What an Accountant Thinks About

Journal: 041

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I suppose you are like me and when you get an idea for a post, if you try and write it out in your head it takes off in unexpected directions. So it was when I began spinning out What an Accountant Thinks about when he Drives a Truck, I found I was off with the fairies ‘writing’ about drugs.

As a young man, even as an anarchist university student in the sixties, I was anti drugs. I don’t care what other consenting adults do, as we used to say, but I left school with fairly Calvinist opinions about sex, drugs, and work. I won’t say any more here about Fancy, my high school girlfriend, but she had a hard time of it, and I spent years reconciling my self-image and my actions. So, drugs. There was plenty of dope and LSD around, and at a further remove, heroin. All of which I was offered, but none of which I was tempted to try.

Likewise, once I had dropped out of uni to be a truck driver (rather than a hippy – I like working) I avoided as much as possible overnight work, which, if you spend all day loading, is impossible without drugs. If I had to do Melbourne-Sydney, a constant stream of high-speed trucks on 880 kms of narrow winding road, I would either get away early, grab 3 or 4 hours sleep, and get in mid-morning, or I would take my time and get in a day late.

By the time of the accident at Bungaree, I had been an interstate driver for four years – I was an old hand, we were all in our twenties back then. Les, my employer, made me take some time off and I pottered around doing odd driving jobs out of Stawell and making desultory attempts to revive my failed marriage to the Young Bride, who with her girlfriend, was off her face on Valium.

Les finally offered me a job on the Adelaide shuttle which did a round trip Melbourne Adelaide every day with two drivers based half way at Nhill. So every lunchtime I would leave Nhill, run down to Melbourne, swap trailers, and by midnight I would be back in my company flat above a shop in the main street, while Terry, a local, went on to Adelaide, swapped trailers, and was back by lunchtime. Our old ex-Ansett Kenworth was doing 5,000 miles – 8,000 km – a week.

This went like clockwork until Terry got a council job and I was partnered with a young lunatic from nearby Horsham who wouldn’t keep the schedule, but kept pushing the changeover time back towards evening, so that I had to drive all night and he could drive during the day. I fronted him. He gave me a handfull of pills. I took them, and kept taking them for another four years. Prescription amphetamines.

I lost my Victorian licence, moved to Adelaide and eventually to Perth. The buzz of driving across Australia, through the day, through the night, for days at a time. A literal buzz. Scalp vibrating, hair standing straight up. Half a briquette, a few shakers, a small Coke (glass bottles in those days) every two hours through the night. Coffee for breakfast. Food optional.

When I met Milly I had been awake six days and was barely coherent. Even after sleep. The disconnect, that is the lag, between thought and speech was noticeable. The other disconnect I was born with. I weighed the same as I did in school, ten and a half stone (70 odd kgs. I’m not double that yet but I’m working on it). Milly and Psyche settled me down. I tried sales work. Drove a bit more. Rolled another truck, Milly pregnant with Lou. Gave it away. Bought a milk round, travelled in truck parts, started a course at Perth Tech in Transport Administration. Found I enjoyed book work and the following year enrolled in an accountancy degree at Churchlands CAE, which by the time I graduated had been subsumed into Edith Cowan Uni.

So for 20 years I worked, briefly, as an accountant, then as a transport manager. As PCs came in I slid across into software development, transport and small business systems, mostly self-employed, started an MBA, did half an MBus in Logistics which I turned into a Grad.Dip., became a partner in a container cartage business, which failed, and there I was, 22 years ago, Gee our youngest in the last year of high school, back truck driving again. Without drugs! I drive long hours, 14, 15, 16 a day, but every night, from 10.00pm to 5.00am, I’m in bed asleep.

And now of course I’m working for myself again. I have a big spreadsheet on my desktop at home, which started out recording my nights away for the taxman, and now has columns for kms, fuel, revenue and expenditure. I can tell you my revenue per km, and therefore my gross margin, is higher than I expected. I’m holding fuel down to below a dollar/km targeting fuel economy, lighter loads and discount retailers (currently the cheapest diesel in Australia is a truckstop in Ceduna in the far west of South Aust.). Tyres and repairs come in at 30c. But do I do my own tax and company accounts? No way! I pay someone who does it for a living.

I might have mentioned somewhere else I was having two weeks off for grandfather stuff while Gee was in Germany for a conference. Only as back up for Milly, but a teenager and 2 primary school age kids use up a lot of energy. As it happened, the other grandparents carried most of the load. On Friday I picked up some freight, there was a big family do Saturday, and as I was about to leave I realised I’d left it too late to borrow any audiobooks from the library. A few hours on Proj. Gutenberg and this is what I came up with –

Rider Haggard, King Solomon’s Mines
Willa Cather, Alexander’s Bridge
Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent
George Sand, Devil’s Pool
G&W Grossmith, Diary of a Nobody
Thomas Hardy, Return of the Native
Virginia Woolf, Night and Day
Willa Cather, O Pioneer
Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders

I’m in Melbourne now and I’ve listened to the first five, ok, four, Diary of a Nobody was both too tedious and too embarrassing to go on with. Rider Haggard was good fiction with some jarring racism; Alexander’s Bridge was brilliant but inexplicably, halfway through the reader changed from a softly spoken young American, to an older, stumbling, Australian with a genius for mis-emphasis and the book was destroyed. The Secret Agent had a different reader for every chapter, but also a different protagonist, and so the reading went ok. I’ll write it up when I get home. Devil’s Pool was the nicest love story I’ve read for years, and I’ll write it up too.

A couple of others, the chapters are coming up in the wrong order, which I hope I can fix. I might start the trip home with Woolf then go on with Hardy or Moll Flanders. We’ll see.

Recent audiobooks 

Ian Rankin (M, Sco), A Question of Blood (2003) – Crime
Graeme Simsion (M, Aus/Vic), The Rosie Result (2019)
Leo Tolstoy (M, Rus), War and Peace (1869)
Stephen White (M, USA), The Program (2002) – Thriller
Will Self (M, Eng), Shark (2014) – Literary. DNF
Mark Twain (M, USA), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) – YA
David Weber (M, USA), On Basilisk Station (2004) – SF
JD Robb (F, USA), Calculated in Death (2013) – Crime/SF

Currently reading

Charlotte Wood, The Weekend
Lionel Wigmore, The Long View
Jessica Anderson, Tirra Lirra by the River
Marie Munkara, Every Secret Thing
Peter Goldsworthy, Wish
Heather Rose, Bruny
AB Paterson, An Outback Marriage
Walter Scott, Waverley
David Ireland, The Flesheaters

23 thoughts on “What an Accountant Thinks About

  1. Great post. Thanks for sharing. Your experience with driving on amphetamine reminds me of the beginning of Not Fade Away.

    What does an accountant turned CFO think about? In my experience: books.

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    • Thanks. I think a lot about books too, mostly writing reviews in my head of audiobooks. And about playing cricket for Australia, or football for Hawthorn. But I would have been a good cost accountant if I could ever be persuaded to sit down, a mediocre financial accountant and a very poor tax accountant.

      I have Buddy Holly on my music rotation, and I can hum Not Fade Away, but I can’t think how it begins: I’m gonna be your dum de dum …

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  2. Too much to comment on, here but I did wonder when we are going to get to the Accountant bit! And then we did.

    I’m sorry to hear about the amphetamine business given all your attempts to avoid it.

    I have heard similar things about Librivox audiobooks. I guess this is what happens with volunteer run programs but it’s not very conducive to good “reading” is it.

    I read Diary of a nobody, and remember enjoying it. However, I was in my 20s then and remember nothing in detail about it now. Maybe I would think differently now I’m in my dotage?

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    • Mostly with Librivox you can hear “through” bad readers to the underlying text, but the second reader for Alexander’s Bridge was so bad that that wasn’t possible. I will read it again one day, the text version.

      And generally the readers are ok, not flat, like readers for the blind.

      Diary of a Nobody was deadly (bad!). I tried to get into the flow of it but I couldn’t see the humour and gave up.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I hope Proj Gutenberg have it in text, in English, because I’d like to read it again. Towards the end Sand comments that modernisation in the middle of the C19th has led to the loss of “old” French – I wonder if this is reflected in the language she uses, particularly for conversation.

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      • I couldn’t say, I don’t have enough experience with reading C19th French to know. There were a lot of words I had to look up in the beginning where Sand describes peasant farming, words like furrows and ploughing, but whether they were archaic or not, I couldn’t say.

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  3. Have had a fairly long hiatus from WordPress due to work commitments – so refreshing to read this post after a break. I am an accountant too, so can relate to your accounting comments. I’m an avid audiobook listener but find only a select few books work for me on audio – I’m influenced strongly by the narrator but also find I can only really concentrate on plot driven books, maybe because I’m always doing something else at the same time

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    • Glad you’re back! I listen to so many books I try and work around the narrator, if he/she is intruding. I prefer wordy and character driven books – getting a lot of both with Virginia Woolf as I make my way home – but will turn to plot driven novels for a change. But I probably have more opportunity to concentrate.

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  4. I always wonder how some people are so curious about what drugs are like and then others have zero interest. Like you in your school years, I have zero interest in drugs, nor have I ever done them (except that time in college it’s possible someone drugged me). I’ve never been curious nor seen the appeal, and I’ve never hung out with a high person and just thought they were having a great time. I’m so sorry you got stuck in a four-year loop that tossed you out of control.

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  5. Interesting stuff. I’ve always been fairly puritanical but cut loose at university and also had a creeping issue with alcohol when working for an awful company in my 20s. Don’t drink at all now and my only brushes with drugs have been getting whiffs of stuff on the bus!

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