So I'm making a cautious return here. I wasn't sure what to write at first, and at last, really. I'm still only looking at bullet points as I'm typing with my beady little eyes hidden within folds of jackets and hoodys. I have not got fully accustomed to the cold yet. You see, I was away. More on that in a moment.
As a fledgling, and largely unacknowledged writer, I have always written rather about what I know, that which I have experienced and so forth; Ireland and Irish things. While writing reviews and short stories over the last year or two, I pushed away from this, from Ireland so to speak and tried to write with an air lacking in all locality. I had rid myself of Ireland and these Irish things. I tried to see outside the box (and certainly with the short stories, I think I did a half decent job). But as I stated; I have returned and so return I shall, to all things Irish. What is on my mind cannot be held back any longer I feel and besides, at the very least, it should make for entertaining reading.
I left for South-East Asia in November. After five weeks spent drinking and being sick, in equal measures, I crawled across the finishing line many kilometres east and fell into Sydney. For every Irish person, Sydney seems almost a rite of passage, similarly affixed in my mind to Inter-railing or that holiday in Thailand or even the J1 for some. These days I am loath of trends and fads but must admit, I have given in to many over my less individually-minded years (rave pants, short hair with a gelled fringe and of course my quarter-arsed attempts to get to South America and devour as much cocaine as possible before I get too old for it). So I told myself Sydney was a stop-off for work and play, on my way to New Zealand and Brazil. In a way it WAS a stop-off and in any other way it was the end of my travels also.
The incessant sweating was the first thing to wrangle me. I had wanted to lose weight for some time but to do so in such an irritating fashion was typical of me. Eventually, through it all, I lost half a stone but did so in a flurry of crotch-rot. A nasty affliction. Google it. It finally died away on contact with Dublin's arctic freeze. The sweating went hand-in-hand with general movement of any kind of course and the drinking. So I cut down on movement.
Six weeks passed.
Then I started to look for a job. With my friends gone onto greener pastures and my money fading fast, I had little or no choice but to apply for every single job irrespective of wage rate or hours. So I haplessly applied for - care giver for elderly, supermarkets, call centres, dog walker, handing out flyers, the list went on and on.
A further two weeks vanished. And nothing. A few rejections but nothing else. The job market was saturated with massive influxes of Irish and English who like me couldn't find anything worthwhile back home.
In a crushing fleet of panic - after checking my bank balance and tasting the fear and embarrassment of landing back in Ireland after only three months away - I rang, emailed, every single farm I could find from Queensland down to Victoria. A 100 Dollars of credit and 100 emails later, I had arranged a job for four (myself and three girls, of course) on an apple picking farm near Warragul, Victoria. Four days away, we still had no way of getting there...
Almost immediately, two of the girls dropped out. And in hindsight, they were right to do so. Left with the one remaining tag-along, a french girl called Marine, we made our way to the destination caravan park in a beat up 1985 Ford Laser purchased for the princely sum of 800 dollars. Apple picking is not for the faint hearted. The heat scorched the skin from 10 am to 5 pm and the work rate had to excel at optimum speed at all times for their to be any financial benefit. After a measly three days, even this 'financial benefit' was protracting and ultimately our bare costs of rent and groceries were not even being met. By the skin of our teeth, that very weekend, after quitting the apple picking business, we found a small farm in the mountains in need of a helping hand picking blueberries.
The man we worked for was the very Aussie stereotype I had thus far managed to skirt around - that of the racist; the pure white farmer isolated in the hills. He offered a level wage and once the season dried up after a fortnight, he allowed us to paint his farm house. The racist diatribe died off once he became aware of my acute willingness to side-step issues of class and colour and that I would evidently not be a part of the narrow virtues he revelled in. I was appreciative for all he did for us but nonetheless, glad when it was all over.
(follow the next somewhat sensational part of Shane's travels... here)