Adjusting

Technically I am on annual leave until 8 May, my final day of employment at the Shire of Halls Creek. But I have already handed in my credit card and completed my last return. I have performed my last duties. I will not be returning to work. In real terms I am a retired person. When I awake in the mornings my only obligations are to matters I have decided to attend to. I am still adjusting to this concept. The freedom of being on holiday always had a time limit until now. A future that depends entirely on what I choose to do is difficult to contemplate. It also has some uncertainties. Where will I live? How will I manage my health and mobility issues? What unexpected snags and costs might affect my plans, when I get around to making them?

So far I have mapped out my next steps in the most general terms; take a week or two to show Dave around my part of the Kimberley, triage my stuff and pack what I can take with me, and head for Kate’s place in Queensland. From there the plans are still flexible. But they include visiting 91 year old Mary in NZ as soon as possible, shipping my car and contents over, finding a place to live. I may be returning to Oz to do that after a quick visit home, in which case a Queensland vacation may be in order.

I must sort out my future medical and medication needs.

I also have to access my superannuation and get myself onto the old age pension, or whatever pc term is used to describe it these days.

And I must keep my fingers crossed that I will not need another job in order to eke out a living. The things I want to get on with do not involve paid employment.

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Exit.

I just completed my exit interview form. The penultimate question asked why I resigned and whether there was anything the Shire could have done to prevent my leaving.

My reply was:

I am old father William
And it has been said
If I continue to work
They should examine my head.

– with no apology to Lewis Carroll.

 

There are some wonderful sights here.  One appreciates them a little more once one knows one is leaving them behind.

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The sky over Red Hills, Halls Creek, by Patrick Karena.
China Wall
China Wall, Halls Creek.

Gypsy

Roaming free as the breeze
What’s to stop me and why?
I can live as I please
Open road, servo pie…

With apologies.

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My history has made me train wild animals but I’m more famed
Because I’ve really trained myself to be as spry as any elf
The circus life taught me a lot, now the circus is finished – but I’m not.
For I’m not afraid to potter round the dark
I’ll breakfast on tomorrow’s question mark
Adventure is in my blood why any lion could smell it well
But I always hold the whip and I’ll never let it slip
Whatever comes I’ll take the good and send the rest to hell

Roaming free as the breeze
What’s to stop me and why?
I can live as I please
Open road, open sky!

My lion taming acting was enough to create quite a buzz
From Timbuctu to Samarkand I wowed them in the hinterland
I was king of the king of the beasts on the stage
Why, the public wouldn’t let me out of my cage
They loved it when the lions licked my paws
And I got the lion’s share of their applause
I follow with the bold and the brave when the bold are gone
Whatever I wish I’ll be when the wish appeals to me
For there’s a thing worth more than gold
My creed! I must go!

English words by Anne Ronell (1939)

The music for “Open Road Open Sky” was originally composed by Johann Strauss for his 1885 light opera “Der Zigeunerbaron Wikipedia16“. The English version of this song became popular in 1939 after Ann Ronell adapted Strauss’s music and wrote new lyrics.

Alea Iacta Est

Today I gave notice to my employers.  In just a few weeks I shall continue East and complete my circuit of Australia. I would have liked to do it on a bike but frankly I think I will enjoy it more in my Landcruiser.

I shall head for Queensland to visit an old friend.  After that, to New Zealand.  The good news is that I have a lot of accumulated leave, and I have just earned 70% of three months long service leave in addition, having completed seven years service in local government in Western Australia. With my accumulated leave That is worth almost a half year’s pay.  Plus I have my super.   I came here with nothing and in the last seven years I have put away a reasonable nest egg; far better than I could have achieved in New Zealand.  Far better in fact than I had managed in the fifteen years prior.  But I was paying a mortgage then and raising youngsters.   In any case I sincerely hope it is sufficient, and with the pension, I hope I never need to work again.  I have really had enough.

Looking forward to what comes next.

Apropos of nothing at all here is the wonderful Jacques Brel singing his song that Edith Piaf so famously covered.   A powerful moving performance.

Alarm

At 5 this morning in the early lightening dawn, the raucous call of kookaburras sidetracked me from sleep.  I awoke with a headache and very sore back and hips.

I have heard kookaburras several times here, in Halls Creek but I’ve only seen one once before.  Despite my aches and pains I grabbed the camera and came out for a look.  There were several calling, but only one was in view.  The light was poor and I had to wait for it to brighten a little before there was sufficient for the camera at last to focus.  I do not trust my own eyesight to focus manually with any accuracy any more.  Technology usually does a much better job.  The first shots were blurry as the camera vainly tried to distinguish the bird and the tree from the dim background of the sky.

Fortunately the bird seemed to be in no hurry to move on and sat surveying the scene around it long enough for the camera to finally grasp it, and outline it in yellow in my viewfinder.   Isn’t technology wonderful these days?

I then discovered I could transfer the photos from the camera to my MacBook via wifi.  More technological wonder.  What a time to be alive.

I made coffee, took my pills and retired for another hour or so sleep.  I awoke at 11:30 still aching and figured I had better phone in sick.

Despite the circumstances, capturing this noisy little bugger cheered me up.

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Here is the kookaburra call, if you haven’t heard it before:

Comfortably Numb

Friday April 6th.

I am usually a sentimental old fool.  One who weeps during most episodes of Dr Who.

Leaving a place has been particularly poignant for me over the years.
I have usually invested something of myself in every place I have been…
But I am no good at all at doing goodbyes.  Especially when I know there is no going back.

Today I drove out of Billiluna with the last of my remaining possessions in the back of the Troopy.   I said goodbye to only one person. Joe.  A friend who is an outsider in the community, like me.  And Zeus the dog, whom I am leaving with Joe.

I searched my psyche for some sign of emotion, but there was none. No sorrow or regret. Not even joy.  Nor satisfaction. I could not even pat myself on the back for a job well done.  I felt no anticipation for what might be next. I was empty and devoid of feeling.

I was tired. But I really had not expected I’d be so drained as to feel nothing at all.

On the drive back to Halls Creek I thought of a few more things that I had not seen when packing up.  More things that had been stolen. Most notably my UEBoom2 bluetooth speaker.

So finally I felt something.

Irritation.

So it goes.

away

 

No Country for an Old Man

Robbed again just over a week ago.  This time they broke into my car. 

Then a few days later – another (successful) attempt at getting into the donga   

I had been on a grocery run to Kununurra and I brought my own car down with all the shopping, rather than tranship it all to the troopy.  I am not so fit I need to do any more double handling than necessary.  So it was my personal belongings that were stolen once again.  With community support I retrieved much but not all of what was taken. 

I learned who had committed the crime.  The usual suspects, so to speak.  

Two days later the three young thieves came to me and told me they were hungry.  I prepared a meal for them and sat to talk as they ate.  As we did so, I realised that all my efforts of the last two years to get through to these youngsters had not effected any change in their behaviour or in their outlook on life.  They are young, feral and living completely in the moment. They have no  empathy, no conscience, no sense of right and wrong.  The only crime is getting caught.

Their world view is the result of a system, community and culture that has no meaningful rules and no empathy.  They are young sociopaths and I do not know how to get through to them.   I am not sure anyone could,  

A few days later, while I was back in Halls Creek for Easter weekend, they broke into my donga once again.  The cage and the triple deadlocks did not keep them out.  They cut through a window security screen with a portable angle grinder.  They must have been disturbed by one of Joe’s patrols, because not too much was taken.  Yet another pocket knife,  food, some kitchen items, and the very last of my good and expensive torches.

Joe texted me to tell me it had happened so I went straight back down to Billi and began packing up my stuff.  I decided then and there I was pulling out.   That very evening someone tried to get in through the damaged window while I was there.  There is no end to their brazen stupidity.

I am 66 years old and I have recognised that I am homesick, and tired, in failing health, but with probably enough saved from the last seven years to be able to survive on a pension. I have reached a decision to retire and return to New Zealand.  I don’t have to do this any more.   

How that lightens my heart.  

I shall stay in Halls Creek and work for a little while longer but I shall soon be setting the transition to retirement in motion.

April 3 2018.