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.
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
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