Before the trip…….
Over the summer, John had driving instruction and gained his Medium Rigid licence. He had to get a Taxi Licence too, to be legal to drive the Adels Grove Coaster buses on their tours. He quite enjoyed the driving lessons, even piloting a truck through Melbourne’s peak hour traffic.
We had arranged to work for a few months at Adels Grove – again – doing the same sorts of things as before, except that John would take the Riversleigh tours too. We were to be there before Easter to help with the pre-season setting up, and staff the short rush they usually had over Easter, mostly locals from Mt Isa.
We were looking forward to being back in the Gulf country again.
After that was done, the plan was we would go touring for a couple of months before heading home. Destination uncertain though. Maybe across the Gulf Track? Maybe across towards Cairns? I favoured the latter as there were lots of places we hadn’t visited across that way.
The house sitter I had organized through the usual site, cancelled, in early March, due to family matters, so I had to find another. It was always hard to get anyone reliable and experienced close to when they were wanted, especially for a sit of seven months or so. The good ones get booked up ages ahead. My efforts did, however, result in getting the ones for 2007 lined up!
I gave up on the usual site after about thirty unproductive queries. Checked out a Seniors web site and obtained the services of a lady from Tasmania. She listed experience caretaking historic houses, and had been a teacher. The references she sent were quite glowing and she had a police check. I made one attempt to actually contact a referee, but couldn’t get through, and was so busy that I decided to take the written references on face value. With hindsight, possibly an error! A greater error – again, not realized until much later, was that there were no references for recent months, and I just assumed she did not house sit continuously. She would arrive the day before we were to leave – usual practice.
An experience way beyond normal for us, was working as parking staff at the March Commonwealth Games shooting venue at Lilydale. This came about because the company son worked for gained the tender to do all the parking for Games venues. A huge undertaking, so he was busy recruiting staff wherever he could. We agreed to help out and recruit some friends and neighbours too, to make up a team of eight, including friend M. The work was paying, at usual parking attendant rates, plus compulsory superannuation.
We had to do a familiarization session at the venue, and meet the two supervisors, who had accreditation for grass parking. Who knew one actually needed qualifications to park cars on grass!
We also collected polo shirts and sunhats with the company logo, high vis vests, identifying labels on lanyards. and a sort of light stick thing.
We worked eight days in total. Some were really early starts, depending on the program schedule, meaning we were leaving home at 6am and parking the early comers in the dark – hence the need for the light stick. We did not see any of the events, but heard them clearly!
It all went relatively smoothly, apart from two different drivers who actually managed to run into the heavy, water-filled, brightly coloured bollards that marked entrance lanes. No damage to the bollards but couldn’t say the same for their cars. Both were totally looking elsewhere at the time!
Another hiccup was anarchy in the separate area set aside for parking for officials at the events. Apparently a couple of guys came to blows over who had the right to park in the shade of a tree! The organizers then asked that we send one of our people up there, every morning, to direct the parking there! John did that, and wouldn’t take any argument from anyone over “their” spot. It was rigid parking in the order of arrival!
Then there was the passenger on the courtesy bus who sparked a police operation by waving a toy rifle out of the bus window……..and the local farmer who blithely drove his tractor into the exclusion zone around the venue………..
I worked at the entrance to the paddock, directing cars in and out. John and M actually directed the parking. We all had walkie talkie radios to communicate across the rather large area.
I learned that this work was hard on the legs and feet. All that standing….
We finished this work on Saturday 25 March, four days before we were due to depart on our trip.
John bowled all day on Sunday. He had to have a last bowls fix, in some sort of tournament.
I worked steadily for a few days, packing the van, and my parts of Truck. Cleaned the house. Did quite a lot of garden weeding, to leave the place in good condition.
We went to the doctor on Monday, for scripts to last the time we would be away, flu shots and skin checks.
John still had to get his taxi licence organized, at the last minute. He spent much of Tuesday running around on RTA matters – police check, medical and so on. He’d forgotten to have the medical check when we were at the doctor Monday, so had to go back next day.
Son and wife and my grand daughter – now four years old and at kinder – came to tea on Tuesday night. Farewell for about seven months, by which time they would have a new baby, due in May.
The house sitter arrived the day before we were to leave. She seemed more physically feeble than I was led to believe she would be. Said something about having had a car accident, and that she was separated from her husband. Said she had a bad neck and back and she would get a mowing service to do the lawn mowing, as I had previously made it clear that we expected garden upkeep. I had to help her unload some of her gear from her car! I had misgivings, but it was too late to change now.
I showed her the book of written information and instructions that we leave for our sitters.
She seemed quite accepting of the care needs of cat – his feeding regimen, and litter tray emptying. But I did not feel that she had any sort of rapport with him.
John had arranged to get Truck serviced, in Birchip, on Friday 31 March, by W, who had been the mechanic at Pungalina last year, and who repaired the wheel damage to our van last year.