Rob Gray :: ontheroad :: chronicles :: issue-077
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Editorial

I guess that the house is finished. Well it can be locked up at least, but I've had enough for now, I think we should rename Wallaby Ridge to "Dunbildin". (Yeah right, I'll always be building something)

I also finally find some gainfull employment but it doesn't last long and I'm beginning to wonder if I'm even employable these days, you see at some point in your life you decide that your time is more important than any money you might earn working. You also get to the point where you don't give a toss.

Not that we wouldn't mind a larger financial buffer in case of emergency, but we can live quite well as things are.

 

Till next time then, and remember,

 

Wed 24 May 2019

I'm driving into town and at a point where the road goes through a cutting there's a huge Brahman bull on the side of the road. The problem here is that animals tend to panic and with a steep bank on the other side of him the only way to go is onto the road.

Fortunately this guy was quite placid and he just stands there.

I pull up, put the hazard flashes on and walk back to the big fella with a view to shooing him off the road. Another bloke also pulls up and between us we get the animal well into the scrub and out of harm's way. The bloke knows the owner of the nearest property (Gin Gin station) and phones him. It's not theirs but he thinks it belongs to a neighbour, "The bastard's always getting out" he says. He'll come down and have a look, but I've got to get into town.

Sun 09 Jun 2019

Out and about around Mt Walsh this morning, thought I'd grab a few happy snaps.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Mon 10 Jun 2019

I applied for a job a week or two back, didn't get it mostly because I don't have a forklift ticket, but next thing I knew I got a call from the job agency saying that they can get me onto a Process Manufacturing course. I say that's nice but I need a forklift ticket.

Well it seems that if you pass this course you get a voucher that allows you to do a free forklift course. So I'm in.

The course is two weeks in length and it starts today, so at 8:30 I arrive all shite and briney at the Brothers football club in Bundaberg and am directed into a function room.

Apparently "Process Manufacturing" is really just workplace health and safety (WHS) under a different name. I don't care, as long as it's a step towards a forklift ticket.

Tue 11 Jun 2019

It's too far to drive home every night so I've decided to camp at the Sharon rest area about 20k out of Bundaberg.

There's a nice nature walk here that I've never explored so today is as good a time as any.


 
 
 
 

As it gets darker and colder I nurse a few glasses of Tawny port and seriously wonder why I'm doing this course. I'm actually not interested in it at all but at its completion we all get a voucher to do a forklift course and that's what I want as there are precious few jobs around here that don't need that ticket.

Yes all this is a pathway to me finding a job, but we don't really need the extra money. That said I would like to buy a few toys and we would also like to put aside a bit of a kitty, so I think it does make sense for me to work for a while over the next year or two while I'm fit enough to do so.

Mon 17 Jun 2019

Camping at the Sharon rest area again.


 
 

My frozen dinner has been in the fridge all day and even though the fridge has not been turned on the meal is still frozen. I find a small ray of sunlight pace there in the vain hope that that will help.


 

Then while on the phone to Chris she suggests putting it on the still-hot motor.


 

Good idea.

Tue 18 Jun 2019

At about 6AM two council workers arrive and I get the dreaded knock on the side of the canopy. It seems that this camp is only for self-contained vehicles.

As there are toilets here and I have no need to shower or wash dishes I could argue that I am self contained. But they are nice blokes and even tell me of a place to camp where they don't have any jurisdiction, nudge nudge, wink wink.

Well I'm awake now, might as well go look for some photos.


 Even Harry's Mowers looks half good in the early light.


 Old tractor on a farm on the way into town.


 PVC pipe in the industrial area.


 The Miliquin sugar mill is right in the center of Bundaberg.


 Vapour steaming from the Miliquin mill's stack catches the early light.

Then I drive up to the Brothers Club for another mind-numbing day of workplace health and safety training.

After the course I drive down to the river to take some photos...


 
 

I spot a shopping trolley about a hundred meters away with what looks like garbage all around it. My initial thought is that some dickhead has dumped this stuff in the park, but then part of the garbage moves and resolves itself into a young child. I look more closely and can see that there is also an adult lying on the ground with their knees up.

There has been talk of homeless people in Bundaberg but I confess I am a little taken aback to see what appears to be a single parent and child living out of a shopping trolley in the park.

Wed 19 Jun 2019

I met a bloke at the course and we got on pretty well so when he found out I've been camping in the car he offered a room at his place. Greg is his name, and as it happens he's heard that a mob called RSM People are looking for workers at a local sugar mill. He's going down this afternoon, so I will go as well.

After the course we both drive down to RSM and ask about work at the mill. It seems that they are in fact looking for people, they are having trouble filling all the positions and with the season starting in July they need people ASAP.

Greg has a front end loader license so he looks a likely candidate for the bagass truck and loader driver, and they seem to think that with my technical background I would be good for the weighbridge/loft operator job.

Thu 20 Jun 2019

I have an interview at the mill today, it was supposed to be with the manager but he's not available so I talk to Scottie and Salesh. They seem nice and they think that I'd be better suited to a sugar boiler position. This turns out to be not a good fit as it happens, but at the time I don't know one job from another in a sugar mill so I agree, truth is I don't care much at this point.

Fri 21 Jun 2019

RSM phone me, I've got the job as a sugar boiler. That's good...I think.

Mon 24 Jun 2019

Today is the offsite induction with RSM People, it's just the usual crap about not being an arsehole on the job etc etc. But the interesting thing to me is that of the ten people supposed to attend only four turned up.

I guess the other six aren't that keen to work.

Thu 27 Jun 2019

Today we have the onsite induction at the Bingera mill. More BS about workplace safety etc, and how to pick up things and warm up before performing tasks etc etc. Yeah I suppose it all makes sense, but man I've had a gutfull of being told things that used to be common sense.

What is interesting is to have a walk around the facility, with steam (well water vapour really) spewing out orifices everywhere and all manner of valves and leavers that do who knows what it's like I stepped into a Jules Verne scene. I half expect a giant squid to crawl out of one of the mammoth molasses vats.

Mon 1 Jul 2019

Today I start work at the mill on day shift at 7AM. That's a little earlier than the normal 8AM day shift start because on Monday they have a "light up", which is to say that all the boilers and vacuum pans etc are brought up to working status after being shut down the previous Saturday. I shouldn't complain about the early start though, a lot of the blokes started at 4AM.


 
 

Thu 4 Jul 2019

I have to say that I am not enjoying this job one bit. Yes the plant is really interesting and I would like to do a series of photographs of it one day, but the work is boring, or at least it is to me. I find that when someone is describing a process to me I have to really concentrate and force myself not to day dream about something more interesting, like those great-looking God beams caused by light from a high window streaming through the steam emitting from a vacuum pan. Wow that looks great, oh bugger, what did he say?

And in the frequent down time pretty much all these guys talk about is sugar...heck I don't even eat the stuff.

I don't know how I can stick this out, the only saving grace is the good money and the fact that the season will probably be short because of the lack of rain this year.

Fri 5 Jul 2019

I hit and killed a wallaby on the way into work tonight, plus had several near misses.

Sat 6 Jul 2019

Hit and killed another wallaby on the way into work and had more near misses. There's just nothing you can do normally as they bound out of the darkness and smack right into the side of your car. I stop and pull them off the road as there might be a joey in the pouch and they often survive, also the body is a traffic hazard to other vehicles.

It's really depressing for me to have hurt an animal, yes I know I've hunted and probably will again, but I only shoot feral animals and then only for food or to protect native species. This driving to work at night is getting very stressful.

Sun 7 Jul 2019

This is the second Sunday I've put my hand up for overtime on the maintenance crew. Unlike the sugar boiling this is very dirty and sometimes hard work, and you know what, I really enjoy it. All the figuring out what pipe needs to be isolated before you split open a pump and still getting covered in shit when the seal breaks, or how to lift a heavy conveyor belt to change the rollers, is right up my alley. What a shame this is only done on Sundays and it's not a full-time position.

Wed 17 Jul 2019

I get a phone call from RSM today, it looks like my services are no longer required at the mill. No explanation, no nothing, that's just the lot of an employee under this modern labour hire arrangement. I can see now why the workers hate it and the employers like it.

I was almost on top of the job's procedures I think, but did hate the work so maybe that attitude showed through more than I thought it would. I guess we'll never know, but I don't really care, the money was good but I didn't have any spare time and the whole scenario was getting me down.

Tue 23 Jul 2019

My new (to me) lens arrived today. It's a Canon 11-24mm f4 zoom, the widest zoom for full frame cameras in production and it's a real beast.

I admit the weight catches me by surprise a bit, yes I knew the technical specifications but to actually hold 1.180kgs of lens on a large pro-series camera body was quite a surprise at first. I do have heavier lenses but they are telephotos, somehow you just don't expect this much weight in a wide angle.

No matter, I have a play with it in town and on the way home, I think I'm going to enjoy using this bottle.


 
 
 

Thank goodness I ordered it while I was earning the big bucks a week or so back, no way I could justify it now.

Fri 28 Jul 2019

I'm up at my neighbour's for an evening drink. He's been experimenting with wicking beds made from IBC containers (totes) cut in half. I know the idea but have not seen one in the flesh until recently when he got the urge to try it out.

He has planted a few varieties that probably are not suitable for a small garden bed such as these, but you can't argue that the technique works, look at this growth.


 Get a load of the growth in these two wicking beds.

And he is away a lot so there has not been any maintenance or watering for a couple of weeks.

I really think that this is the way to go for us, the garden we had last year worked really well but we were dependant on another neighbour's dam water and we pretty much drained that. Wicking beds use bugger all water and I think that even with our limited supplies we could keep a few of them happy.

Sun 4 Aug 2019

I've decided to move the truck back out into the sun. Why? Because even though the solar is doing well I would like to add another bank of panels to collect the late afternoon sun and it seems silly to spend $1000 on more panels when I can use the ones that are already on the truck.

One problem is that the ground is far from level in the chosen location, so I can either put blocks under the downhill side of the truck or dig some holes for the wheels on the uphill side.

I don't want to have to set anything up when the truck leaves and returns (assuming it ever goes anywhere again that is) so I elect to dig the holes. Anyway I need some dirt to level up a dip in the nearby driveway.


 The start of the earthworks that will provide a level parking spot for the truck.

You may remember that I did plan to make a tracking frame for those panels in the background, but I thought I'd leave it until we got through winter and see how we go. We are well passed the shortest day now and so far the system is doing great, we've only fired up the generator 2-3 times this year I think and that was due to bad weather, so I don't reckon it's worth the trouble to do all the engineering required for the tracking frame. What I now plan to do is make a static frame with these panels angled to catch the early light, this will give the batteries a hit first thing in the morning. The truck will be placed such that its panels will catch the light as far as is possible into the afternoon, and the other panels on the container will work best during the main part of the day.

Mon 5 Aug 2019

I'm quietly watching TV with my dinner on my lap and generally minding my own business when I hear a kerfuffle on the ceiling above me. I look up just in time to see two geckos fall from the ceiling and SPLAT, they land right next to my bowl of hot soup.

Two inches to the left and it would have ended badly.

They scarper away as if nothing had happened. This is actually a fairly common event here, although normally it's just a single gecko and normally they land on Chris.

Wed 7 Aug 2019

We have friends visiting in a few weeks, they are somewhat unusual amongst our friends in that they don't have a motorhome or anything of their own to sleep in. It just so happens however that we have a spare motorhome.

That's convenient.

The trouble is it's in a bit of a mess these days due to several years of neglect, so for some time I've been cleaning it out. And this clean out includes all my posters that are currently stored on the truck's bedroom floor.

But where to put them?

Well for some time I've figured that a storage unit below the bench in the lounge room would be a good place, so this project's priority has been raised from "one day" to "today".

I make a start cutting the wood and drilling all the holes for the cross dowels that will give me the invisible butt joins for the shelves.


 Some of the ply sheets being prepared.

I'm working on my steel-fabrication bench and that is less than ideal for woodwork as it easily scares the wood. I need to make a woodwork bench.

The labour hire mob have been making a lot of noise about paying for me to do a high-risk forklift course as they still think that I am a good candidate for the jobs they have, but these days just about every position except a Woollies checkout chick requires a forklift ticket. These courses can cost up to $1000 or more so there's no way I'm forking (sorry) out for one but the other day they reckoned they could get the funding. Anyway, I get a call today, I have been funded to go on the course and they seem confident that they will place me in another job once I get the ticket.

Thu 8 Aug 2019

The poster-storage cabinet is finished and I drag all the posters out from the truck and put them on the new shelves.


 

One day I'll have to make some doors, but for now that will do.

Note also the new freezer (in the foreground), it's older but identical mate can be seen in the background.

Wed 14 Aug 2019

I am driving home and the timing belt light comes on. WTF, I only changed the belt a few weeks ago.

Then I twig and look at the odometer, sure enough it had just hit 300,000 and they come on every 100,000 'cause that's when you are supposed to change the belt. I was a few ks early but the light still comes on.

So I take a pic for posterity.


 

Sat 24 Aug 2019

I've been on a high-risk forklift operator course all week, today was the final assessment and I am happy to report that I am now a qualified high-risk forklift operator, although I'm still unsure as to whether the "high risk" refers to the job in general or only when I'm the operator.

This will vastly improve my job prospects as just about every job in these parts required a forklift license. In fact I have been told that there is a job for me as soon as I get the ticket, dunno what or where at this point but hopefully I'll find out on Monday.

Even if that job is not suitable I feel that I am now in a position of being able to be at least a little bit choosey. In fact, at the end of the course they pulled me aside and said that they get asked to pass on the details of businesses looking for "good and safe forklift operators" to their best students and that apparently is me. So I have a couple of people to phone on Monday.

I got a phone call from Nigeria late last night, well we all know about Nigeria eh? So I just ignored it.

But today I get an email from a bloke in Nigeria asking for some help with an electronics circuit. Waddayaknow, the call was possibly genuine, it was him that phoned last night.

I have been able to help a little, but I confess that a couple of things don't quite add up, so watch this space.

 

Comments

Date  ::   08 Sep 2019
Name  ::   Kevin
Location  ::   Canada
Comment  ::   Rob, Mate, Nigeria? I've invested there the past 20 years. Dr. Nadoodoo has assured me of my wealth. That said I also have a forklift ticket but only the "low risk" Canadian one. Can't really use it as I'm a bit old and frail but hell, the course was paid for! Glad to see all is good on the block. KK.
   
Date  ::   08 Sep 2019
Name  ::   GRAYnomad
Comment  ::   G'day Kevin, long time no see. When you get the money maybe you can afford another trip to Oz visit us eh? :)

All forklift driving is high risk over here because we're all cowboy operators.
   

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