As the alarm went off at 6:20am it reminded me of my previous job (which I started early at too) and wished I could have an extra hour in bed! Avril was also up to go to work and gave me a wake up call, so I got out of bed and threw some old clothes on, packed up a lunch which Avril helped me put together as she had a lunch box, ice bag and ice pack. (I was taking a ham, cheese and lettuce sandwich with a packet of crisps that I brought from England- chili heat wave Doritos, a tin of tuna and 4 bottles of water because the temperature was expected to be into the 30’s today) I also had a few Weet bix (very similar to weetabix in England) to give me the energy I would need today, put on some all day sun cream but took the bottle just in case and went outside to wait for Mick to pick me up, but as its quite cold at that time of day, especially in shorts and a t-shirt ready for the hot weather, I started to walk down the road and ended up getting quite far before Mick… Drove right past, apparently he didn’t see me standing in the road with my red top on and thumb out because he was looking at some vans/ trucks leaving for work, so I then turned around and walked back to Avril’s, who was now standing outside with Mick wondering where I was, well at least it warmed me up a little bit.
Once we arrived, Paul was just turning up too, so the ‘fun’ was about to begin and just after 7am we started to take down the poorly built wall. Due to the cement the previous person had used, it was far harder than we thought and I was hammering, banging, shaking as well as chipping away at what I could with Mick and Paul doing the same (although admittedly doing a better job than me!) We hammered for about an hour and a half before deciding we had knocked down enough of the wall and the rest could be tidied up with a special tool that Mick went to get, (it basically chips away cement to tidy the wall up rather than having to knock them all out) but already I could feel some sweat on my head, I have never done this much physical work and the day had only just begun. My next job was to gather some rocks for Paul and Mick… it just so happened that there were two piles of rocks in opposite directions about 20 meters away from where we needed them and they were all pretty big and therefore heavy. I brought back stones I could manage and loaded up the wheelbarrow for other bigger ones, it was then I learnt my first trick of the trade, walls need a smooth face to put on the front and because they had naturally dug rock I had to go searching for the perfect stones.
After a while I got my eye in and I was bring back some good rocks, but even when I coulndn’t find a good stone or they were to heavy I’d bring something else back instead… I was “economising” – doing that journey without something in my hand seemed redundant and Avril’s advise was always look for things to do before being asked so I always wanted to have something in my hand. After working til around 10am we stopped for a quick bite to eat and I ate most my lunch thinking we were half way through the day… boy was I wrong, however all morning and throughout the rest of the day we had had mini breaks and a real good laugh together, Paul was such a nice bloke and Mick is also a great laugh so the 3 of us were giggling all day in fact at one point Paul said I should be a comedian. Back we went to work after the break and I was now making cement/ muck after Paul showed me how, it took me a few batches to near perfect it by I wasn’t to bad, even if I do say so myself, although some of the time when I got it wrong it was too runny so I got loads down my clothes, on my shoes and on the floor. By now the sun was fully out and it was turning in to a pretty warm day, so I top up with sun cream just in case and continue working and economising where possible, not only was I making the muck but also using the wheelbarrow to bring it round to the boys; it must have been close to 60 meters away and I full wheelbarrow isn’t light (and nor is an empty one for that matter) once at the lads I was then shoveling it out onto a board I had found. The wheelbarrow could be filled twice from 1 cement mixer load so imagine how heavy that was to turn out the contents and turn back, plus all the other walking/ carrying/ unloading I was doing and with the midday sun I really started to sweat, at times I could even see it dripping off my head… this is the first time I’ve worked so hard I had sweat literally running off my face but then again the sun cream probably aided that. After a few cement loads and a couple of loads of rocks in between we stopped for lunch… Yeah I know it meant more work after that too… no one works this long and hard do they?! Apparently so!
As I finished the last remnants of my lunch, we again all sat in the owner of the wall’s, half built house, talking and having a joke, which was really good because it was only the second time I had met Paul but he made me feel welcome, in fact at one point during the afternoon he said that I was doing better than he thought and if I had of been rubbish that would have been Mick responsible for looking after me. He also said if he had put and advert in a paper for a laborer with experience he’d be luck to get someone as good as me, both of these were really good to hear and definitely made me feel part of the team. As we headed into the final leg of the day the wall had made slow but steady progress, taking it down had taken longer than originally planned but me being Mick’s legs was at least helping a bit, however we may now need to work 3 days rather than the originally planned 2. When the owner came to check out the wall we were offered beer, coke or water, also apparently Paul was offered a beer at 9am by her as well (I was getting rock so I didn’t see) no wonder everyone gets drunk here. (also explains the booze bus that parks on a road and with police aid summons in cars to check if they are over the limit and if they are they get a seat on the bus – the fact its a bus tells you all you need to know!) The owner like what we had done so far and asked for an couple of meter extension to the wall, Paul agreed but the fact we were already behind the 2 day schedule, due to the tough wall and would now need more time for the extra wall that needed to be built, asked for more money which the owner agreed to. While drinking the coke we had all accepted I sang the diet coke advert music “Etta James – I Just Want Make Love To You” which had the others in stitches (cos in the advert a woman gives some hard works coke to watch them drink it) from there on in, the day just consisted of bring some flat faced rocks, a load or 6 of muck and economising where possible and we finished at around 5pm.
Tired, dirty and bruised after my first days laboring
What a long day, I have never worked so hard or for so long in my life, I had a sense of accomplishment too and the boys seemed pretty happy with my work, the owner and family all came to see the wall and paid some money to us and after discussing it with Paul and Mick I took home $200 (£133 ish) for my efforts, not a bad wage but tough work and now I needed to do it all again tomorrow. Covered in dirt, muck, sun cream, cuts scrapes, bruises and anything else on me, Mick gave me a lift back home while Paul drove himself home, as Mick and I walked in to Avril and Peters they started laughing about the state I was in and said comments like, “What have you done to him” and “Sarah (my mum) is going to kill me” but a couple of photos were taken and added to Facebook (along with a video of me working) for the whole world to laugh at. When Mick went home, I got in the shower (I always say ‘got in’ but as its just a room with a wet floor I kind of just went to the shower room) and had a nice relaxing long shower but still managed to come out slightly dirty but I blame that on the blisters I had on one hand (I got them pretty early on in the day as Mick only had one spare glove so the other hand was getting cut up/ blistered – I even had cramp in my hands pretty much all day too, making clasping painful. Anyways, after a while I did find a full pair of gloves and wore them for the rest of the day, however with the cramp and the fact they had got worse as the day went on, I struggled to squeeze my hand together, meaning getting shampoo/ shower gel out the bottle was quite hard) which were stinging and meant I couldn’t rub the dirt off as easily. (then again the dirt I thought I was seeing could just have been more bruises cos I had somehow got covered in them!)
As I had had a long and tiring day, a takeaway was suggested and I picked Chinese, saying I’d pay for it but there was no chow mein that I could see on the menu and no chicken balls either so I got a chicken curry (yes I know that’s more Indian!) Peter a beef dish and Avril chicken strips in a lemon crisp, we also ordered extras: 4 spring rolls and 2 prawn toast and just like our orders because we had ordered so much we got free prawn crackers. (which were an orangey/ pink colour like a prawn and tasted a little stronger than ours) As Peter and I went to collect the food (only about 10-15 minutes after we ordered, bearing in mind this was a Friday night, so I thought that was quick and Peter explained that’s about normal for any day) I again adamantly said I was paying for it but Peter went into the shop without taking my money so I hid the $100 (£66 ish) in Avril’s e-cigarette (which she occasionally uses but has really tackled this no smoking lark cold turkey – Just ran out one day and hasn’t brought anymore) knowing she’d find it at some point.
Dinner was really nice, I tried and quite liked Peters beef dish and the chicken Avril had wasn’t bad either, but my chicken curry was the best in my opinion. Both Avril and Peter had the prawn toast as I’m not that keen on prawn and we all had a spring roll, this meant there was a spare one and I also noticed the last of the chocolate cake I brought on my second day in Australia that I could take for my packed lunch tomorrow… Yes I was working on the weekend, so not long after eating the Chinese (of which plenty was left over should anyone want it tomorrow) I took my exhausted self off to bed ready for another hard day ahead tomorrow.