Tag: shepparton

The Chicken

At the start of every week for more than four months, I’ve taken the Hume Highway from Melbourne to Shepparton. Just as I pass Clonbinane (one hour north of Melbourne), a hill looms directly in front of me.

One day, I got a lift with Paul, my boss. When this hill appeared before us, he said, “Ah! There’s the chicken! I always look forward to seeing the chicken.”

I was startled. “I always thought it looked like a chicken too! I never mentioned it.”

“Well, Nat and Katie knew about it,” Paul said, naming the two work colleagues Jamie and I replaced on this Shepparton job. “Katie always said, ‘Have you seen the chicken yet? You know you’re halfway to Shepp when you see the chicken.’ “

I was quite pleased. So I wasn’t the only one.

The next week, Jamie was driving me up.

“Look,” I pointed. “There’s the chicken.”

“What?!” Jamie said. “Have we talked about this?”

“No, I talked about it with Paul last week. Every week I’ve been seeing this chicken and he says that he, Nat and Katie have noticed it too.”

“Well, so have I,” said Jamie. “I keep forgetting to mention it when we’re driving.”

A month later, Erin joined us on the job and was introduced to the chicken. The chicken photo on this blog entry is thanks to her efforts in the car. It’s a good farewell present.

Send in the big guns

Jamie walked into the house and found me and Erin slumped in the living area.

“How’s it going, team?” he asked, with the cheerfulness of someone who has just had a great workout at the gym.

“Mission failed,” I announced. Erin and I, too, had visited the gym. Erin was up in Shepparton until the end of September. I had taken Erin to the gym this evening, hoping to get her on the ‘No worries, no commitments’ deal Jamie and I were on. If anyone could do this, it was me, champion negotiator, super mediator.

“Failed?” Jamie said, surprised.

“Yeah,” said Erin. “The reception lady said that deal was only for people who did the ‘$40 for 40 days’ special. She said I could get a 12 visit pass. It costs $116!” Jamie and I were paying $51 per month.

“We didn’t even take it lying down,” I added glumly. “I asked her if there was anything she could do. ‘We’re only here for a month,’ I told her. ‘It’s join or not join.’ “

“What did she say?” Jamie asked.

“She said that she couldn’t do anything. The prices are set by the council and she’ll get in trouble if they see she’s changed the prices,” Erin said. “I guess she can’t help it. It’s not her fault. Oh, well. I’ll just jog around the lake or something.”

“Yeah, that’s a shame…” Jamie said absently. “Maybe I’ll try talking to Mel when we next see her.” Mel was a friendly receptionist that Jamie and I sometimes chatted to in the evenings.

The following night, I had just finished washing the dishes and had wandered to the living room to see what was on TV. The front door opened.

“Hi guys.” Jamie was back from his evening gym workout.

“How’d it go?”

“Yeah, okay,” Jamie looked vaguely dissatisfied. “I’m keeping off the legs a little. They’re still feeling a bit tight.” He peered around to see what TV show was on.

“Did you get to talk to Mel?” I said idly.

He brightened. “Girls, our troubles are over.”

Erin sat up “I can join?”

“Here are your free gym passes for the next week…” Jamie slapped down four or five bright blue squares of paper. “…and Erin can take over Joan’s gym membership when Joan leaves after next week.”

We gaped at him.

“And, if we show up on the right night, you won’t even need to pay the transfer fee!”

Erin and I started laughing. “What?! How — ?”

“Cheerio,” Jamie said as he bounced out of the room.

The Spider and the Doorknob

“There’s a giant spider,” I called as I was pulling the bathroom door shut behind me. “Oh!” I cried.

“What’s wrong?” came Erin’s voice from around the corner. “Did the spider jump up?”

“No,” I said, puzzled. “I just broke the doorknob…and I’m bleeding.” I examined the doorknob. It was made of some sort of ceramic and had sheared off at the neck.

Jamie came around. “You are bleeding! Are you okay?”

“There’s a bit of blood but it’s a small cut. Look at this!” I handed the snapped doorknob to him. “How weird is that?”

“Yeah, that is a bit strange!” Jamie put his finger on the stump of the doorknob left on the door. I kept my eye on the spider less than a metre away.

“God! It’s cut me too!” Jamie exclaimed. He showed me the thin red lines of blood on his index finger and thumb. “That’s a bloody razor blade! I barely touched it.”

“We’d better fix it up so no one else gets cut.”

For a while, Jamie and I debated about the best method for removing the stump or sealing the door. In the mean time, Erin had gone into the bathroom, come out and wrapped a face towel around the stump.

“How’s that?” she asked.

Jamie and I stopped in surprise.

“Yeah.” Jamie nodded appreciatively. “That’ll do it.”

We all stood there marvelling at her handiwork.

What I did today

Jamie and I woke up early to go to the gym.

Then we went to work for my 9 AM phone interview. Forty-five minutes later, the interview finished and we rushed to the car. We had a lunch time appointement two hours away at Cairn Curran. Jamie drove quite fast.

While Jamie interviewed the boss at Cairn Curran, I had two Peters show me around. I was there to audit the site’s environmental compliance. I took photos with my big camera.

We were very late by the time we wrapped up. We grabbed lunch at another country bakery (the sixth one I’ve visited) and made our way on the windy road to Eppalock. It took less than an hour. Jamie really is a good driver.

At Eppalock, I did another site inspection. Jamie talked to another guy.

Then it was time for the two hour trip back to Melbourne. We skipped the Heathcote Bakery (been there, done that) because we were running late. Again. Jamie is rarely able to get to his Thursday footy training on time.

I dropped Jamie off and drove further along to get home. Mum had a delicious hot meal for me. I did homework. Now I’m blogging. Why am I blogging? Blogging is my friend.


I was really looking forward to filling in a form for the five-yearly Australian census. You have no idea how much I love forms.

I was in Shepparton on August 8. Jamie, Erin and I were going to have a census party. We were a household.

The form never showed up in our letterbox. It wasn’t even under the doormat. Perhaps it was because we live in a serviced apartment. Yet, when our hosts dropped by for a chat the next day, they told us that guests staying in the other apartments were given forms.

I was crushed.

I particpated in a telephone survey this morning but even that couldn’t ameliorate the pain of losing my census.

An Australian treat

I’ve been visiting country bakeries. I’d say 20% of the reason I put my hand up for this job in Shepparton was because I wanted to buy baked goods from small country towns.

One of our favourites is the Nagambie Bakery. We’ve tried their apple cakes, carrot cakes, iced coffees, hot chocolates, foccacias and pizza bread, roast beef sandwiches, vanilla slices…

One day, Jamie recommended a particular sweet. It had a biscuit base, a lemon/vanilla cream cheese type-filling and a layer of red jelly.

“That’s a jelly slice, Joan,” Jamie said. “A great Australian treat. You’ve never had one? You should definitely try it, then.”

So we bought the jelly slice and it was, indeed, a treat.

That weekend when I got home from Shepparton, my mum and dad told me that Aunt Tuty was coming for dinner. Aunt Tuty grew up and studied in Indonesia. She came to Australia to do a Masters in Information Technology. She met a nice Australian bloke called Graham and they got married and bought a house in suburban Melbourne.

“Hello Joan,” Aunt Tuty said when she arrived. “How are you? When are you off overseas?” She was carrying a large white tray with a semi-transparent lid.

“What’s in there, Aunty?” I asked.

“I don’t know what it’s called,” she said. She placed it on the kitchen bench and lifted the lid. “Graham’s mother taught me how to make it. It’s very yummy and easy to make too.”

I looked inside to see an ordered array of cake squares with red jelly tops.

“I know what they are!” I cried. “Jelly slices! I had one the other day!”

“Jelly slices,” Aunt Tuty repeated. “Probably. I think Australians like them.”

An alarming week 2

Finally, after two months navigating the administrative maze, my manager in Shepparton was able to give me my own access pass. Hooray! No more time-consuming morning inductions.

On Friday, I used my new pass for the first time. I arrived at 7:50 AM, about half an hour earlier than usual. I waved the card in front of the back entrance.

Beep beep beep.

Hmm. Doesn’t want to open. Guess I’ll go through the front.

I walked about 100 m to the other side of the building, up the ramp and faced the glass doors. None of the lights in the building were on. I had never been the first to arrive before.

I held my card near the reader. Beep. That was more like it. I heard the familiar click of the door unlocking and pushed my way into the dark building.

Oooooweeeeeeee! Oooooweeeeeee! Oooooweeeeeee!

“What the- !” The piercing alarm seemed to be right next to my ear. I looked up and saw the siren.

Some people arriving at the door of an adjacent building looked at me as I stuck my head back out the front door.

“I’ve set off an alarm!” I said helplessly. “I don’t know how to turn it off!”

“I’ll see if I can find someone to shut it off,” a man said.

Alone, I stood in the darkness just inside the entrance. I must stood there for two or three minutes. Finally, Chris and Pat showed up for the start of their work day.

“What have you done, Joan?” they said, shaking their heads and smiling.

“I broke something,” I said in a small voice.

“Tsk, tsk.” Chris swiped his employee access card and the alarms stopped. Pat reached behind a tall filing cabinet and switched on the lights.

I declared, “That’s the last time I come early to work.”

An alarming week

At midnight, I cracked my eyes open, confused. Why did I wake up? Then I heard a loud beep, followed by another, and another. It sounded far away.

“Smoke alarm?” I thought. The pitch was too low for it.

I got up, cold, and followed the sound to the spare bedroom in our serviced apartment in Shepparton. The offending noise was coming from the alarm clock. Blearily, I whacked it a few times before my hand found the ‘Timer off’ button.

“Hooray,” I muttered, and padded back to my warm bed.

When the alarm went off again at midnight the next day, I spent half a minute trying to work out how to reprogram the clock, then finally yanked the cable from the power socket.


Every day in northern Victoria is a clear day — no rain, no clouds. We get beautiful light this side of the mountains.

It would normally be something to enjoy, this spring holiday in the middle of winter. However, we’ve been working with farmers and I’m starting to understand what drought means to them.

“We’re hoping for rain real soon,” we were told a week ago. “There are farmers out there with their fields empty. It’s pretty much the end of the sowing season but they can’t sow anything without water. If they miss this season, it’ll be the second one in a row…”

Jamie and I walked down the corridor of the main building, towards the exit doors. We were suddenly surrounded by a constant tapping.

“What’s that sound?” I said, puzzled.

We arrived at the windows and saw streaks of movement flying down from the sky and exploding on the ground, turning light grey asphalt to dark grey. The dark grey began as splotches but soon turned into a uniform sheen. I saw clouds for the first time in the two months I’ve worked in Shepparton.

“Rain!” I cried, almost in disbelief. “It’s raining!”

“Fan-bloody-tastic!” admired Jamie.

“I’d forgotten what it sounded like,” I murmured.

When we entered the next building, I felt the buzz of celebration.

“It’s raining!” people crowed. “About time! Just in time!”

“There will be a lot very happy people out there today.”

This is Lake Konardin in the Hattah-Kulkyne National Park. That’s right, it’s a lake.