Grab a cuppa or a tinnie – whatever floats your boat – and settle back, this is gunna be a long one.
I’ve mentioned, from time to time, that doing a tree change and renovating a crumbling cottage is a bit of a five steps forward and four steps back affair. Nothing is ever quite straightforward. Nothing ever goes quite as you planned.
The first thing about doing a tree change is that you deliberately go and live near trees. As trees are a real estate developers natural enemy, you have to leave urban areas. Cities have lots and lots of real estate developers. Living far away from everything complicates pretty much everything. Those of you who live rurally may be thinking; “Aw diddums. Toughen up princess.” But you see, people who have been living rurally for a couple of years have everything sorted out. They have their routines. They know how to manage everything and have their contingency plans already tried and tested.
Let me give you an example; when the power goes out around here, dozens of homes and farm houses go dark – briefly. Then somebody wanders over to the shed with the generator and starts it up. Most will be muttering colorfully, I admit, but they will have power after a relatively small amount of hassle.
But. If you’re new to living in the bush, it’s just possible that you won’t know that you need a generator. As a newbie, you won’t realize that power companies don’t really ‘prioritize’ rural supply. We’re far away from the power company offices, there aren’t a lot of us living here, and the really big factor is that we’re spread out and our power lines are hundreds of kilometers long. Consequently, blackouts here can last a couple of weeks.
Tradesmen and government services are the same. When something goes ‘ppffffttt’, the rural resident generally has to find a temporary solution themselves. If you’re new to all of this, the solution will involve a trip to town. It will also involve spending money that you weren’t expecting to spend.
I started my renovation and tree change knowing that my property wasn’t connected to the power grid. So I had the generator from the get go. Shame I didn’t know how to service the blasted thing. There are four dead generators in one of my sheds. None of them work. Why? Because I didn’t know what I was doing. One of them accidentally got a teeny tiny amount of water in the fuel. One of them wasn’t serviced regularly enough or properly – it might be recoverable, but the jury is still out on that. One of them was simply misused. The fourth one? I still don’t know why it died. I might be able to fix it, don’t know yet. One day I will take them all apart and see what I can jury rig.
I am not an astoundingly stupid person. I have skills. I have abilities. If you need a 60,000 word thesis proof read, I’m your guy. If you need some powerpoint slides whipped up that are chocker block with snazzy maps and graphics; look no further. If you need an insanely complex spreadsheet thrown together for an analysis of whatever; I can have that for you in under a couple of hours. Unfortunately, no volume of powerpoint presentations festooned with pretty pictures will coax a water flooded generator to do anything other than rust. Which it was going to do anyway. Because it was flooded (Some people might observe that only an astoundingly stupid person would allow water to have gotten into a fuel can and then into a generator… well… once I come up with a snappy riposte, I will post it!).
Moving on from the generator, my chainsaw won’t work. There is a safety lock, a kind of reverse clutch on chainsaws that make them merely hellaciously dangerous. If the clutch safety lock thingy doesn’t engage, then as soon as you start it, it starts wanting to rip huge chunks out of things. I am fond of my spleen and my knees and my elbows. They do various wondrous and nifty things. I’d notice if I suddenly didn’t have them anymore. Being around a chainsaw that doesn’t have a safety lock clutch doodad is, I suspect, somewhat like lathering yourself up with barbecue sauce and then jumping in to swim with the sharks. After stenciling the word ‘CHUM’ on your forehead. With bacon.
I don’t know how to fix it. I want to cut up some old logs, but my chainsaw will try to kill me. I don’t know how to fix it. I could google it, but lately i have come to the conclusion that its just easier and faster and much more reliable to ask one of my neighbours. I am convinced that my neighbours know more than the internet. The world wide web has only been humming along since about 1980, my neighbours have been around way longer than that.
There is another frequent fly in the ointment. Another kind of calamity. Nothing is ever as easy as it looks. Running lots of pipe and hoses and whatnot from water tanks to faucets sounds fairly straightforward, but the blasted things leak. You don’t lay out the pipes and hoses, hook them up, put water through, identify the leaks, fix the leaks, move on to the next job.
No. You start to lay the pipes and hoses out, discover a couple of awkward obstacles that you have to either go around, under, over, or through, then (after much hacking and hewing with axe, spade, or dynamite – your choice), you lay out the hoses and pipes and start to hook them up.
That’s when you discover that you have the wrong gauge connector for at least one pipe to a hose or some such, so you spend ages sifting through what odds and ends you do have to see if there is any combination that can be daisy chained to solve the problem. Eventually you discover that there is not, so you drive to the nearest hardware store to get what’s missing (unfortunately, that takes almost three hours – what with the rather long bit of driving),
When you get back, you hook everything up and run water through the system. After you have frantically sprinted to the tank to shut the water off so that it will stop cascading forth from about 40% of the connectors, you wander around with some tools and little rolls of white plumbers tape and try and ‘fix those leaks’. Then you try the water again. Then you sprint again. Then you go back to the old leaks and tweak them some more and then you go to the new leaks and swear at them for not having leaked before. Once you have tightened and taped and tweaked everything (Including a cat who got too close while you were really focused), you try the water. Again.
Okay. This is when you decide to get serious. Every connection, and I mean every connection is taken apart, cleaned, beautifully taped, and then carefully (but firmly) tightened to within an inch of its life. Every hose and pipe is checked. Everything is thoroughly scrutinized and made as good as is theoretically possible. No step has been ignored. No sloppy bodge job tolerated. This is meticulous craftsmanship and care of the finest calibre. This time, it’s right. You put water through the system. Then you sprint to shut it off. You console yourself that as it’s winter, the weekly rains will probably refill the tank faster than the leaks can empty it. Probably.
Oh… how I wish that I was exaggerating.
But, here’s the thing. My neighbours don’t have any where near this kind of hassle. They are well equipped and provisioned for unpredictable eventualities. When something goes pear shaped, they have the tools, the plan, and the experience to resolve it – at least temporarily. They still have a long way to travel when they go to town, but they make a day of it. They sort out 12 – 15 issues with each trip. When I go to town, I sort out about 3.
That’s the trick. Learning. Getting a handle on how to deal with things when they go awry, building up the tool chest and spare materials to deal with come what may. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. But you’re only racing against yourself. No Olympic Medals are on offer. Just a lifestyle.
My neighbours are unfailingly friendly. Always helpful. I am sure that they are highly amused by my bumbling incompetence… but I think that they have noticed that I’m still here. I think that they’ve noticed that I’m still trudging along getting the crumbling cottage on the hill sorted out. Five steps forward, four steps back. You still get there in the end.
Hail and well met, one and all.
It seems that anywhere you go these days will have a fleet of slightly harrowed looking mothers navigating the streets and avenues in their own ‘Good Ship SUV’. These monsters are generally mildly enormous. They are virtually impossible to park and I am quite sure that they set off earthquake alarms whenever they go over a bump. They are ghastly vehicles and they serve little or no purpose.
That said, I do have a 4WD truck. But here’s the difference; my driveway is unmanageable even with a 4WD for several days of the year. I also have about 20 acres of overgrown paddock. I also tend to need to move a ton of this or that at least once or twice a month. My 4WD is a workhorse. It doesn’t have ‘climate control’ (Well, okay… it has windows), its seats don’t massage ones buttocks. I don’t have cinema like dolby surround sound. It does have an absurdly monstrous bull bar which is great for ensuring that when some daft pillock fails to take a corner in their idiotic SUV, their SUV is going to be much worse off than my truck.
I also have a little Mazda 121. It’s small and zippy. Comfortable to drive, great handling, great brakes, great fuel economy. It’s also over 20 years old and still steadfastly reliable. It, however, can not get up my driveway for most of the year.
Musing on my vehicles led me to rant about SUVs (done that bit) and to ponder how my various vehicles and tools and gadgets have shaped my tree change experience. So I thought it might be a good idea to mention the shining stars. If you’re contemplating a tree or sea change of your own, then mayhaps some of my experiences will be of use to you.
Number One – Big fancy rechargeable LED lantern. It’s great. It can be charged off the mains, by a generator, or from a car’s cigarette lighter socket. It has the ability to break into two different lanterns. It is highly water resistant. It’s incredibly rugged. Its inbuilt power pack lasts for hours. You can comfortably read a book by its light. Given my lack of electricity for the first year or so, this gadget made an ENORMOUS difference. So. Choose a really good torch and a really good lantern. Don’t go with an el cheapo. This is one of those areas where you want to get the one you like the best and ignore the cost. Stumbling around in the dark is a bummer. Having a nice illuminating beacon ready to bathe you in reassuring not-dark-and-creepiness just seems to make the world a nicer place.
Number Two – Okay. I admit it… there’s a bit of potty humour coming. It IS the second best thing to arm oneself with… and well… I couldn’t resist. Number two is my portable toilet. Basically it has a tank for effluence and a tank for flushing with. It looks like a gray box. I call it the bucket of shame simply because I ALWAYS vow to empty and clean it long before it is burstingly full. When it is full, it is much harder to empty and clean. Emptying and cleaning it are NOT fun. Unfortunately, I always put it off to the last minute. This often means that I have to do the chore in the rain and while feeling miserable. At those times my language is not very polite. Oh. One thing. If you have one of these nifty portable toilet things, be sure to put it on a level surface. A LEVEL SURFACE. Very important. Don’t forget. LEVEL. Moving right along.
Number Three – Ooh… gets tricky, now. I am going to go with the little 2 stroke generator. Basically these things will produce about 700 – 800 watts. Plenty of energy for recharging phones, computers, running a handful of lights, maybe running a CD player. DO NOT TRY TO HEAT OR REFRIGERATE. One thing nobody mentioned to me is that the wattage on an appliance does NOT include the start up. Some appliances will use ten times their running wattage just at start up before settling down. Using a generator that is not rated for such a drain will kinda kill your generator. So don’t do it. Keep the wattage usage really low.
You can of course get a much larger generator. They produce more power, but use more fuel. For me, the little 2 strokes did what I actually NEEDED. They also did it with a minimum of fuss. Servicing them was easy. That said, I have been here a year and I have gone through 4 generators. The two more expensive ones didn’t really outperform the cheap 2 strokes… but they cost a lot more. It may be that I will be able to repair a couple of the generators. Being mechanically ignorant to an astonishing degree means that I am kinda chuffed at knowing how to clean and change spark plugs. But I will persevere. One day, I will get one of these sods working again!
Number Four – My tractor. It is seriously cool. Basically, when I looked at the property, I realized that there was a LOT of work to be done on the land. thistles, bracken, irish heath, etc. all needed slashing. A dirt road would be needed to afford access to the more remote parts of the property, and the area around the house needed extensive earth moving and cleaning up. Back of the napkin calculations indicated that I was looking at 30 – 40k in earth moving costs. Being rather poor, I couldn’t afford that. I spent some time thinking about it and then started looking into possible alternatives. What I found was a flatpack tractor. Basically you buy it and they send it to you as bits in boxes. You then assemble it yourself. This struck me as wonderfully cheap and an outstanding opportunity to reduce my level of mechanical ignorance. Then I had a bit of a motor accident and for a variety of reasons paid a few hundred dollars to have the distributor assemble it for me.
By this time next year I will have completely amortized the cost of the tractor just with earth moving… and I will still have the tractor. I have not made the kind of progress that I would have liked in the last year… but that’s not because I didn’t have the tool for the job. If you are looking after 10 acres or more – particularly if you have some earth moving projects scheduled, seriously consider getting yourself a small tractor. They are amazingly nifty things to have around.
Number Five – Netbook/iPad. My sanity was preserved by my netbook. Basically I could read or write, play computer games, watch DVDs, listen to music. A desktop wouldn’t have cut it. It would have taken up far too much room and couldn’t have readily been run by a little generator. Now I have a second hand iPad. It’s nifty, too. Smaller and a bit more rugged. It serves most of my internet and writing needs. I can also take it around the block with me to check diagrams or work plans. I like it very much. Mind you… I am a geek, so a computer was bound to be in the top 5 no matter what. 🙂
So there you have it. My five essential must have necessities (Yes, that’s a tautology, but I don’t care. If you want me to care about dangling modifiers, tautologies, spelling, grammar, etc. pay me to edit, proof read or write something… it’s my blog and I’ll blither illiterately if I want to!)… okay… now I have forgotten what I was going to say. Oh, yes. These are some of the things that I HAD to have. Without these items, doing the tree change probably wouldn’t have worked for me. While settlers in the 1800s made do with an axe and a steely gaze, they were made of sterner stuff than I. Mind you, soft I may be, but at least I don’t think that I need an SUV so that I can whip round to do the weekly shopping.
G’day, what follows is about writing… the inertia that opposes writing to be more specific. I had originally started to write something on how emergent technology affects renovations of century old buildings…. then there was going to be this nifty bit on useful equipment.Then the iPad I was fiddling with gobbled my text… that led to a bit of stream of consciousness blather. Rather than delete it and spare the world, I have decided to put this explanatory paragraph here and consider you warned. I will – from time to time – ramble about something unrelated to… well, anything. Sometimes writing – like life – goes to unexpected destinations.
Bother. The bloody thing just deleted half a page. Oh well, it was hardly timeless prose. I suppose I should explain why it doesn’t particularly perturb me to lose half a page. You see, the challenge for a writer is to find a story that wants telling. Most stories don’t, you know. Want telling, I mean. So us writer types tap away at our keyboards or scribble with our pens. We put one letter after another till we have a word, then a sentence, then a paragraph. Usually we end up with several paragraphs or pages of some nicely crafted word play… But no real story.
Real stories are messy things. Meaningless bits of mundane action, large slabs of dialogue that don’t advance the plot, and pages and pages of characters doing things in settings that are irrelevant to anything much other than paying the bills or ensuring that there are clean socks. Writers have to wade through quite a lot of prosaic to get to the prose.
Then there are the words. Nifty things; words. Humpty dumpty said something along the lines of: ‘When I use a word,’ … ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ I like the sentiment very much. It is particularly soothing when I mangle harmless sentences or try to use words that are simply innocent of the expression that I try and foist upon them.
I don’t mean sentences like: “I’ll be sure to get that to you tomorrow.” When I say that, it’s just a lie. But when I try describe where I live, I tend to trot out things like ‘very pretty’ or ‘wonderfully relaxing’. Those words really don’t do the setting justice. I could rely on hyperbole or wax poetic in metaphor, but even then the words only rarely convey the full measure of the scene.
With extraneous material obscuring the simple thing that we are hoping to express and even the words we use sometimes resisting being where and what we need them to be, it can be difficult to produce a story that wants telling.
So with this blog and with my other writing, I’ll just go on putting one letter after another and hope that I somehow manage to craft that rarest of gems; something where the detritus has been cleared, the right words found and placed just so. A complete and true accounting; a real story.
The view that greets me in the morning. It’s very pretty and wonderfully relaxing.
It gets dark at my place. I mean really dark. You might think that it gets pretty dark in your average city, town, or hamlet, but there’s a profound difference in a remote place on a moonless cloudy night. The depth of the darkness is absolute. No stars, no porch lights, no street lights gamely crying out to the sable ink ‘c’mon, if you think yer hard enough!’.
Most evenings, there are exactly two artificial lights visible from my property (Not counting my own). One is a small underpowered streetlight that sort of indicates where my road joins on to the main road. It’s a kilometre away (That’s a little over a thousand yards). The light from it looks like a slightly bright star that has gotten tired from all of the energetic capering about in the sky and has decided that lazing around on the ground sounds good. Seriously, it’s only a little bit brighter that venus or mars (mind you, as I have had a few eye operations, I might not be a leading authority on what something ‘looks’ like). Anyway. It’s not a shining beacon.
The other light is a sort of yard light, porch light thing outside of my neighbour’s house. It’s quite close. It’s only 400 metres or so (About a quarter of a mile). But as it’s a 60 watt globe it’s not exactly lighting the place up, either (Okay, I admit it; I don’t actually know what wattage it is. Sneaking up to one’s neighbour’s place with a ladder to check the wattage of their garden light might lead to a rather awkward conversation, so I haven’t checked).
Anyway. It gets really dark here. I have two cats. Pigeon and Sophie. Being cats, they are of the opinion that the universe (well, the bit around my house) is their empire. They apparently never tire of wandering around catching and torturing the local wildlife. My fervent hope is that the local wildlife stops wandering into my house. There are many, many hectares of tree festooned hillside. I really only frequently wander around a small part of the property. The cats cover even less of it. So if the wildlife stays out there, we’ll stay in our bit and there will be peace and cohabitation for all.
So. Dark. Two cats. Wildlife. At this stage, I could describe the baby Tasmanian devil in my kitchen. But that story didn’t involve the cats. I could talk about having to get out of my truck to move the echidna out of the way so I could head to the shops. But that didn’t involve my cats. Or I could tell you about waking up one morning and finding half a rabbit on my pillow next to my face (Napisan really is good on those pesky rabbit entrail stains. Can you imagine what life would be like without Napisan? I wine and dine a charming lady, bring her back to my place; “Don’t mind the stains on the pillow case, it’s from the digestive tract and reproductive organs of a rabbit that one of my cats partially ate.” Thank GOD for modern cleaning agents. That story does involve the cats, but I don’t like talking about it coz I get this horrible headache and a I start sighing a lot.
Anyway, let’s get back to the story. By the way, there is a point. It will actually all lead to a (sort of) coherent finish. I promise. It’s dark, I’m outside noticing how terribly dark it is. As per usual, there is a furry obstacle trying to ensure that I will trip and fall and shatter my spleen (Yes, I know spleen’s aren’t things that you can shatter, but my cat’s don’t, they’re mental.) As usual, I reach down to pat the furry obstacle, musing to myself that by doing so, I am actually giving them positive feedback in their efforts to shatter my spleen. But it’s not one of my cats. There’s a wheezy kind snort. It’s a possum. He doesn’t scuttle away in terror. He doesn’t claw my arm off. He gives me a wheezy snort. I don’t know if this is possum equivalent of a: ‘Careful mate, I’ll have you if ya try that again!’ For all I know he could have just sneezed. Australian Possums are not the same thing as Opossums. Firstly, Possums are MUCH cuter. Secondly, they tend to have talons that can slice into Australian hardwoods. I elect to withdraw carefully.
But he just wheezed and snorted. Then he wandered off. What’s with that? It got me thinking. He was about the size of my cats. Maybe 7 kilograms (About 15 pounds). So I am about twenty times bigger than he is. I am not sure that if a Black rhinoceros came up and prodded me with his foot that I would simply wheeze and snort. Quite a remarkably brave creature is your average Possum. And your Echidna. And your Pademelon. And your Bandicoots (but only fleetingly, because I have had halves of several of them left behind, too. Sigh). So all of these critters – these Wallabies, Platypuses, marsupial mice and the rest – are wandering around full to the brim with courage even though there are lots of other critters trying to eat them. But when the prod comes, wheeze then snort.
This encounter has taught me two things: Firstly, the critters aren’t going anywhere. They will bravely (albeit at times unfortunately) go about their business where they want and when. Courage truly does come in small packages. Secondly, I really need to change the light globe on my outside light.
Okay, let’s talk about wildlife. Living – as I do – in a fairly remote area with lots of wilderness and a couple of national parks being a fair bit closer than an actual town, there is a bit of wildlife about. We’re talking wallabies, pademelons, bandicoots, possums, brown snakes, white lipped snakes, tiger snakes, tasmanian devils, and platypus. Don’t get me started on the bird life.
But here’s the thing. It’s actually not quite as nifty as it sounds. I like animals. I do. I especially like wilderness settings chockerblock with critters. But… well, it’s a bit of a nuisance when you have a breeding pair of European Swallows (unladen) who have made a nest in your living room. First of all, there is the bird poo. You can tell where the birds like to fly because they leave a squishy dotted line along their flight path (I did say unladen). There’s also the feathers; they float around and stick to everything. On top of that, they have little baby swallows, so I can’t just evict them or I will feel like a complete bastard. I have been assured that they will go back to Europe… In three or four months. Sigh.
Then there are the Tassie Devils. They are cute in a toothsome way, and they have a lot of character. Unfortunately they also sound like fiendish monster created by HR Gieger that is trying to deal with a particularly unpleasant case of piles. My Godson Oliver came to visit for a few days a while back. For various reasons, we didn’t get to the house until after it was dark. Armed with a flashlight, I took him around the crumbling old abode and into the cottage; where we found a young Tassie Devil. Cool, huh? Nifty way to impress the Godson. Up close and personal with a wild Devil. First night and everything. Yeah… riiiight.
You see, not long thereafter, a devil (Might have been the same one, might not) decided that it liked living room dining. So it killed something and ate it in my living room. I know this because there was a pool of blood and some Devil paw prints beautifully stained into my century old blackwood floor. Sigh.
Then there are the birds (Shudder). On my block I have european swallows, blue wrens, golden wrens, kookaburras, starlings, blackbirds, sparrows, and about a dozen other birds that I don’t know the name of yet. Now, those that know me will find it odd that I know about these birds. I am not really a bird watcher. But my cat (His name is Pigeon. Ironic, really) is a bird watcher. A keen one. And he’s also a bird catcher. And a bird torturer. And – eventually – a bird eater. Apparently he’d quite like me to join him in his hobbies because he keeps trying to encourage me by leaving a watched, caught, and tortured – but not eaten (well, completely, anyway) bird in or about my caravan. If I am asleep at the time, he will quite thoughtfully leave it on my pillow so that I can find the bird when I wake up and open my eyes. If I’m working outside, he’ll leave it on the steps so that I can admire it when I pack it in for the day. Sigh. For a while there, I was getting five a week. Now it’s down to about two.
Here’s the thing. Given all of this… and the many, many, many animal related events that I haven’t mentioned, why on earth is it that I am planning on getting six chickens, four goats, a dog, and a Clydesdale?
It occurs to me that one of the really useful things that I could do with this is to offer up the lessons that I have learned in this insane venture project. If you decide to buy a ‘fixer upper’ be aware of a salient point: it is not one great big job. It is lots and lots and lots of small to large jobs. Many of those jobs don’t even register on your ‘jobs list’ or your ‘plan of attack’. Let me give you an example.
Access in and around my crumbling cottage was impeded by plants, piles of rubbish, bizarre egresses that effectively led to either nowhere or certain death. While I knew that cleaning up the messes and sorting out access was a priority, I failed to understand what labour that would involve.
So. Picture if you will a deck at the front of the house (Or better still, I will picture it for you). Now… see that three foot drop? That’s my main access point to the house. Given that I will be living in a caravan, if I want to nip inside the house for something, I can either climb a steep hill and loop around the house to the back door (While hacking my way through vegetation), or I can put up a ramp that will give me easy access.
Okay, ramp it is. Rummaging through the odds and sods and detritus around the property, I found some long boards that would span the distance and hold my weight. I also found some chicken wire that I could wrap around the boards to give me some grip when it was wet. I also found some round disks with prongs (A bit like gang nails) that could be used to nail down the chicken wire. Oh… and a quick rummage turned up some wood that could be used as backing boards for the ramp.
Took me three hours and an enormous amount of exertion just to find all of that junk. You see, none of this stuff was in the same place. I found the main ramp boards down the hill in the big shed. I found the chicken wire up by the studio. I found some of the backing wood in a hayshed and the remaining boards and gang nails in the house. Once I had all of the stuff, I had to clean it up. The worst bit was that the chicken wire was designed to keep genetically engineered super chooks safely under lock and key. Ordinary chicken wire is easy to bend and shape, this stuff requires someone like the Govenator to come and lend a hand or you will spend ages twisting and levering and sweating until you finally fold it into submission.
I could have driven to the hardware store and bought everything that I need. Probably would have cost me less than $50. But it would have involved a 100km round trip and the $50. It would have been easier, though.
The longer I am here, the better I will know my environment. I will remember that old bit of Ag-pipe in the carport, or the dozen or so old bricks piled up near the long drop. But that will take time. Cleaning the place up and putting things into a useful order will take time and effort.
There’s a rock I want to move down near the carport… problem is, I don’t have a tow chain. When I did my list, I wrote ‘move boulder’ what’s not on my list is ‘drive 100km and buy great big scary chain’.
If – like myself – your tree change involves a complete change of environment and immersion into skills you simply don’t have yet, then your list will be longer and more expensive than you might expect. It probably won’t be the big expensive jobs that will drive you insane, it will be the little things; the jobs that should only take half an hour. But stick with it. You will get better at the little snarls. You’ll know where that handy bit of corrugated iron is. You’ll remember where that box of 6 inch spikes is lurking. You’ll anticipate that you’re gunna use 16 rolls of duct tape. Once you’ve mastered all of that, the job will only take an hour and a half.
That said, I am afraid that there isn’t much you can do for the short, sharp, nasty surprises that you may find that you sit on. Protective gear is wonderful stuff… but gang nails will still get right through them. My advice is to use loud and colourful language, lurch around bellowing while clutching your backside for a while, then go and staunch the bleeding. Remember to disinfect it with something medicinal, and then don’t admit it or tell anyone about it for YEARS. Unless you have a blog, of course.
It was about 6:40am. It was dark, the wind was blustery. Sporadic bouts of rain spat down unpredictably. The side of the road was very rough, hard, and frigidly cold. It sucked what little warmth I had right out of me. I laid there on my left side. My right arm was raised as much as I could manage. I was dizzy. My diaphragm felt like it was biting me with every breath. My back and right side hurt. I had blood all over my face, hands and arms. It was sticky and dirty brown from having mixed with bulldust. The fine desiccating dust had coated me from head to toe. Some kind of vehicle drove past; then another, then another. None of them stopped. I couldn’t see them very well. My glasses weren’t on my head. Couldn’t exactly remember when they’d come off.
Something big and rumbly geared down and slowed. It’s airbrakes whistled that it was coming to a stop: hard. After that, more vehicles slowed and stopped. First one figure, then another walked into my blurry field of view. I heard one of them talking on the phone. It was definitely a phone kind of voice. Police and ambulance were asked for. A description of where was provided. My dizziness swelled up and I started trembling a fair bit.
Then Andrew came along. Nice chap. Dark hair, Round face. Small beer gut. He was wearing one of those high visibility vests that everyone hates being saddled with. Andrew put a blanket over me. It helped a lot. He got a towel or a sweater or some such under my head. I bled over the blanket and towel a fair bit. I feel a bit guilty about that.
Someone walked up with my wallet and my phone. Someone else (Andrew, I think) was asking me if I knew my name. It all got very chaotic for a bit. I answered questions as best as I could and tried very hard to lay as still as I possibly could. It was a bit uncomfortable when I moved.
After a while, it occurred to me that someone – probably a police officer – would phone either my best friend or my mum (or both). I didn’t want them to be upset. So I asked for my phone and dialed my mum. She has caller ID and knew I was travelling on the highway. She expected that I’d phone through the day. “So where are you?’ she asked. I tried putting a bit of strength in my voice. Took a real breath, one where the diaphragm did the biting thing and answered: “Laying on the side of the road. I am afraid there has been an accident.”
I can’t remember much about that conversation. Basically I tried to reassure her that I was fine. Unfortunately, I was a bit of a liar. I had pain in my back in several places; pain in my lower abdomen, I was not really at my best. But I really didn’t want her to worry. After a moment or two, I fumbled the phone over to Andrew. I was dizzy and the biting diaphragm was kinda getting to me. I can recall phoning my best friend later and waking him up. I can’t recall what I said or what he said. I can’t honestly recall much of the accident or the waiting for the ambulance bit. It was cold, damp, I was covered in bulldust, and I was not at my best.
The ambulance arrived and whisked me off to Tailem Bend. From that hospital, I was whisked off to Royal Adelaide Hospital. In all, there was about two and a half hours of being whisked in an ambulance. Then I was at the RAH. I could wax lyrical about the various phases of the journey. The enormous beer gut on the ambulance medic, the complete lack of services available at the Tailem Bend hospital, I could talk about the discomfort of being whisked (Now somewhat controlled by quite a lot of morphine). But I am not really sure that all of that is terribly relevant or riveting.
The main points are simply: I had an accident while travelling at 110km/h. I rolled the ute (Pick-up truck) several times before the scrub and a strategically placed tree stopped me. Apparently what caused the accident is that I hit a fox and my rear wheel blew. I am mostly fine now. It appears that I cracked some bones and tore some muscles off their strands or some such. So while I have a sore back, none of my organs ruptured, split, exploded, or just generally ceased to function. I am an extremely lucky fellow.
This wasn’t part of the plan. This changed everything. Moving house from Adelaide to North West Tasmania was now terribly complicated. I wouldn’t be physically fit for who knows how long. I didn’t even have glasses anymore (Which, when you need to lip read is a bit of a bugger). My Tree Change had definitely thrown up a new adventure. BUT. I am alive. I don’t appear to have any permanent crippling injuries. While the ute is completely and utterly demolished, I am not. So the Tree Change continues.
I don’t intend to blog about the convalescence. I don’t even think I will bother to detail the kind of headaches and complications that all of this has caused. Badger’s Tree Change is about the Crumbling Cottage and what adventures I find there. There is not much in this particular adventure that anyone would much wish to know about.
Picture if you will, a wild haired head with a nervous looking face. Give the face an odd open mouthed rictus. Now give the attached body some rather shabby clothes draped with leaves, twigs and quite a lot of dirt. Now have the bizarre visage lurch up to you and very earnestly say “Ah ha geen shtung gy a gee serrul tines and Ah ang allergic to theng.”
Unfortunately, the nervous face was mine. The open mouthed rictus; mine. You see, I had been toiling away at the truly astounding amount of weeds and plants that were laying siege to my crumbling cottage and had paused after a couple of very industrious hours to have a nice cuppa (mug of coffee). Unfortunately, a bee had settled on to the rim of the mug and then stung me. Repeatedly. I am allergic to North American bees. Apparently I am not allergic to whatever it was that stung me. If I’d been stung in the mouth by a North American bee, I would have a very few short minutes to get assistance. I live in a remote place, but the hamlet is only a couple of minutes away. So I kind of dashed to the local shop and sort of babbled my situation and asked if they would be so kind as to send for an ambulance if my face suddenly decided to grow seven sizes too large.
They armed me with stingose and nice cuppa. This was not a secret hope that the bee would have another go and this time get it right, it was the kind act of a couple of very nice people who then very politely waited until I was outside before they burst out laughing. Shame I could see them through window. And they’d gone to all that effort to hold it in, too.
Me, I would have started laughing pretty much immediately. Maybe that’s why the bee chose to sting me. It somehow sensed that I was not a really nice fellow. I suppose it could be argued that it stung me out of self defence; that I’d just splashed it with scalding hot coffee and was in the process of swallowing it. Regardless, I was stung and then a few minutes later found myself sitting out the front of the shop with a cuppa and a curiously numb mouth (Stingose seems to work).
I sat around for about half an hour and – disappointingly, I am sure – failed to do the man-with-an-inflatable-head trick. Then I thanked them (having reacquired the ability to use syllables as they are sort of intended) and then headed home. I recount all of this because:
a) it was a bit of an adventure. A modest one, to be sure, but an adventure nonetheless.
b) it demonstrates that in times of distress or trouble I have people who I can get help from – and they will be the kind of people who will wait until after the peril and after I am out of sight before laughing their heads off.
c) this does not bode well for my future endeavours. Harkening back to my intro, it may be that I am to be cast as the good natured bumbling twit who keeps getting himself injured.
Sigh. On the bright side, I did manage to clear up almost a tenth of the weeds and bramble and what not. The piles, if added together, would be about the size of a school bus. The sad thing is, this isn’t really an exaggeration. Now I just have to get rid of the garden waste. How to do so will take some thinking and planning. Perhaps I will go and make myself a nice cuppa and start the thinking and planning. White, two sugars, and no bees.