
With that, he tipped the bag of Ganja out on the table and immediately pulled a weird face.
"What the fuck is this shit!" he said as he moved the Ganja around on the table.
"What d'ya mean? What's wrong with it?" I asked.
"This stuff is fuckin' shit man! Is this some sort of a fucking joke? I just drove all the way over the harbor bridge to see this crap!"
"I don't know what your talking about mate." I said, as his face changed radically before my eyes.
"Are you fuckin' kidding me sport, you had me drive all the way out here to look at a bunch of fucking shake?"
"What are you talking about mate? What the fuck is shake anyway?"
"You're fuckin' serious aren't you? You have no idea what I'm talking about do you?"
"Look mate." I said. as I looked him square in the eyes. "Bob asked me to bring some Ganja back from Coffs. He said Sydney was all dried up so while I was up there I met this bloke who I bought this from, that's all I know."
"Did you try it out before you bought it?
"Sure I did. Ya think I'm fucking stupid! He brought a bud around for me and mi mate to try, then dropped this stuff of just before I left to come back down here."
"Did you get ripped on it?" Course I did! Mind you I haven't smoked much, I've only tried it a couple of times. What the hell is shake anyway?"
"Jesus Christ mate, you really did come down in the last shower! Ya not shit'n me are ya.?"
"No mate, I'm not a bullshit artist. I did it as a favour for Bob and I thought I might make a few bucks in the process."
"Well mate, all I can tell you from 30 years of dealing is, you've been well and truly shafted!"
"So what your saying is the weed is no good."
"No good mate? That’s this years' understatement. This shit wouldn't make a good cup of tea!"
"Oh for fucks sake." I said. What do you suggest I do with it?"
"You can shove it up ya fuckin arse for all I care!" He said as he got up from the chair. "That was a waste of my valuable time."
"Look mate, don’t get cranky about it." I said. From what you're saying I've been ripped off. But that doesn't mean I'm going to stand here and let you fucking well make matters worse by insulting me!"
Now I really had the shits, the pulse in my navel was starting to beat strongly and I was entertaining the idea of smacking this rude bastard in the mouth.
"Ok, Ok mate." said Bernie. "Settle down. I didn't mean any harm. You got ripped off, and you've got a right to get cranky."
"Do you have any decent suggestions for me?" I asked.
"Yea, I do mate. Never buy drugs from some one you don't know, especially when you have no idea what you're looking at. How much did you pay for this crap?"
"Eight hundred bucks!"
"Jesus Christ! Well mate, chalk it up to experience and consider your self lucky. They could have gotten you for a lot more!"
After Bernie left, I sat at the table looking at four ounces of shake. Eight hundred dollars it cost me to learn a new word, SHAKE, a bunch of stalks and leaves. Now! Let me tell you, I have been conned a few times in my life and not once has it ever felt good and this time was no exception. After ten minutes of silent contemplation with a genuine bowl of St Bruno Flake I decided that action was required. I would simply call Ken, get Bruces' number and call him up and politely explain the situation to him, and a genuine misunderstanding will be put right."
"Bruce, how are ya mate, its Yorky."
"What do ya want mate?"
"It's about the Ganja."
"What about it?"
"I tried to sell it to a mate of mine and he said it was no good."
"What do ya mean no good?"
" Mi mate said it was a bunch of shake."
"So why are you calling me?"
"I would appreciate a refund as I can't sell it."
"Look mate you tried it before you bought it you had no complaints then."
"Yea, but this stuff you put in the bag is not the same as I tried."
"Listen mate, I gave you a great deal, I put more than 4oz in the bag. You should think your self lucky mate."
"All the same Bruce I would like a refund please."
"What do you think I am mate, a fucking shop?" You get no fucking refunds from me. You bought it and your stuck with it! Don't fucking call here again ya bastard!"
With that he put the phone down as I heard a loud click in mi ear. The only course of action now was another bowl of Bruno. My second bowl of Bruno now in ashes, I decided it was time to give Bruce one more opportunity to manifest some integrity. After dialing his number I waited quite calmly as I listened to the dial tone.
"G'day." said Bruces' voice on the other end of the line.
"Bruce, this is Yorky mate."
"What do you fucking want? I thought I told you not to fuckin' call here again."
"Yea, ya did Bruce, but I forgot to tell you something."
"Listen to me you fucking scumbag, cock sucking, mongrel-bred, mother-fucking drug addict, if my $800 is not returned within the next twenty-four hours you know what I'm gonna do 'fuck face'? I'm going to take this bag of useless shit you gouged me on and I'm going to wrap it up like a Xmas present and I'm going to post it off to the Coffs Harbor Police Station to 'Care of the Desk Seargeant' with your full-fucking-name and address on it, arsehole. Do you fucking well understand me, anus breath? You ripped off the wrong one this time, you mongrel bred cunt!"
With that I slammed down the phone and caught mi finger under the cradle. 'Fuck me dead!' I said out loud. 'What else can go wrong today!'
Within ten minutes my phone started ringing. I picked it up and a voice on the other end said, "Yorky, it's Bruce."
"What do you want? ya Bastard?"
"You're not going to do something you might regret are you.?"
"No mate, I'm gonna do something that you will regret. You'll regret the fucking day you ripped old Yorky off mate. I've dealt with much bigger mongrel-bred Bastards than you Bruce. Don't fucking call here again mate.!"
"Now hold on Yorky, hold on a minute. Let me talk to my partner about it and I'll call you back within the hour."
"I'll be here mate. I'm not going anywhere. I'm broke!"
An hour later the phone rang and Bruce very politely explained to me how a mistake had been made with the Baggies. He asked for my address and informed me that an over night bank cheque would be sent to me as soon as he got off the phone. He then asked me quite politely if that would be a satisfactory arrangement and would that put the matter to rest.
"No worries Bruce." was my reply.
The next day a Special Delivery letter arrived with a bank cheque made out in my name to the tune of $800! There was only one more thing bothering me now; I had mi $800 back and 4 oz of fine Coffs Harbor shake. I didn't want to rip off Bruce so I packed his 4 oz of shake in a small cardboard box and sent it back to him FIRST CLASS MAIL. I didn't want it to get lost, seeing as the scales were now well balanced.