My working life began around about the ripe old age of eight. My parents had acquired a property on the cusp of the Perth metropolitan area off the Brookton Highway up in the hills, in a small town called Karragullen. Eighty nine acres all up, with ten acres of orchard, two dams, paddocks for horses and cows and masses of natural bushland. It was incredible, a dream life for a kid and something I look back upon romantically. Some aspects however were pretty difficult to enjoy and it mainly had to do with work, more specifically working on the orchard.
My brother Mark and I must have been the only kids who didn’t look forward with enormous gusto to the summer school holidays, simply because it meant a great deal of work for our parents and consequently the two of us. Don’t get me wrong we still managed to play cricket on the weekend (for our local team Roleystone), watch Lillee and Marsh on the box whenever the sun burnt a hole in the sky, play cricket with an apple or pear and a stick hidden amongst the tall trees (that’s what us kids did), listen to cricket on the radio constantly and on one occasion go all the way to the WACA.
With the property came an archaic irrigation system under every single tree on the orchard. It was the job of Mark and I to crawl and twist our bodies under each of the trees and adjust the meagre amount of water through a tiny plastic pipe so the tall wilting sods got a sip on those dry endless summer days. This is not such a fond memory which recalls hours and hours of bending and crawling. We’d end up back at the beginning completely shattered and it looked to us as if we’d achieved nothing. A bit like painting the Harbour Bridge with a toothbrush. The water had a mind of its own and the irrigation system was a prick of a thing.
We had other chores like cutting grass for the horses, picking mountains of fruit, collecting pruned branches and twigs but nothing was quite as daunting as ten acres of trickle. We’d do absolutely anything to avoid that job.
My brother at one point had mastered the art of sleeping in; a savvy move on his part. Funnily though, napping at 2pm didn’t quite cut it with Dad and our poor mother had to step in on occasions defending her growing son. Nice try.
But on those working days when the cricket wasn’t on I’d hear music drifting across the valley from Dad’s radio, often tuned into a golden hits station and I’ve no doubt it’s somehow seeped into my psyche.
Elvis, Roy Orbison, Neal Sedaka, Ricky Nelson, Connie Francis, 60s girl groups, Dusty Springfield, Ray Charles, Frank & Nancy Sinatra, Lee Hazelwood, The Beatles and The Stones and The Beach Boys – it’s all swirling madly about this coconut of mine like a well shaken daiquiri.