Journal: 083

Ok, I’m home. Before my most recent trip I let Melanie/GTL know that I was “dropping behind” with my posts and might be off the radar for a while -which indeed I was – and she wrote back, “Posts don’t have to be hard. If you take some photos, including ones of yourself, you can just share those and say they’re from a trip when you went from Perth to wherever. Sometimes it’s nice to just see someone.”

Well, I don’t do selfies and no one seems to have captured me anytime this year, so we’ll just have to make do with my truck.

This is how my week went. I get most of my work from two carriers, Sam & Dragan being one, and Anthony, who specializes in heavy haulage within WA being the other. The previous week I pulled a triple for Dragan, grossing 100 tonne which was a bit hard on the truck, so last week I accepted a load from Anthony. He made up a B double load for me in his yard and on Sunday morning I just had to chain it down and I was away. On Monday afternoon I met one of his trucks in Pt Hedland and transferred the load to him (it was all driveable machinery). And the fun began.

My first assignment was to move a machine from Iron Bridge to Eliwana, both FMG mines. Iron Bridge, 100 kms south of Pt Hedland and 50 km of dirt roads inland I’d been to once before. I rolled up in the morning, spent two hours dealing with my vaccination passport – which the federal government had sent me and which FMG deemed insufficient – took both trailers into the mine and up a very steep incline, spent another two hours loading and bringing them down one at a time (having all the weight on the back trailer would have caused them to slide in the gravel and jackknife), returned to the highway and by late afternoon was another 100 km south at Munjina roadhouse (Auski).

Eliwana was somewhere west of me but no one could give me directions. Eventually I got Anthony’s senior driver on the phone, was told to head past Wittenoom, past Solomon mine to the turnoff for Solomon airport and then just follow my nose for 130 kms, all dirt, and the nearest town and for all I knew the nearest phone tower, hundreds of kms distant.

I stopped on the edge of the road outside Solomon and got enough signal to edit that night’s post for the Australian Women Writers Challenge; saw that a scrub fire was burning some kms behind me and decided to move on; almost took a wrong turn averted at the last minute by a frantic call to Anthony’s driver, both of us on one bar; pulled up through the spectacular Hammersly Gorge and came to Solomon airport (all mines have their own airport) where at last I could sleep.

In the morning I pulled into an outpost of the mine, dropped my empty front trailer (top picture) and got directions. As it turned out, the next 130 kms followed the FMG rail line; the Eliwana gatehouse waved me through with the briefest glance at my “passport”; and by late afternoon I was back at Munjina.

Assignment 2 was to make my way 800 kms south and then inland another 150 kms mostly dirt to do two B double loads out of Penny West gold mine – no, I’d never heard of it either – one to Mt Magnet and one to Perth. For once I had excellent directions from Mt Magnet to Penny West (46.5 km east on bitumen, turn right Challa Station, 82.5 km south, turn right 1.7 km … 26 km past Youanmi mine).

I got back to Mt Magnet at 4.00 pm (by now it’s Thurs), with permission to unload on night shift. Advised Anthony – home in bed with Coivd – that I was on my way back to Penny West and he said “it’s cancelled”. He asked me to do a different load on Friday from another mine in a different part of the bush and I said no. I was hot from an endless succession of 38 deg days, dirty, covered in as much red dust as my equipment, and tired from rushing from one job to the next.

I contrived to get cleaned up, got into Perth midday Friday, picked up my other trailer which was getting some work done, and by tea time was at Milly’s with Mr 11, Ms 10 and Mr 2. We got Mr 2 settled – thanks mostly to his sister – and at 6am this morning I was back, ready for pancake duty, while Milly got on with Red Cross work.

In the middle of all that – all these dirt roads, rush jobs and dodgy internet connections – I was corresponding with the “junior publicist” at Melbourne University Press with regards to Nathan Hobby’s upcoming KSP biography. I had an extract prepared, from Nathan’s PhD thesis, to run on the AWWC site for which as you know, I am the editor of guest contributions. JP’s final word was, “We currently have publicity procedures and agreements in place for this title blah blah”. So that’s one spot I’ll have to find something else for, and if she continues not to send me a review copy (and the first reviews are already out) then that will be two. I’m guessing lit.bloggers are not serious enough for the new, serious MUP.


Recent audiobooks 

Rosalie Ham (F, Aus/Vic), The Dressmaker’s Secret (2020) – deserves a review. Over the top in what seems to be true Ham style. Thoroughly enjoyable Hist.Fic. (but boy! am I getting sick of Caroline Lee)
Salman Rushdie (M, Eng), Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (2015)
Tao Lin (M, USA), Taipei (2013)
Clementine Ford (F, Aust/Vic), Fight Like a Girl (2016) – NF (another I enjoyed and should review)
Ian McEwan (M, Eng), Machines Like Me (2019) – Mediocre SF
John Banville (M, Ire), The Sea (2005)
Hans Rosenfeldt (M, Swe), Cry Wolf (2021) – Crime (more Scandanavian noir, set interestingly on Sweden’s border with Finland, but with too much blood and too obviously written by a movie script writer).

Currently Reading:

Doris Lessing (F, Eng), Shikasta (1981) – SF (Still! It’s slow going)
Madelaine Ryan (F, Aus/Vic), A Room Called Earth (2020) – review coming.

The map is of course from Google Maps, I didn’t mean to crop their logo. To give you an idea of scale, Perth to Pt Hedland is 1,600 km.

FMG is Fortescue Metals Group, now Australia’s third largest iron ore miner after Andrew Forrest finally managed to launch a winner on the stockmarket (and is now of course considered an oracle on all things to do with anything).

KSP Katharine Susannah Prichard (1883 – 1969). Australian author

39 thoughts on “Multitasking

  1. That’s interesting, that reviews are already out for the KSP bio. I haven’t seen any, but I don’t get the ABR. I pre-ordered my copy the day that orders opened and haven’t got it yet.
    If you’re not going to the bricks-and-mortar launch in Perth, and even if you are… Nathan has asked me to MC the online launch via Zoom on Tuesday May 17th. So it would be nice if you could attend that because I haven’t ‘seen’ you for ages.
    Please don’t mock the new serious MUP, it’s far preferable to the old muckraker MUP… I am delighted that the bio is being published under the prestigious Miegunyah Imprint of MUP.
    Plus, don’t be too hard on Junior publicists either. They’re often not paid because they’re ’employed’ as ‘interns’. They have to learn on the job, they often have no mentors, and in some places it’s just a continuous rollover because when they come to the end of their internship they get replaced by someone else willing to work for nothing to get a foot in the door. I don’t know if MUP does this, but some of Australia’s biggest publishers do.
    As a general rule I have more trouble with senior publicists who — because they’re too busy to have any idea who they’re sending books out to — send me unsolicited titles I wouldn’t dream of reading. But I must say that the MUP publicist I currently deal with has been wonderful, patient, courteous, flexible and respectful, even if I am just a litblogger!


    • I saw an ad a week ago for a review in a trade magazine, more details I cannot remember.
      I’ll do my best to attend the launch. There you go, I’ve pulled my diary out of my work bag and written it in.
      I put a fair bit of work into organising AWWC articles around the launch of the Red Witch and MUP have been no help at all. I assume my “junior publicist” is passing my requests up the line, but to no effect. The idea that any apprenticeship should be done for free is medieval. (No that’s wrong. Medieval apprentices got housed and fed).

      Liked by 1 person

      • I understand that there’s a growing trend in the US for high school graduates to ditch university and instead use their (astronomical) college loan to fund a couple of years of unpaid internships which, most often result in a job – jobs that you wouldn’t otherwise be eligible for without ‘experience’. Obviously, there’s many professions where you need specific training, but there’s also others where you don’t (think of work in the media, PR etc). So, bypass the degree, start an internship, start work – your peers have accumulated college debt, a bit of paper, and then more debt as they serve time in unpaid internships.

        We have the same situation happening here (even when I was doing paid blogging 15 years ago, there was a trend toward unpaid blogging as ‘journalism experience’. Anyway, I won’t bore you with all of my thoughts about the current state of tertiary education, but needless to say I have said to my kids that there’s other ways to pursue what they want to do without university, and also lots they could do if they were ‘investing’ $60,000 in themselves!

        That said, I have had wonderful experiences at university at various stages in my life, but honestly, all the jobs I have got (that I have loved/ really wanted), have been a direct result of volunteer roles.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kate that sounds like we’re going back to the old days – not so long ago – when accountants and solicitors and so on could get their qualifications on the job. I’ve loved all my years at university, probably 15 all up, and almost entirely free. But as it happens I’ve nearly always earned my income from stuff I’ve learned on the go – transport and computing. It’s a disgrace that the Right are successfully restricting university educations once again to the upper class and I hope that Labor, who under Dawkins started the process, one day reverse it.

        As it happens Milly too owes her current job to volunteering, but I’d have been sad if my children (now 40 ish) had had to go down that route, though the endless insecurity of teaching is close enough.


      • I’ve had 11 years at university and they weren’t free, but not nearly as expensive as what kids pay now as undergraduates. I know that I am very privileged to be able to study in the way that I have (and I’m likely to do more).
        I was keen for my kids to have the experience and fun of university (the social elements) but, as I discovered when I was back doing genetics a few years ago, it doesn’t exist in the way that it did because so much is online. And Covid has made that a million times worse. My son was in first year in 2020. He did not set foot on campus. Met no one. Cost him $12,000. Not surprisingly, he has deferred this year.
        Politicians don’t quite seem to grasp the long term cost of making university an expensive/ unattractive option.


      • It’s hard to know what politicians are at with their decimation of university culture. Despite their own attendance they seem to believe that all on campus and humanities culture is inevitably left wing and so should be suppressed. Presumably they believe a world of thoughtless technocrats would always vote Liberal. It’s a shame that they are succeeding and a greater shame that Labor is not fighting back.

        I hope your son has an interesting break year, not just working and saving.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. You do get around Bill! That scenery looks fantastic; I only ever got to Perth once, but I have often accompanied my brother to do fieldwork at Fowler’s Gap Research Station outside Broken Hill. and it’s hard to beat that red desert landscape. I can well understand how much you must love the space! I’m in awe of you being able to drive that truck though. Great post, Melanie was spot on!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Melanie is often spot on. And it is hard to beat that red desert landscape, though as it happens, Melanie asked recently why all my photos were so brown. It’s RED Melanie, iron oxide. Interesting to compare Broken Hill and the Pilbara. Broken Hill is drier I think but there’s that same predominance of hard ground and acacia scrub.
      And the Volvo is a dream to drive, I’ve never been so comfortable in my life.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It looks fairly red to me Bill – alas I’ve not yet made it to the Pilbara, and I feel the poorer for it – but I can imagine the vast desert landscape has the same wonderful sense of space we love at Fowlers. We used to drive up to the top of the ranges,equipped with wine and cheese and soak up the 360 degree view over the desert at sunset. I can imagine how much you must love driving through this!


      • Ahhhh, I thought it would be brown because on Google maps it’s brown. Now, I know that the colors on the map don’t correspond, it’s just that I assumed it was desert rather than iron oxide. Your post made it sound rather frustrating to live in all the dust and dirt for so many days. I imagine Biscuit and my dad had a similar experience recently, as they headed out to New Mexico and Arizona, both of which are terribly dusty and apparently have some plant Biscuit is allergic to, for she broke out in a rather nasty rash.


      • I saw Biscuit’s comment today. Sounds like they had a good time. I’m sure you enjoyed catching up (8pm! I hope they were on time) and showing them the house.


      • It’s RED Melanie, like you have in the USA – in places like Zion, Arches in Utah, Sedona in Arizona, Monument Valley in Utah-Arizona, and other beautiful places. I love these red desert landscapes we have in Australia and you have over there. Just stunning.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I always love these posts, Bill. And yes, Melanie’s right – we like the ‘human interest’ * story.

    * when I first started taking photographs, my dad, who is a good photographer, would tell me, “Don’t take pictures of buildings – you need human interest in there!” Of course, I knew better… but now, when I look back at photos I took of buildings and places in my teens, I realise that they may as well have been taken yesterday – there’s noting to time stamp them!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have a problem with writing and that is bringing other people alive. I was going to say I have the same problem with photography, but on refection it is slightly different – I often photograph my family, but never strangers. It’s not dates that bother me so much with photos,as descriptions. I recognise most of my father’s photos, but his father’s and his grandfather’s are mostly meaningless now, which is a shame.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Liz. I read your McMurtry post last night and thought I would check if the library system had one on BorrowBox. No luck there,but searching on Lonesome Dove brought up the entirely unrelated The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich, so I guess that’s my next North America read (listen).

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hope you do end up listening to the Erdrich. I read one of her other books and loved her writing, the Native American touch of magic realism or spiritualism and the dilemma’s she gave to her characters. She’s now one of those authors I would like to read her backlist….one day.


      • The Plague of Doves is officially my North American read for April, in my head anyway. I’m driving to Melbourne this coming weekend so I’ll listen to it then and hopefully my family will give me time to get it written up.


  4. Wow, such a week you have had. I found this post really interesting. But I can feel the dust. WA, north of Perth, feels like the moon from here in Tassie. I have no idea about all the bookish stuff talked about in this post but it sounds like so many organizations I’m familiar with. Never enough support or $ to support those with passion and interest. I find the idea of using uni funds to support voluntary work to get a job on the floor of where one wants to be an interesting concept. I’m too old to worry about all employment trends and anxieties anymore but I do feel for the young people amongst us. All the best.


    • I’m embarrassed I haven’t been to Tassie. I hope I make it one day.
      The real point about kids having to buy an education is a) it does society no good at all to load its young adults up with crippling debt; and b) education is an investment which society should make in its own future. It’s a disgrace for instance that we are still stealing doctors and nurses from third world countries which need them far more desperately than we do. We should have enough places for our own needs and for all the Pacific Islands; not these bullshit degrees taking money of Indians and Chinese.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. So glad Melanie persuaded you to include the truck photo – I can now read your post visualising you at the wheel. By dirt roads i assume you mean unmade roads (no tarmac or hard surface) which sounds really tough going.

    How many KM do you do in a year – it’s got to be in the 000,000s???


    • My first venture into blogging – as a contributor, not as the host – was a UK site called Biglorryblog for which I often took photos and wrote a short accompanying story. Unfortunately it was taken over by a marketing company and all the hobbyists very quickly dropped off (and were probably not wanted). So I don’t need much encouragement to include truck photos.

      The Volvo and I knock out about 200,000 kms a year. A serious driver would do closer to 300,000. And yes ‘dirt’ roads are mostly gravel and well graded enabling safe travelling at 60-80 kph – but 30-40 kph with oncoming traffic to minimise windscreen damage from stones (and blindness from dust if the wind is in the wrong direction)


  6. Bill, when I made the comment about us SEEING you, I literally meant photos with a caption underneath to let us know what is in the photo and where it was taken. You’ve done so much more than that! But, if you find yourself bogged down and without a post draft in sight, share pictures. Also, thanks to your trucking blog, you can link here to your trucking posts there so we can see where all you stopped. Just some ideas for the future!

    And I do have evidence that you take selfies, sir. But I know that was a kindness from the start of the pandemic.


    • I’d forgotten about the selfies you requested at the beginning of the pandemic. So much water under the bridge since! Thank you for following my work blog. You’ll find I put up a ‘skeleton’ post at the beginning and then add to it as I get time during a trip. I never envisaged followers! Potential clients seem to appreciate being able to see what I have been doing, going by their remarks when I met them.


      • Several people sent me selfies when I asked for them circa May 2020. A few of those folks have disappeared, and I cannot reach them anymore, which is always a little devastating.


      • Given the conversation we (all of us) had around the beginnings of the pandemic and keeping up, it’s sad that the drop-offs didn’t in fact say I’m ok but I’m pulling back from reading/writing; even remembering how hard reading and writing were for a while.


  7. I love a road trip and I love your truck posts! We have a road trip coming up soon, and I cannot wait.

    I can also picture the red dirt roads after our one brief excusrion to Broome a number of years ago. We were very fly-by-night touristy drivers though, tooling around in a jeep to visit the pearl farms. As you say, though, it was like drivibng around in an Albert Namitjira painting.

    I’ve only spotted the one review for Nathan’s book so far in Books & Publishing.


    • I’ve been doing road trips since I was born, from wherever dad was teaching to grandma and granddad’s farm in the Mallee. So I wonder if that’s what got me started. Evidence in favour would be that all my brothers drove for a while. I had the quintessential outback experience while going to (and from) Penny West of having to navigate a huge bulldust hole (a cavity in the road filled with talc-fine sand).

      In six months time it will be widflower season, if you’re ready for a long drive.


  8. All dusty and sweaty I am now. And dreadfully curious as to what’s on that plate in the kitchen! I wouldn’t take anything personally that’s gone on in your quest for that review copy, certainly not that anyone is forwarding on your request, it’s likely even dustier than I, at the backest corner of that overworked publicist’s inbox. If you have an in with the author, he can directly request that the press send you a copy and sometimes that improves things. It took me a month of nagging and many different staffers to get a copy of the book I’m currently reviewing: irksome indeed. I’ve thought of your hauls so many times over the past two months, with all the talk about how truckers should and shouldn’t be able to cross the border between the US and Canada; they seem to have no clue what serious restrictions are really like to navigate and negotiate, as you have, from the start of all this.


    • Mr 11 is ‘stealing’ a chicken nugget (actually breast lightly fried in breadcrumbs) in a parody of his much naughtier self a few years earlier.

      I’ve asked Nathan to write something to fill the gap in my schedule. I don’t like to think JP was just burying my requests.


  9. I had quite a few thoughts as I read this post, but all the comments de-railed me, so I’ll just ditto that I enjoy these trucking (days in your life) posts too. I’m assumed that in a truck like yours you don’t feel the corrugations on some of those desert roads (or aren’t any of them like that. I remember driving an SUV the back way to Uluru rather than down the highway, and the corrugated road got very tiring.

    Did you like Banville’s The sea. I remember liking it though all I can remember now is the tone (mainly). A boarding house story was it?


    • I had to go and read a summary to bring it all back (The Sea). It was ok, but a lot of sentimental tosh, really (Kim, pretend you didn’t read that).
      Well kept gravel roads are quite smooth, though of course they corrugate if they are not regularly graded, and you have to keep an eye out for washaways and cattle grids This week I spent $5,000 replacing the cab suspension – airbags and shock absorbers – so it gets knocked around a bit!

      Liked by 1 person

      • The cab is heavy and at the rear sits on two small airbags. Sometimes the constant bouncing wears out the rubber and sometimes the connections at the top fail. Probably on average once a year. This time I also replaced the shock absorbers and a cross brace (which stops the cab veering left and right on those airbags), and that I’m guessing is once every four or so years. (The truck is 10 years old this month).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s