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DAY 111: Having terrible things done to my head, then getting some badass tools

20 Dec

I AM feeling very glum today, knowing that I will be obliged to make a big joke at having failed my driving test again.

After being shown the door at Vic Roads, I decide to detour to Bendigo Marketplace where I might drift aimlessly and find something new to do; now that ‘Acing my driving test’ is no longer today’s headline.

A sign for Chinese acupressure massages draws me in. I like massages. They’re all soft and soothing, and the head ones make me want to roll over.

Not this one. Tissues, sinews, muscles, fat… nothing gets in the way of this dude’s digits in his mission to grind my bones into a fine powder. I feel like I’m being filleted like a fish by his elbows, knuckles and any other pointy appendage, and he works over my spinal cord Wolf Creek-style.

The head massage is worse. I slice my fingernails into my palms as he literally punches me about the skull, sculpts me a new fontanelle, tries to separate my head from my neck with his thumbs, and comes close to gouging out my eyes as he mulches the sockets.

By the time I’ve handed over my twenty-five bucks I’m even tenser, but I get the inspired idea of buying some badass tools. Tools are great – they get stuff done in the country, and at times like this you can bash the crap out of things. Plus I’ve been meaning to practise my axe / pickaxe / sledgehammer swing so that I can help Keith properly on the railroads.

At a hardware store I buy a hammer, an axe and a wrecking bar, which, between them, should be able to destroy anything. When I go to pay for the haul, the bloke refers to my “little wrecking bar” – a phrase that could deflate anyone’s balloon.

“I suppose it’s how you use it that counts, isn’t it?” I put to him.

“It’s a lady’s bar,” he retorts.

Anyway, off to vent some spleen – being very mindful of my non-steel-capped-tootsies.

Keeper? The smashing, not the massaging.

DAY 89: Giving my libido a right flogging

28 Nov

MY wholesome task is rained off today, so I’m forced to go undercover and explore Melbourne’s seamy underbelly, where women wear open-toed PVC heels whatever the weather, and men wear roomy pants.

First stop, Sexpo: a peculiarly unarousing emporium of bare buttocks, sparkly lubes, spankings, floggings, sour-faced porn stars, strip lights and novelty penis paraphernalia — not so much Melbourne’s underbelly as its flaccid cock.

Held at the MCEC, it’s right next door to a lifestyle expo for retirees, who won’t want to be getting their show bags muddled up. Or maybe they will. “Pink or purple vibrator?” I’m asked on arrival.

Being the day of rest, there’s not much sauciness going on, other than a trapeze act and Michelle ‘Bombshell’ McGee (best known for gazumping Sandra Bullock), who’s manning a stand with no takers. Off in one corner is The Gerbil — a ghost train converted into a rolling rompercoaster of knockers, but I’m sidetracked by getting my photo taken with a giant penis, which I can’t bring myself to publish.

I have to leave when some pervert cranks up the public tannoy. Why is it the Sex Crazed insist on putting on such revolting ‘naughty’ voices?

Next up is a strip club on King Street, as it seems I’m the only person in the world who hasn’t experienced over-priced drinks and buttocks set to vibrate, despite having grown up listening to the teachings of Vince Neil. I take along Nicole and Layna, and the strippers love us. No really — they love us for who we are. Each dancer that joins us seems hugely relieved that I’ve been to Sexpo, as she gets a conversation starter of how tacky it is and how she never goes anymore — and I get to say I had my photo taken with a giant cock. Blam, everyone’s happy.

The action on the pole’s less acrobatic than I expected. The first girl does some languid, slo-mo undulations that I could easily pull off, given a gram of ketamine, while the next chick, by contrast, looks like she’s going to fly off at great speed to a dance rendition of ‘Run to Paradise’ — not ideal when you’re a couple of months pregnant. The third strips off completely and straddles some dude’s face which, quite frankly, my mum could do.

I don’t know what the men are thinking in these circumstances, but I can tell you definitively that the girls in the audience are weighing up their own qualifications. There’s a hierarchy of talent here, and I reckon I could awkwardly gyrate my way in on a lower-lower-middle rung, as do Nic and Layna — or Lulu and Mercedes, as they’d now like to be known.

By the time Roxanne has come over to spin us some bullshit yarn about how she had a lap dance from a gorgeous girl one night and — whaddayaknow — she signed up to be a stripper the next day, we’re all sparkly eyed thinking about being long-limbed lolitas (give or take a couple of decades), like little girls fantasizing about being princesses.

Keeper? Yep — discussing the costumes was a pleasing way to accompany a drink.

DAY 88: Working on a chain gang

27 Nov


IT’S my first day volunteering with the local steam railway and I’ve asked for something physical to do, so I’m sent out to work on the tracks in torrential rain.

Turns out it’s just me and the chief ganger, Keith – a hyper, wiry chap who leaps around hitting things and explaining what’s what. For the first hour we can hardly understand a word the other’s saying, but roughly speaking we’re having fun comparing notes on what we think a bloke from Mount Isa and a journalist from England should be like. Keith expresses astonishment that I am not haughty, frail or pale.

“I’ve never seen anyone turn up to work on the railway in lipstick and nail polish though,” he says as we trundle off to Muckleford in his high-rail Mitsubishi that travels along the train tracks.

“The general consensus was that you were going to be a truck,” he continues. I pose for a photo for his phone, splattered in mud and wielding a pickaxe, so he can show the fellas. What can I say – I’m a good sport.

I’d been hoping to impress Keith with my newly learned railway slang (a track worker, like me, is a hairy-leg), but it turns out he’s far more interested in tracks than trains. “They’re all mad,” he scoffs of train workers. “When they’re not working on trains they watch videos about trains and listen to tapes of train noises.”

Our task today is to replace old sleepers with new ones. We jack up the rails, pickaxe the shit out of the rotten sleepers, then dig the trough clear before sliding a new sleeper in with giant tongs and securing it with four dog spikes, which I’ve heard as “dog’s bollocks” for the first hour Keith’s been saying it. Out here, that seems completely reasonable.

Quite regularly, Keith’ll hoist a sleeper off the back of the truck straight into my path, sending a tsunami of mud over me from head to already-saturated buttcrack, but I get my revenge when he skids on a rail and falls flat on his arse.

I admire Keith greatly. Every obstacle we face – trying to jack the rail by hand having forgotten the man-sized spanner; having the sleepers suckered firmly by the mud – I’d have wanted to put in the Too Hard box, but he sees it as an interesting conundrum.

Keith shares his tomatoes and tells me his life story on cigarette breaks, which are for my benefit, as he can quite capably smoke and swing a sledgehammer at the same time. For my part, I’ve assured him I’ll practise swinging one at home, to avoid bringing it down into sludgy puddles in front of our faces.

“Next time you can race me on the pump bike,” he promises mysteriously as we squidge back to the truck. “Race the ganger. No one’s ever beaten me yet.”

My rattle gun's most likely bigger than yours.

Keeper? Yargh! Great fun, and Keith’s a trooper. Will have to track down suitable clothing and new back muscles first.

DAY 86: Pillion-no-more

25 Nov

My bike, Roger.

I’VE been doing a lot of pillion riding lately and I reckon I’ve earned those stripes. My balance rivals that of a Russian gymnast and it’s all I can do not to scream “wooh” and throw my arms in the air when we go round tight corners, just to prove my point. No more headbutting helmets whatsoever, nor helping drivers steer.

So I’m starting to plot about my own bike. It’s a Harley ‘Hardly Drivable’ Davidson I’ve got my eye on, thanks to a recent FHM article, which is basically the only thing that has informed me. But by fuckery, those Harley Sportsters look neat. I’ve decided that by the time my 365 days of tomfoolery are over, I must have my driver’s licence, my pilot’s licence and my motorcycle licence…  something tangible to come out of this venture, other than the shits and giggles.

I approach a creepy dude manning the Harley stand at the MCEC’s Motorcycle Expo and ask him if I can sit astride my chosen model.

“You can sit on whatever you like,” he shoots back.

Er, touché. But very well, if we’re playing this game…  “You can make me win, can’t you?” I simper, as I fill out the competition form to bag one such beast.

He simpers back, folds my form up and puts it in his pocket.

Game ON. Surely?

Keeper? I’m getting there. Haven’t chosen my outfit yet.

DAY 82: Shooting Glocks, Magnums, Rugers, shotguns and stuff

21 Nov

Don't stand like this.

QUEENSLAND’s a law unto itself – like me, man – so naturally you can work your way through an arsenal of firearms at a shooting range without a licence.

At the Shooting Centre in Southport, my fellow bloodthirsty tourist and I buy over 100 rounds of ·22; 9mm; ·38 special; ·357; ·45 auto; ·44 Magnum.

My favourite’s the ·38 Special handgun – for the chamber-spinnin’ hijinks and Deer Hunter flashbacks – while the comrade’s obsessed with a Dirty Harry-style ·44 Magnum. We’re set through our paces by Roger, an affable chap who starts us on the wussy “ladies’” ·22, all the way up to a Glock. These firearms are way heavier and louder than anticipated – it’s hard not to flinch or kick out a foot when one goes off, even if it’s you pulling the trigger. But fuck, if Kate Ritchie and Rodger Corser can do it, so can I.


It’s the lever-action, 12-gauge shotgun Roger’s impatient to get to, though. It’s not included in our deal, but he’s dropped it into conversation three times now and is practically hopping from foot to foot when we start to consider the merits of letting one off.

Oh, all right then. I’ve wanted to fire a shotgun for ages, but even my fantasies have been accompanied by painful visions of the kickback cracking my collarbone in two. Roger admits he likes to advise people who are annoying him to hold the butt of the gun an inch away from their shoulder for optimum clavicle ouch.

“You only have to vaguely point a shotgun in the direction of something,” he says, as I faff around getting into place. “Because you’re definitely going to hit it.”

Sure enough, I pepper the target sheet with hundreds of holes after just one shot. The cartridge shoots out in front of my nose, with a pleasing puff of gunpowder. There are signs everywhere reminding punters to wash their hands and arms before leaving, as the residue of shooting leaves poisonous, powdered lead all over your limbs.

“Brought down the Roman Empire,” Roger notes. “Lead poisoning from saucepans.”

They made me wear these Protective Socks (slightly soiled).

Keeper? This gave me major ladywood.

DAY 68: Lighting a fire… totally unsupervised

7 Nov

I GO through two boxes of matches and 85 in-head renditions of “Fire… I bid you to burn” before this baby finally gets going in my brand new fire pit (see Day 54). I have to dance around putting spot fires out a fair bit, but I keep it going for a couple of hours without any complaints from Doreen next door or the bastards over the fence.

NB: I have made a fire before at Girl Guides, but it was under supervision. This is not.

Keeper: Yes; very satisfying, addictive work, and I like the way I smell all smokey.

DAY 66: Getting a helicopter view of the world

5 Nov

Looks non-lethal enough.

I ADMIRE those with a helicopter view of the world – and nobody has more of a helicopter view of the world than a helicopter. Mike meets me by the boathouse to give his remote control one a whirl.

He’s attached a dodgy-as camera to it that’s secreted inside a Bic-style lighter, which can give you great shots of the city or sunbathers. The helicopter’s pretty hard to control. It threatens to hover off into the Yarra a few times, and it seems the slightest gust of wind or kack-handed move sends it crashing down onto the tarmac. Which is awesome. Mike is very sporting, even when his favourite toy whizzes off to explore a tree for a bit.

Keeper? Has anyone made a remote control pterodactyl yet?

DAY 55: Being a good neighbour

25 Oct

The country pile.


IT’S taken me a year to get my head around what it means to live in the country, other than a farking long commute.

Mine is a starter country town for city castaways, really — nothing hardcore — but still, there are certain laws one needs to adhere to.

* Your vehicle will be a ute
* Your ute will be white
* Your humour, black
* Your wheels will issue smoke
* Your youth will congregate outside the one fast food franchise in town (don’t piss ’em off — they all own guns)
* Your accent will be vowelly
* Your pubs will be shit, not rustic
* You will feel obliged to impart to treechangers the myriad ways in which you can murder a rabbit
* You will soon learn no one’s going to magically come along and mow your grass for you

For a year now, my grassy knoll has let the whole street down with its furry fringes and great yelps of shrubbery. To be fair, it seems to be a street of old dears who probably have strapping young grandsons to keep their lawns neatly manicured, but still, it’s time I did the neighbourly thing and kept up with appearances.

After some help from the local youths with getting my mower roaring, I tackle the jungle outside my house, swerving around bunches of orange and yellow blooms. Once shorn it looks slightly impotent, Samson style, but look — it’s the done thing, and I’ve done it.

On the way to work, I grab a bin bag and take the long route down the railway tracks, scooping up discarded meat trays and VB bottles. Verily, my halo is shining and I look like the local nutjob. Still, every town needs one.

Keeper? Better do.

Can't quite face the back garden yet.

DAY 54: Building a fire pit

24 Oct

The fire pit.

THIS magnificent fire pit stands in the centre of my former chicken coop (now an open plan rumpus room), which, the architect has assured me, will not catch fire, or fall down, despite the removal of a structural post. Looks good, huh?

It was a task fraught with danger: the mangy carpet in the chicken coop was the perfect hidey-hole for slumbering snakes, who get right arsey when awoken in spring, and a spider bit the architect on the finger.

Keeper? Yeah! Next up: LIGHTING the fire pit.

The fuel.

DAY 45: Buying and using tools

15 Oct

IN any given situation, my attitude is usually to leave it to the professionals, even if they’re professional arseclowns.

You can’t do that” is my default setting. Sounds a bit like: “Computer says no.”

Someone’s got to do it, though. I mean, whose idea was it to move alone to the country? What made me think I’d be able to carry out even the most basic maintenance without any kind of gumption, the obligatory white ute and a driver’s licence to go with it?

But it’s getting embarrassing constantly ringing able country folk for help whenever I need a ladder, a branch grows too long or something falls off something else. Fuck this shit – I’m getting me some tools.

My first task is to build a picture frame. Really, this involves sawing two pieces of wood to approximately the same length and then stapling the picture between them. Target’s probably not the ideal place to be buying heavy artillery tools, but I pick out what I need after an emergency phone call to my most capable friend, who I’m secretly hoping will step in and offer to do it himself.

I immediately saw myself getting the saw into the bag, and I have to go back for safety goggles and staplers for the staple gun (kapow!), but then I’m all set.

“Oh my god, is someone going to supervise?” Natalie cries, back at the office.

“I knew that would happen,” mutters Ben, as I dab at my bloody hand.

Back at the country abode, I have a bit of a tizzy when I discover the pilot light’s blown out, a storm is a-gusting, and I don’t have any nails from which to hang my new work of art, let alone a hammer to bang them in. “You c%#& of a town!” I’m afraid I scream.

Keeper? Since my school FAILED to teach me the rudiments of DIY, I think I’d better enrol in some one-day course for numnuts.

I painted that wall as well.