Following a string of unsuccessful jobs and my funds running too low for comfort (!!!) the time had come for desperate measures. There was only one viable option for me left and the one thing I had said I would under NO circumstances do. FARM WORK!!! Eugh. I live on a farm back home, so why on earth would I travel half way across the world to do a job I can do any day of the week in Ireland. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
I packed my bags and headed off to Kyabram, a tiny village 3 hours north of Melbourne where I had secured a job fruit picking (apples and pears) in the middle of nowhere Australia.
First impressions were dire. The accomodation was infested with vermin, the beds were rusty and the rooms smelled rotten. Practically everything in the kitchen was broken and the TV was absolutely ancient. The only water we had was from a tank and came out murky brown. Spiders, mice, snakes…you name it we had it. But I put on a brave face and thought, oh well at least I can have a beer and forget this nightmare. WRONG. Alcohol was strictly probibited on the premises. As were BOYS!! This was goingto be interesting…
We started work at 7am each morning climbing up these heavy ladders and practically getting lost in the pear trees. We were paid 34 dollars for big bins and 17 for small ones which would leave us with an estimated wage each week of 100 dollars once money for accomodation, a bag ‘deposit’ and tax had been deducted. Absolute SLAVE LABOUR! The farmer would often under pay us and would never deal with our accomodation probelms such as running out of hot water.
The days were long and as it was mid summer the temperature could soar up over 35’c. We seemed to be constantly attacked by mosquitoes and other sorts of fruit fly as we would fight our way up the ladders picking pears as quickly and carefully as possible. “Just keep picking, just keep picking…”, seemed to be our theme tune to get through each day.
Murray, our supervisor, would often let Vera and I borrow his radio so we could sing along to Grease classics while performing ‘Go grease lightning’ from the top of our ladders. I can still remember the local radio station’s jingle, “Get out of the studio, get some fresh air and meet every listener!”.
After the first week, the girls and I were fed up of our awful working conditions and pay so decided we would go on strike. That’s right; 14 girls sitting down in the middle of an orchard in rural Victoria ‘protesting’. As I was the ownly native English speaker it was up to me to persuade the farmer to give us a pay-rise. Afrter about an hour of arguing with the old bat we eventually settled on an extra dollar per bin. Succuess!
As bad as the work and living quarters were, myself and the girls (Vera, Sarah, Noemi along with half of Germany) made our own fun in the local village making the one bar, Hurleys, our second home. We got to know the locals, the barman and everyone inbetween. This made our 3 weeks in Kyabram not only bearable, but, truth be told, a hell of a lot of fun! We were invited to endless house parties, barbeques and even got friendly with some cool locals who had a pool in their back garden. We didn’t save much money, we were covered in scratches and mossie bites each day and survived on cheap noodles and goon, but despite this, my month fruit picking was an experience I will never forget and would trade for nothing!