At the moment I seem to be doing one round trip a fortnight and I wanted/want to give you an idea of what that is like, day by day. I started making notes but a) diaries are boring, just lists of stuff done; b) after a few days the word count was out of control; and c) I could call it minimalism (see GTL here) but that still wouldn’t make it either interesting or good writing.
So I’ll attempt to both condense and provide a (minimal) narrative arc, a tiny amount of character development and zero dialogue.
Starting at the end of the previous trip: It’s Tuesday arvo June 5. I pull into the depot, wash my truck, go home in the ute, clean up, switch on the desktop pc (which I prefer over my laptop and phone) and later in the evening, pick up Milly from a meeting nearby and run her home. Difficult teenage granddaughter is watching tv/dogsitting. Milly makes us a scratch tea. I go home.
Milly works one week in the city, one week out on a mine. Getting up, having breakfast in time for a bus ride out from the camp and a 6am start means she’s definitely early to bed/early to rise. Most times I visit I’m hanging round for a chat and a third glass of wine and she’s pushing me out the door at 8.30.
Next couple of days I’m mostly on the computer, but on Weds Gee wants me to pick up a second hand double bed. In the rain. I buy a tarp from Bunnings, deliver the bed, get a light tea – fetta salad and pancakes. Read miss 6 and master 8 Ahn Do’s Weirdo. Thurs I meet Milly in town, take the ute, street parking is ridiculously easy for a ‘major’ city, and we have Japanese for a change – I’m still not sure what Ramen is but it had meat in it so I had spring rolls, whole small crabs and sweet potato chips.
Finally, Friday I get a load – so that’s my social life done for the fortnight. Or should be, in fact the load is to Bendigo where mum is visiting B3, so I road train to Echuca (which involves veering all over southern NSW (map)), break up, bring one trailer in, have a pub dinner with mum, B3, sister in law and cousin Kay, go back to Echuca for second trailer etc etc. Next day, unload, park one empty trailer at my nephew’s, run the other to Melbourne. Find a truck stop in the western suburbs. Taxi into Footscray to meet Lou, wander the streets until we finally choose a Vietnamese restaurant, cafe really, but it has a licence and I get to have a drink. Ok, so that’s really the end of my social life (for this 14 days) – well unless I run into old Tom or Dave, but I’m spared.
As is always the way with Dragan’s “you’ll be loading straight home” I don’t. My road train load turns out to be six tonnes. I stick it up the front. At the end of the next day I get a large van for the back half of the trailer. Then hurry, hurry “we have freight for the other trailer in Sydney”. On the freeway back to Bendigo to reunite my trailers, in bumper to bumper nighttime traffic way out into the country – MST’s daily commute, I don’t know how she stands it – B3 who has run our mother back home (Blackburn, Melb) calls to say he’s just behind me. We pull into a truckstop, the coffee franchise is closed and there’s no way I’m drinking McCoffee so we have a chat, I don’t have time to follow him home for tea and a shower, and that’s really the end of my social life for the fortnight. I roadtrain to Hay, leave the loaded trailer at the Caltex, push on to Sydney and put on half a load of steel in the evening and after inevitable delays waiting for something better to turn up the next morning (Sat), put 3 cars up top as pictured above and head for Perth.
Is that the end of it? No it’s not. Another driver has been stuck two days in Goulburn having problems – in his head mostly. His load is now late and he doesn’t look like moving. We swap trailers, I have a smooth run home, the last I see of him he’s at Hay hooking up. At Port Augusta I hear he’s managed to take the wrong road and his lights aren’t working. His name’s Ewan, but I don’t think we’ll see him again.
I get home, ie back to Perth, drop the trailers at Tolls (a parcel express company, once Australia’s largest, now owned by the Japanese Post Office). It’s Tuesday, I go round to Milly’s, make some soup, pick her up from Spanish class.
Blood (2011) was Tony Birch’s debut novel, after two short story collections, and was shortlisted for the 2012 Miles Franklin. Why, I don’t know as it’s a bog standard YA melodrama, two brave kids – a teenage boy caring for his younger sister, indifferent mother, evil adults, set in various locations in Victoria and South Australia with some dodgy geography, particularly along the Western Highway connecting Adelaide and Melbourne, and a token cave with Aboriginal paintings with a roadside sign (no doubt saying name carvers and spray painters this way) referencing the token aboriginality of the teenage boy. Lots of you liked Birch’s second, Ghost River (2015), so I approached this one hopefully thinking I might review it. But no. Admittedly it wasn’t helped by the flat delivery in a regional English accent of the old, male reader for the Queensland Narrating Service.
Erle Stanley Gardner (M, USA), The Case of the Fabulous Fake (1969)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (M, Eng), The Adventures of Brigadier Gerard (1894)
Dick Francis (M, Eng), Under Orders (2005)
Robert Galbraith (F, Eng), Career of Evil (2015)
Tony Birch (M, Vic/Aust), Blood (2011)
Lisa Genova (F, USA), Every Note Played (2018)
Ruby Langford Ginibi, Don’t Take Your Love to Town