Saturday, May 06, 2006

Back to work and home again

I got over my minor sickness and returned to work, same old shit, still bad feelings on the shift, and the feeling that something was about to give.

It just didn't feel normal, and even though the Fuhrer still worked us a bit hard, you could feel it was all pointless, day shifts come and went and we started nights, we had been told a couple of months earlier that as things were, night shift would end at the end of May and the whole shooting match would collapse sometime in August, I said then to my mate Russell, that him and I would be out of a job then, he kept asking for a rise. The question was asked at the begining of nights, when we were going to have the revue of pay rates, and we were told we would all be called in for a personel, one on one chat during that week. The time came, second last night shift, and Russell was looking forward to his pay rise, I told him not to be silly, we were gonna get the arse. I was last in, Russell had already been tramped (we have a secret channel on the radio) I went in and before the axe man could do the deed, I told him if someone has to go, I volenteer! blew the wind right out of his sails, I was gonna go anyway, offered me some job at Woodie Woodie, but I had done my time in that dirty Manganese province, and told him nicely to shove it up his arse. I have a fortnight to do, and then am officialy unemployed again, and I don't care.

Finished the night shifts and because the designated driver blew numbers (who ever drives the car into the airport, has to do a breatherlizer, and as I had worked the night shift and don't drink anyway, I passed, so drove) another feather in my cap, because if I had refused, and I was entitled to, having worked nightshift, the boss who had just sacked me would have had to drive us in. I slept most of Thursday afternoon, then on Friday morning rang the labour hire mob I work through to tell them I was finishing after the next swing. They were surprised but said there should be an opportunity to work in a close by mine (close to the mine I was at, not home) starting about the time I would finish at Coobina, same deal, two weeks on and a week off, living in the Con Camp in Newman which is all brand new, all en-suite rooms and five bucks an hour more, now I don't have the new job yet but it sounds promising, so I am starting to believe that clouds have a silver lining after all.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A quick visit

The two weeks back at work did not pan out as planned, I went back on the Thursday, no problems, plane on time, nice drive to the camp, threw my gear in the room, boots on and off to work. Struggled through the day, knocked of a bit early because there was a blast on, ate and slept.

Following morning I woke up and toddled off down to get some breakfast, no worries, even had porridge on the menu, off to work, did my job and came home again. That’s when the problems started. A power board had blown up and we had no power at the mess, and no water in the rooms, a barbecue was organised while the electrician set to fix the problem. We had our tea with the help of a set of lights run by a generator, but there was still no water in the rooms, laid on the bed and listened to some music on the old lap top, as the television was not working due to the power being out down the mess area, was reading a book when the power went out, still no water. The power never came on again but somehow the water was back on again by the morning, had a shower with the help of a little torch I keep for emergencies and set off looking for breakfast. The cook, stout fellow that he is, was cooking us eggs and bacon on the barbecue, so at least we had some tucker inside for a gruelling day ahead.

Things settled down after that until Tuesday morning, when I had a lump come up in my groin area, did not worry greatly, it felt like a muscle strain, when it was bigger Wednesday morning I made plans to borrow a car on Thursday and nip into Newman (90 kilometres away) and get it checked by a doctor. I drove in and saw the doctor and he diagnosed it as an infected lymph gland, gave me a course of antibiotics, and said I had to rest my leg for a week and no work, drove back to the camp and flew back home on Friday morning. I am now resting the leg and getting my wife and daughter to run around after me as I put on the agony.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Back to work

I have just had about four weeks of a sort of holiday down in Perth.

I work up in the bush for two weeks and then get a week off home in Perth, we actualy came out two days late due to some inclement weather, so a weeksR&R and then a swing off and another weeks R&R should have given me 28 days off but I had to make do with 26.

I had all sorts of plans for the time off, but the best laid plans of mice and men are oft to go astray (apologies to Rabbie Burns). My first stumbling block was the weather, March should be cooling off and nice weatherto paint the house, but not this year, the summer was late coming and a sight bloody later going, so after it cooled down a bit I managed to do some preperation and it will get done next time (or the time after). Had my son turn up on R&R from Queensland, so that slowed down things a bit, then just after we had bundled him back to QLD, up pops a daughter for an extended stay, she is no trouble and good to argue with.

So it is back to work tomorrow, two weeks in the bush, good food and no problems, only worry is that there is a bit of bad feeling on the shift so it may be a little trying, I will probably enjoy myself and will tell the story when I get back home in about a fortnight.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Well the whole of 2005 has come and gone and I have decided to resurect the old Blog.

I worked for a while at the St. Ives mine in Kambalda, but found it hard going, the job was all right, just driving a truck around a goldmine. The people were a bit strange, all Kiwis, some pretty good people some rather strange. What made me leave was the fact that I had no transport and we were working four weeks on and a week off. In the middle of the swing we ended up with a weekend off, and with no transport, I was stuck in the camp, the television reception was poor, only two snowey channels and the radio was non existent. I spent the weekend in the camp, going up the wall, went in on Monday and quit.

I then scored a job driving a loader at Telfer, little crushing plant in the pit. This was a great job, good gear, nice work colleages, and fantastic messing facilities, My room was a bit small but I hooked my television thingy into my laptop and had about fifteen channells to chose from. The only problem we had was getting the dirt to crush, the client, being a huge company, didn't know what was happening and we spent more time chasing dirt that processing it. The upshot was, I spent a fortnight there, and then came down to Perth for a week and then was told to hang on for a few days as there were still problems with the dirt, this went on for a couple of weeks and I was offered another job, so got my gear flown down and started another job.

The next job was at a place called Coobina, a chromite mine in the Pilbara, now I had worked here before when it was owned by different people, and had some pleasent memories of the place. The mine had changed a lot and was working very professionaly. I was employed to drive a little articulated dump truck, and mostly this is what I have been doing for the last nine months. The camp is pretty good, nice en-suite rooms and the messing is mostly pretty good, but sometimes the food leaves a bit to be desired. The people on the whole are pretty good, no major dramas, until a few weeks ago, when we changed the shift superviser, a couple of guys left and there was a lot of bad feelings on the shift, I am taking an extra two weeks off at the moment and will see how things are when I get back, if the vibes are still not good I may quit and cast around for another job.

Friday, March 25, 2005

A Change of Scenery

I am no longer employed at the Normay Gold Mine, in the North Pole Dome.

I tried to leave on the fifteenth of December 2003, but instead had a week off and returned on the twenty second of December for three weeks, sitting the camp over Christmas.

There were a couple of reasons that I quit, one was that I had an exile from Bamboo, staying there, there had been some kind of coup, or attempted coup, at Bamboo Creek, this guy was sacked and then reinstated but sent over to my camp on some cooked up sampling work. Several of the old timers visited on odd occasions, and nice people that they were, I was loosing my solitude, I had to start wearing cloths to and from the shower, and thinking of other people. Then I got to thinking, hey I am becoming a hermit and feeling pissed off, with company, I had better get out of this place, before I really become a sad git who needs to be alone (shades of Greta Garbo here)

I finaly quit on the 12th January, but not after I spent a few special hours at the Ironclad Hotel in Marble Bar with most of the crew from Bamboo.

I still have a few stories from my time at the North Pole and will try and post them on this blog in the coming weeks.

I have now moved my place of employment to a place called Kambalda, about 55 kilomtres east of Kalgoorlie, we are mining gold from a salt Lake called Lake Lefroy, and I am driving a 150 tonne truck, some interesting people here , and I will put a few stories together when I have sorted my Internet connection out. I have already been to a couple of old Pubs that are all that remain of some old towns.

I might need to change the title of the block, something along the line of working in a salt mine methinks.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Puncture

Well! Friday came and I set about my chores, the first being to fill the camp generator with diesel. I do this by carting a forty four of diesel to the generator using a forklift, and the forklift started first kick, but I needed to repair the pallet that I carry the drum with, somehow it had come unstuck, I expect by my relief dropping it on the ground whilst driving flat strap, having done that and put the diesel in, I had one little job to do, that was moving my pallet with my rubbish bin to where I like it to be. As I did this I heard a hissing sound coming from one of the back tyres, you guessed it, I had a puncture. Now you might think that is pretty ordinary thing to happen and a quick wheel change is the answer.Firstly I never had a spare, so all right, take the wheel off and take it somewhere to get it fixed, not as easy as it sounds, I have not got a spanner that goes anywhere near the wheel nuts, added to this, the forklift weighs about six tonnes and I only have a little trolley jack, maybe good for two tonnes.I decided to have a cuppa and mull over the problems, I was sitting in my office, drinking tea and watching the Olympics when I heard a vehicle pull up. It was the geology students that are camped down on the Shaw at a billabong, they were off to Hedland and dropped by to see if I wanted anything, I gave them some money for soft drinks, and together we jacked the forklift up using their kangaroo jack, and my trolly jack at the same time, and blocking it with some breeze blocks and wood, then I tackled the wheel. It had a split rim on it, and I needed a couple of levers to get the ring off, of course I did not have any tyre levers but managed to get it off with a couple of large screwdrivers and a lot of grunting and cursing.So here I was with a tyre with a split in the side, a tube with a hole in and still no way of fixing them, the plan was to go to Hedland and get a new tyre, I had rung Bamboo and they never had one and were trying to source one for me, this was Friday afternoon and hopefully I would go and get a new tyre and tube on Saturday. Well Saturday came and the news was not good, the tyre I needed was not a stock tyre and would have to be ordered from Perth and freighted up, and maybe I would get it Tuesday or Wednesday. We decided that I would go over to Bamboo and borrow a trailer, stick the diesel drums on the trailer and fuel the generator that way until I had a tyre, so off I set, making sure I took the knackered tyre, just in case.It was a pleasant drive to Bamboo, down my driveway, out on the highway and then in on the dirt road to Bamboo, never saw a soul on my road, passed one red car at the Coongan river, and then there was a grader on the Woodie Woodie road, and then about seven vehicles on the 27 kilometre stretch to the Bamboo turnoff proper, all cars and utes, I wonder where they were coming from. I got to Bamboo about lunchtime, while I waited for Joe to have his lunch I grabbed a cuppa and some muesli bar thingies I found in the smoko room, sat down had a fag and munched on these muesli things. Joe and I then went to the workshop, spied two tyres the right size, even though before they had said there wasn’t any, found the best one, repaired the tube and put a little air in it to keep it in position and I was ready to go back to my camp.Before I set off back, I went up to the kitchen, had another cuppa and a bit of a yarn to the cook, lovely girl, is Vicky, she was busy making roasts for the evening meal, and was asking my advise about Yorkshire puddings. I grabbed some washing powder I needed, but they were also out of peanut butter which I also needed, also grabbed a couple of bananas and a few more of them muesli bars to eat on the way home and I was away.Pretty quiet trip on the way home, I had my new MP3 player blasting away in my ears, listening to Slim Dusty and a few other Australian singers, passed a couple of trucks and then stopped at a rest area about half way up the bitumen for a pee and a smoke, came out of the super econoloo thingy they had there and noticed one of my back tyres was going soft on me, changed the wheel, drunk some water to replace the sweat, and carried on back to the camp.When I arrived back at camp, I made a cup of tea and tried to put the tyre on, but I had put too much air in it so needed to let a little out to allow me to get the valve stem in place on the rim, now to do this I needed to remove the shroeder valve, simple enough if you have one of them little valve removal tools that often come on the end of a tyre dust cap, but I didn’t have one. Now down in our yard are about fifty tyres and inner tubes, must be one on there I thought, but buggered if there was one I could find, the sun was thinking about setting so I decided to have another cuppa and worry about it in the morning, and set about organising myself some tea.Sunday morning came and a thought had hit me that one of the whirley things in the processing plant actually ran on about eight sets of tyres, so I checked there, and could see a valve remover almost straight away, the problem was that it was behind a guard and the guard was a bit heavy for me to remove on my own, eventually I crawled underneath it got me valve remover, and crawled back out again. Back to the forklift, in no time I had the valve out, and had wiggled the valve stem on, it took me a while to get the split rim back on but I had done it. I had borrowed one of them little 12volt compressors from Joe at Bamboo; you know the ones that run off the cigarette lighter. I pulled the car up, stuck the thing in the cigarette lighter, and nothing happened. I had fixed the cigarette lighter before, and could have fixed it again, but it would mean pulling the dashboard off, fixing it and then putting the dashboard back again, I decided that was too big a job, so stripped the wires on the lead to the cigarette lighter, spliced in a couple of pieces of wire, put an alligator clip on each, and ran the compressor straight from the battery, it now will work from either a cigarette lighter or straight from the battery. I proceeded then to pump the tyre up, them things are slow so I set it going and made a cup of tea, I was trying to make 100 Psi but by the time it got to sixty the compressor was smoking hot, I turned it off had some breakfast, had another try and got to seventy Psi, gave it a further rest and eventually made eighty Psi, but no way would it go any higher, it was about the same as the other back tyre so it will stay at that. I then had to get the fork lift down from the blocks, put my trolley jack under the back and made enough space to get the blocks out, on the sides I couldn't get any height, so after scratching my head, I smashed the breeze blocks with a big hammer I had, cleared up and was done. Finished all that and then could set about going about my normal chores. Was not bad really, I had got another tyre fixed the puncture, driven over 320 kilometres, had a feed and a yarn at Bamboo, and a natter to a truckee on the way back and managed after a lot of messing about to be back where I was two days earlier.

Hope to god I do not get another puncture on the fork lift any time soon.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Marble Bar Races Part Two

Once I had a spot of lunch, it was only some tea and a toasted cheese sandwich, I drove to the racecourse, paid me entrance fee, $16:00 including a program, parked the wagon and strolled past the stables and past the Bookies area up to the race viewing area, this is just a bit of a grassy bank, with a few buildings and toilets. There were few people there at this stage, some sand had recently been put down around the course and the grader had finished smoothing it out, there was a water truck spraying the course, now this is important, because depending on how much water he puts down depends wether the going is soft, firm or heavy.

There were a few people there, one bloke I knew from my days loading trucks at Coobina, he was a big ginger haired and bearded man named Andy, we had a bit of a yarn, mostly concerned with trucks and truckies we both knew just to pas the time till more people came and the races started. Along came one of the blokes from Bamboo and I went over to chat with him. The situation was, that you had to buy tickets for drinks at one end of the building, the tickets were two dollars each and it was one ticket for water, two tickets for beer, three tickets for a UDL (a premixed can of spirits) and five or six for a bottle of wine or champagne (be dodgy champagne for twelve bucks a bottle, more likely fizzy plonk), I bought a few tickets and got myself a can of rum and cola, and Simon and myself started to talk, mainly about the other punters that were arriving. A group of station folk came along, you could tell they were from a station because of the way they dressed, the guys wore jeans or moleskins, with great big Akubra hats on (Ozzy equivalent of a Stetson, but of course better) and either a cowboy shirt or a blue singlet, the girls wore Jeans or moleskins (tighter than the blokes) even bigger Akubras and either a cowboy (or Girl) shirt or sort of female equivalent of the singlet or tank top, I noticed some wore red kerchiefs around their neck as well, very noticeable were a small girl about five foot tall, and built like a brick shithouse, with the tightest jeans, a sort of tank top that laced up the back showing a huge amount of her back on which was tattooed a series of stars, she topped this of with a white Akubra (most wore sort of sandy coloured ones) and she had on what must have been RM Williams elastic sided stockmens boots, she was walking along with a bloke who was well over six foot tall, probably closer to seven, with arms like Popeye, wearing jeans, blue singlet, a dark Akubra and riding boots, he was looking down at this girl as she looked up to him and it was rather comical to see this pair communicating with each other.

It is really strange to see the ringers in from the stations, they all wear these huge hats, and big colourful shirts, it seems the dirtier and more battered the hat is the better they like them, some are decorated with cattle ear tags and other paraphernalia, and to look at them you are sure that they must have been handed down from generation to generation, but are mostly fairly new but have been worked on to look old and interesting. Most of the ringers are only in their twenties and soon graduate to driving trucks and graders when they get older and need more money and a more settled life, but that hat will stay with them for life, sometimes only brought out for show at country race meetings and the country festivals that take place around this time of the year in the Pilbara.

The races started, a few more of the mine workers from Bamboo turned up, they are not as easy to recognise as the station folk, just wearing jeans, work boots, and ordinary shirts and baseball caps, a lot of the townsfolk showed up at this time, the men wearing casual gear and mostly with Akubra type hats but of a smaller style than the ringers, and mostly kept in good condition, and the women wearing in the most part nice dresses and colourful hats, the young ones of course all wear similar gear and look like a mob of Brittany Spears clones, nice to look at with them low slung jeans and high slung shirts with half a yard of belly hanging out, but boring as hell.

I had a couple of drinks and watched the races and the people there, everybody seemed to enjoy themselves and the atmosphere was great, I never had a bet, because I have better things to do with my money, there was a place there selling sausages in them long rolls and I had a couple of them and a cup of tea for my afternoon snack and headed off after the cup had been run and headed back to my camp, getting there just as the sun dipped below the hills. I followed another vehicle into my camp, it turned out to be a French prospector, named Jean Francoise (Jeff for short), who used to live in Nullagine but now stays in Broome, we had a yarn and a bit of a feed, he promised to send me a couple of Pigram Brothers CDs as they are easy to get in Broome and he carried on to the area of the North Shaw about twenty kilometres down the track to the south, he had been given permission (he said) by my boss, to prospect there, and seemed to know all the right names, I offered him a bed for the night but he said he preferred to camp out.