there are worse places to be
than in a shearing shed
especially on a cool day when
it's just begun to mist lightly
the sheep are all under cover
so the weather can do what it likes
woolshed time is thinking time.
there are flurries of activity when penning sheep+sweeping the floor+pressing the wool
there are intervals during which
one can stand and marvel at the grace and precision with which the shearer is divesting the sheep of its woolly coat
thoughts wander idly by and if one has had the foresight to have a notebook and pencil handy can sometimes be pinned on a page
and sometimes not
there are times when they flutter off like cabbage moths
i remembered a few other places i had worked
the 'sportsgirl' fashion store was one of the early fast-fashion chains
i worked there a while in 1981. the bitchery and backstabbing was unbelievable [Look behind you, Mr Caesar!]
and it certainly wasn't glamorous. each Friday the floor supervisor would take delight in determining which of the garments on hand the staff would be forced to wear as a kind of in-shop advertisement. she particularly delighted in trying ridiculous combinations on your correspondent.
and the truly appalling thing was that after being worn for a day
we were made to replace the clothes on the racks
as if they were new
i wonder if they still do that?
other jobs which seemed dull on the surface had a lot to teach me about life.
six months of picking orders at the Southern Drug Company showed me that there are people who will happily stay in one form of employment [and not wishing for promotion] for twenty or thirty years
showing up five days a week
discussing the football at morning tea
and extending their close-knit working community into a social club that took shared outings and organised old-style dances at the Wonderland Ballroom a couple of times each year
they liked the routine and security and not having to take too much responsibility. i found it mystifying.
what impressed me most at the Southern Drug Company was the manager, Graham Rossiter Gibbs. here was a man not above taking lunch with the floor workers from time to time, who willingly mucked in on the picking team when there was a rush on orders and who always put in an appearance at the social club dance and made sure he danced with each of his female employees.
a gentleman through and through - he was of unimpeachable character, a fine rugby player and passionate sailor; a well-respected and [more importantly] respectful employer. the sort of man you'd be proud to have running the country, let alone a small pharmaceutical supply company.
it's some twenty years since Gibbsy was struck down by cancer. i guess his 150% attitude to everything - whether work, play, food, drink or the enjoyment of his pipe - came at a price.
we spoke briefly on the telephone a little while before he died, his voice was frail but still brimmed with hope, optimism and enthusiasm for life.
it was an honour to have known him and good to remember it
a gift that time in the woolshed gives one such moments