Tuesday, 3 November 2009


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


  1. what a lovely post, and that last pic, made me want to get a dog.

  2. your lovely border colllie snoozing after lots of work with her nose almost buried in the good scent of fresh fleece. mine is sitting with her head on my lap as i type. thankyou for the shearing time musing.

  3. It is indeed mystifying and surprising the thought memories that appear when we are able to quiet the mind with physical tasks. Glad you were able to pin/pen this to the page. -Jayne

  4. A lot to be experienced and learned from those odd job experiences. Your ability to observe and then capture personalities in a story is a gift I enjoy receiving. Sending a little scratch behind the ear to Collie.

  5. So good of you to keep his memory alive and to share it with others after all this time. It is important to dwell on the fabulous ones that we are fortunate to meet, not the other ones.

    Are those Cotswold's? Beautiful images.

  6. I am at a loss for words but still wish to comment upon the post.

    Your words express so beautifully your feelings and I feel lucky having read them, as it has only enriched my life . . .

    Thank you

  7. thanks for stopping by, folks...and KIp much appreciated the tickles behind the ear.
    those ewes are English Leicesters [or Leicester Longwool if you're in the UK]. there's a flock of them at Williamsburg, Virginia that have a bit of Tasmanian blood in their breeding and so are related to ours [Tasmania is known for several great breeders of English Leicesters, most notably Ivan Heazlewood, who wrote a lovely history 'Old Sheep for New Pastures'

  8. Lovely, lovely post.
    The sleeping dog looks just like a painting.

  9. so enjoyed this post. thank you. and the memories that came of the day were a delightful sharing.

  10. it's one of life's joys to visit the past.

  11. *raises that hair of the dog! to all mentioned in this post.

  12. I had never really thought about how the expression "woolgathering" came to be. So the activity, itself, makes one prone to far-afield musings?

    I'm throwing you some rose petals for those beautiful photographs. Animals make such marvellous subjects.

  13. thanks for those petals..

    woolgathering in its earliest sense as i understand it involved wandering the fields and woods, plucking stray strands from where they had caught on brambles, shrubs and trees
    a wild harvest of wool for those too poor to keep their own sheep

    with perseverance one could, over time, gather sufficient to form a garment

    one probably became quite fit in the process
    had plenty of time to think...

  14. India I've searched for an email address but not finding it. Would you mind if I use 1 or 2 images of your work in a blog post (with credit and links back to you)?