Trailbikes and Flies

I don’t know what else to do with this piece of writing – it’s from an aborted attempt at writing a story of my time as field assistant in the gold and diamond exploration industry back in the early nineties. So here it is. I’ll add a few more snippets from the unpublished ‘memoir’ as and when. But, for now – enjoy!

Trail-bikes and Flies

It was at Barnong Station that I was introduced to the wonders of trail bikes. Barnong is near the town of Yalgoo. This is at the edge of the wheat-belt some four hours drive north of Perth, and is part of the historic Gullewa gold fields. The bikes were perfect to get through the dense scrub. When I had lived in Bateman, then on the outskirts of Perth, I had often heard these bikes careering around the pine plantation over the road. I thought it looked quite exciting. My parents were not convinced, and neither were the authorities who I often saw in hot pursuit some 50 metres behind the bikes. I never saw them catch anyone. However, now being in my twenties and about to go driving on dirt tracks I had a sneaking suspicion that the pursuers never caught the trail bikers because they secretly enjoyed driving like maniacs on dirt tracks and didn’t want to end the fun. I would soon find out.

Harry, the geologist, and I trailered the bikes to out to our start point, and then it was time to mount up. I was looking forward to this. How hard could it be? I fell off twice in the first half-hour. It was not as easy as I had thought. They are heavy buggers, trail bikes, especially when they land on top of you. Anyhow, I was soon heading of through the scrub nursing bruises, taking samples, and trying to keep ahead of the flies.

The flies.

How could I not have mentioned the flies?

These are trained bush flies. They are only small, but are the equivalent of the SAS when compared to other flies, who are merely highly trained soldiers. These crack assault flies (take that phrase as you will) follow you, wait for you to stop, and will then attempt to crawl into any orifice that they can find. The smart ones congregate on your back to catch a free ride to your next destination. This allows them to save energy for the next assault on your nasal passages. They would rather die than give up their quest for moisture. Many do die, and then have to be physically picked off your skin. The usual flap of the hand does not even distract them. Flying away when that happens is just for ‘pussies’. So, as I continue this story, take it as read that at all times I am covered in flies that are trying to crawl up my nose, into my eyes, and into my mouth. And remember, there are millions of the buggers queuing up to replace their fallen comrades. Back to the bikes.

As with many activities in the bush, there is a feeling of freedom that comes with riding a trail bike. I soon felt this freedom and perhaps became just a little over confident. Nobody had told me about the bull dust. These are the patches of extremely fine dust that sit in potholes and make such hazards look like a solid part of the road. Hitting them at speed causes one’s testicles to be crushed against the seat. I don’t recommend this! I hit a couple of these potholes and soon learned my lesson.

‘Slow down, son,’ Harry advised, or I think he did. I’m a bit hazy about what he said as my testicles were drowning him out with their complaints. I tried to slow down, I honestly did, but as soon as we were moving my speed increased once more. The dust derailed me again, this time in a different manner. When the dust is not very deep, but stretches for some metres, it acts like water. I hit a patch of this dust and, much to my surprise, my front wheel started turning of its own accord. There was no traction, no grip. Unfortunately this was only a temporary situation. In the true tradition of slapstick physical comedy, traction returned when my wheel was at about right angles to my direction of travel. This was a perfect opportunity to take flight over the handlebars. I gloried in that feeling of weightlessness, that fleeting moment of freedom, that impending impact with the rapidly approaching ground – oh shit!

As I lay staring up at the beautiful, but now spinning, blue sky, I realised how lucky I was to be having this stimulating experience. This was a boy’s own adventure and my-oh-my wasn’t I having fun!

By a stroke of fortune, I had not done any damage. I was soon off and riding again – but only after I was absolutely sure that I was not concussed. This time I was travelling at a much-reduced speed. I didn’t fall off again that day, but that was not for lack of trying. I did come close on a few occasions, and almost accelerated into a tree when I was about to leave a sample site. To this day I maintain that I was distracted by a passing kangaroo. Through all of this excitement, the flies did not fall off; they stayed with me for the whole day. And the next day. And the next.

First Week in a New City

First Week in a New City

The clock chimes,
Shattering the silence.
Awakening me from my doze.

The chimes fade away.

Sat here in my chair,
As silence returns.
Except for the ticking of the clock.

The traffic hums outside.

Ordinary – a mis-used word.

Why do people sneer when they use the word ordinary, as if it somehow has a negative meaning? What is wrong with being ordinary? Most people in the world are ordinary – they don’t have any choice. There is no escape from being ordinary; most of us will be so for most of our lives. By definition, if everybody was extraordinary, then they would become ordinary – they would be just like everybody else. The media and advertisers, however, all try to tell us that we should be extraordinary, that we should be ashamed of being ordinary. What utter bollocks! It’s no wonder that people grow up thinking that they’re inadequate in some way. There is no shame in being ordinary.

No, be prepared to embrace your ordinariness and be proud that you are one of the human race which, for all its many faults, is a pretty amazing life form. Just remember that a very small number of people are extraordinary, and many of them just for a brief moment in time before they return to their ordinariness. One day you may become extraordinary – enjoy it if you do, but don’t denigrate yourself if you don’t. And next time somebody sneers, ‘That was pretty ordinary,’ reply to them, ‘Yes, yes it was. Most things are.’

Pondering the Future from Under a Shady Tree

There are storm clouds gathering away in the distance, away from this brilliant light blue lagoon, fringed by the brown and grey looking reef over which the waves occasionally break from the deep, dark blue ocean that surrounds and stretches away to the distant horizon dotted with other tiny coral outposts.

Low tide reveals a sandbank not before noticed, a sliver of yellow surrounded by blue that will disappear come lunchtime when high tide returns and waves lap against the concrete seawall, set just metres from my little hut, which is already eroding away as the storm clouds loom ever closer.

Half a metre of sea-level rise and this could all disappear for good, or become just another tidal sandbank, another sliver of yellow on someone’s horizon. And what of Hashim, or Jaya, or Moosa? And what of the islands they call home? But still, they serve with a smile, unfailingly polite and pleasant and I wonder what their children will inherit once the storm clouds finally arrive?

Eric the Depressor (1005 – 1042)

Back in the days when Edward the Confessor was governing what was England, few people knew that he had a bastard half-brother. Eric the Depressor was born to a lowly servant girl who just happened to be one of King Ethelred the Unready’s favourites. At an early age his mother, Beatrice, told him of his heritage and warned him to be careful in life so as not to offend the noble classes. He had a robust upbringing in rural England near Rochester. It was here that he developed a manure-coated view of the world fuelled by the knowledge that he wasn’t going to get the benefits that his brother would.

When asked how he was, he would often respond with, ‘Mustn’t grumble, but…’ and then list all of his ailments, both real and imagined. He was often heard to comment, ‘Mark my words, things can only get worse’ and ‘Nothing good will come of this’ when commenting on current events. And when the time came for maintenance of the village farm tools he would court disaster by commenting that, ‘If it isn’t broke, it soon will be.’ On the brightest of summer’s days he would invariably find an opportunity to say, ‘Looks like it’s going to rain to me’ or ‘There’s bound to a plague this summer – I can feel it in my water.’

If there had been a couple of years without war, there was bound to be one just around the corner; if the summer had been good, there was bound to be a harsh winter on the way; and if there had been a bumper harvest, there would surely be an infestation of rats that would eat the stockpiles. He was undoubtedly one of the most pessimistic people that have ever lived, if not the most pessimistic. People took to the bottle at the first sight of Eric as this was commonly thought to be the best of dealing with his conversation.

Edward the Confessor eventually became King when his predecessor, Hardicanute, died after a drinking party – allegedly caused when Eric was asked directions by a group of passing nobles including the King. Edward immediately seized on the opportunity to imprison his half-brother on the grounds that he was a threat to the stability of the country and may have caused Hardicanute’s death. As he was being led to his cell, he commented to his Edward, ‘You’d better watch those Norman buggers you’re trading with, mate. From what I’ve heard they’ll soon be over here looking for kingdom to conquer.’ Unfortunately for everybody, nobody took him seriously. Edward’s mother, Emma, was a Norman and everybody thought they were friends!

After five years of incarceration most people thought that Eric would be running out of things to be miserable about, but they were wrong. From early on he was complaining about the poor quality of workmanship in his cell, and for once he was right when a wall and the stone ceiling gave way and severely depressed him for the last time. On the day he died, his last words to the prison guard were:

‘That bloody sun is shining through the window too early in the morning. Did I tell you that the crops will fail this year, there’s bound to a pestilence of some sort, and I reckon the end of the world is nigh…but mustn’t grumble eh!’

The guard admitted that if the wall had not fallen on Eric, it was most likely that he would have been in significant danger of being executed, just to stop the severe onset of depression sweeping the prison.

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