Back to reality!!!

You wouldnít read about it, but Iíve been a bit quite over the last month or so. Some of you are thinking Iíve joined a monastery Ė or wished that I would. The truth be told, itís been all arses & elbows. The short end of it is that Iíve been checking out a few employment opportunities and doing a bit of driving, but letís back track a little bit.

Three weeks ago I drove the 3501 kilometre (2175 mile) round trip, down to the bright lights of the Gold Coast. Time certainly files and before you know it you go from celebrating the birth of a child to them buying you an adult beverage when they come of age.

This trip was for Sianne Wilkinsís 18th birthday and a better person you couldnít hope to meet. No exaggeration, sheís always been a great kid and has now blossomed into a beautiful, fine mannered young lady. And for those who shit-canned me - NO she will never be called Sianney by me. ;-) I have taken the liberty and put some photos on my website of the occasion.

The South-eastern part of Queensland (Brisbane/Gold Coast area) has been in severe water restrictions for the best part of 18 months. Keeping in the tradition of anything happening when I travel, barring the day I headed back up the coast to Townsville, it pissed down cats & and dogs the entire time. I actually enjoyed playing in the rain, but a lot of the locals need some refreshers in how to drive in the wet.

As with any of my travels, I also had a major bummer when some poor excuse for a footprint (as in 3 foot lower than certain anatomical appendages) swiped my car keys. At the Robina Town Centre shopping monstrosity, I turned around to dry my hands, after watering the horse, to find my keys gone. That little effort cost my insurance company $110-00 and me $300-00 to get a key reprogrammed in my Nissan Navara ute.

While down on the Coast, I managed to get in an interview with company that specializes in IT outsourcing. It must have gone well or my Indian accent must have fooled them, but they offered me a sub-contract position of supporting a very large multi-national mining concern by the name of BHP-Billiton. I felt that the process was all a bit rushed and totally favouring them, but in the end we put pen to paper on a 180 day contract after I balanced a few terms & conditions in my favour. The aim is to convert me to a full employee after 90 days.

I think itís every persons dream to be able to take the corporate jet to work. Funnily enough, thatís exactly what has happened to me and let me give you the skinny, straight up Ė itís a pretty cool thing to say that you did just that in getting to work that day.

The flights leave at 6AM, but you can stick the 4AM wake ups fair up your arse though. Cab drivers are way too bloody chirpy and cheerful at that time of the morning. ;-)

Stick with me, as Iím not making any of this up. In the cowshed, more commonly known as Townsville International Airport, we all mull around like sleepy 3-legged chaff burners before piling into the product of Dutch avaiational pride Ė the Fokker 100.

Now this isnít just any Fokker, itís a big beautiful shiny new looking Fokker. Itís got too bloody big jet engines and this Fokker is a deadest beauty. We could take any olí Fokker, but BHP Billiton - Cannington Mine wants us all to travel in style, hence weíre all big Fokker fans. ;-)

After searching the internet, I found that our plane VH-FKA used to be owned by US Air as N891US. Doesn't do a lot for my condidence by flying in an hand me down plane that the yanks got rid of. Better than walking, only if the plane doesn't get a touch of down syndrome.

As the crow flies, itís about 1000 kilometers to the Cannington Mine. This is purely an underground mine and is globally recognized as the largest and most cost effective Silver, Lead and Zinc mine in the world. Just so that you know, the major consumer of Silver is the jewellery industry. Lead primarily goes to lead/acid or wet batteries (you know, the thing that starts your car Ė other than the key) and Zinc is a huge part of what goes into the rust prevention coatings on steel.

I wouldn't want any of you stay awake at night wondering where the BHP-Billiton Mine is actually located. Simply go to Google Maps, cut & paste following coordinates -21.856401, 140.912533 into the "Search The Maps" tab then click on the "Search Maps" button. You can zoom in and out as much as you like then. I've also added an aerial map of the site to give you a look at whats out there.

The mine operates 24x7, 365 on a 12 hour shift basis. My roster is day shift 6AM to 6PM, on a 7 day on/7 day off basis. Around 300 employees, contractors and blow-ins are on site at any given time. As camps (what we call accommodations & dining) go, this is one of the best that Iíve encountered. Full meal and board are provided as are the gym, Olympic size pool, wet mess (pub), rugby field, indoor cricket/netball/basketball centre, laundry facilities (they wash your "oranges" and socks for you) as well as a 3.6 kilometre walking path to and from the mine site.

As you can well imagine, safety is of the paramount importance and should you break certain rules, youíll be offered the first available "window seat" on the next big Fokker. Any illegal drugs or registering any reading on the breathalyser on the way into work will do it. As will fighting or placing yourself or others in danger.

What are "oranges" you ask. Everyone on site has to wear hi-vis (high visibility) clothing, which entails long sleeve shirts and trousers, in an eye searing shade of bright orange. Just in case this wasnít enough, you also are banded with 3 inch wide bright white reflective tape. Fair dinkum, I thought I looked like Hector the Safety Cat. ;-)

While weíre on the oranges, I went to get mine and was told by the shiela at the shop that I should "go up an extra two sizes" in the shirts and strides. I thought "you cheeky little shit". Admittedly, Iíve had a couple of long winters and my stomach bones have calcified a little Ė but two sizes on the rags was a bit rich I thought.

The shiela must have noticed the look on my face or something. She goes on to explain that the Cannington laundry service is a bit harsh on the oranges and they shrink a bit. You know what, she was dead right. Because Cannington does not want any lead dust floating around all oranges must be removed at the mine site and washed in ridiculously hot water with some leaching agents to get all the lead dust out.

My oranges did shrink to two sizes and now fit comfortably. The problem is now the button holes are too small on the shirts. Likewise for the trousers, Iíve got the seamstress to put on a metal clasp to do up the trousers. Iíve also had to get a thinner belt as the loops have also shrunk making my leather work belt useless.

Thatís it for me for this update - gotta run.

Stay Happy ;-)