Things Take an Unexpected Turn
Pinjarra Travel Blog› entry 5 of 9 › view all entries
This was, until 1 week before. I called David to finalise details and we talked about the work I'd be doing there. I assumed I'd be doing gentle lettuce-picking 6 hours a day leaving me plenty of time to read & write beside beautiful lakes and rivers, walking in the National Park, fishing & crabbing & cycling. In short, a return to the calm, relaxed lifestyle of traveling when I had no responsibilities. In fact, the farmer had other ideas: he had decided that I should live long-term on the farm and set up a hydroponic landscaping business with him (the lettuce farm is hydroponic). He knew I had a science background, but that I hadn't actually worked in my field of expertise and as such had been unable to "immigrate" as valued, skilled labour. He therefore took it upon himself to GIVE me a career. I was blown away when he outlined his plans to put me on a TAFE (study) course, set up a company, get me residency etc. On the phone I was stunned, but went along out of sheer shock and politeness. Who was I to turn down this seemingly altruistic investment in my future?
I was of course still quite perturbed by this change of plan but was willing to give it a chance, and so a week later I moved my stuff into my new caravan and set the alarm for 5.30am the next morning to begin my new life. So at 5.30am I wandered down to the shed to find the farmer waiting with a large notebook which he reverentially opened and spread the hand-written pages out. Written on the first page was the first stage of his Master Plan (TM) detailing the TAFE course, the company "Natural Hydroponics", the fact-sheets he wanted me to write launching some of his ideas for publicising the beneficial properties of wheatgrass and a home-made smoothie with all the basic ingredients for life. He also wanted to launch a new race-horse feed based on wheatgrass or barleygrass and wanted me to help him research and design sheets to hand out to a new market in town and so supplement the wage he earns from the farm.
The second page was a long list of inventions of his, obviously cultivated from long hours in the field inside his own head, and therefore some being of sound mind and some being less than ordinary. Some I was on board for; sustainable house development without infrastructure, building materials with in-built solar cells, water turbines harnessing the energy from rip tides as opposed to the relatively ineffectual wind turbines, and hybrid-electric bicycles. But then there were the weirder ones; the sexing chicken eggs from pendulums, the water divining, the man-made feather flying machine, the water suit that enabled a man to live under the sea for a week living & talking with dolphins, and the article describing human responses gleaned from plants subjected to polygraph testing that he wished to utilise to ascertain whether the lettuces would "enjoy" more nitrogen in the solution, or not? Much as I am a scientist and a spiritualist, some ideas were so out there that I began to get the inklings of just what kind of man I was dealing with.
At the end of his long spiel about his ideas and plan he closed the book and looked at me, "So are we partners?" he said. Um, excuse me? What? This is my first day, and my first HOUR here, and he'd laid all this stuff at my feet and expected me to climb on board and become partners in I didn't even know what... I, politely as I could, given the shock of being subjected to this long, weird lecture at 5.30am on my first day farming, explained that it was too much, too soon, and that we should start slow. Unfortunately, this was to be the start of things to come, and I would come to regret ever showing any interest or encouragement about any of his ideas, thoughts, theories or stories.
The first week was pretty gruelling. The advert had suggested 24 hours per week, but I worked 35 hours in 3.5 days, starting at 6am. When I wasn't lugging lettuces around he was foistng books and magazines about hydroponics on me, and lecturing me about his crazy ideas. I was physically & mentally exhausted from acting as the sounding board for this lunatic farmer that had finally found a comprehending outlet for his scientific but warped thoughts. Not only that but I was a captive audience for his egotistic and fantastical view of his past lives as a geologist, chemist, free-diver & fisher. His stories got steadily taller and taller but were always characterised by a casting of him as the superhuman yet hard-done-by hero. He was the state's best fisher 4 years in a row, catching 330 fish in 6 hours, but the competition holders eventually got so sick of him winning that they moved the venues and neglected to tell him. He made the iron ore refinery run at the peak of it's potential performance when the bosses went home and after some resistance they allowed him to run the fires for a month. While he was away sorting his divorce his office was allegedly broken into and ransacked, his research stolen and he was fired but gained grim satisfaction years later when they closed the refinery citing an "inability to run the refinery to the peak performance it was 'known to achieve'". He happened to seek refuge in a Fijian village (where cannabalism is still rife) one night after getting lost on the very same night after the 18 year old chieftain's daughter was promised to a 53 yr old man, but she escaped and ran to the school teacher's house who happened to be away that night. The following night, while David was hosted by the returned school teacher the chieftain burst in with 50 (no seriously, 50) of his best warriors, pinned the teacher to the wall and was "10 centimetres" ("uh huh") from chopping his head off when David picked the chieftain up, threw him against the wall of warriors knocking them all over like dominoes, then managed to hold off all 50 while the teacher escaped...
Tedious no? Don't get me wrong, I am right there in the story up until the moment that it becomes fantasy and then I am just sick to listen to the torrent of utter nonsense I am being fed. So if I wasn't working, I was having to study, and when I wasn't studying I was being lectured, or being subjected to stories of David's godliness. In short, it was physically and mentally wearing, and within 3 days we had come to blows. We sorted things out before I left, amicably, but it was the first of things to be. I returned to office work relieved to be surrounded by amusedly interested colleagues, and the comfortable, familiar trappings of email & the internet and smart clothes.
The following week I tried to impose a few more boundaries; clear schedules for tasks; clear divides between work hours & study; and I practised my non-commital nods and "mmm-hmmms" and made excuses when things got too much to go do things anywhere else but near him. But still he was on the hard-sell about the company he wanted to set up, and how good it was to own his own business and not being paid by the man, yet also obviously working like a dog 16 hours of the day and looking around desperately for any way to boost his income by a million dollar idea that would allow him to retire comfortably. And that's what increasingly rubbed me up the wrong way, the irritating sense that I being used by him. Here he had seen a smart, educated girl lacking direction. He was a 60 yr old man working all the hours god sent to make ends meet, with too many ideas and too little money and resources to realise them. Why not, in the course of acquiring free labour from her, use her research, internet, & design skills to create, market and launch his own crazy ideas? I felt more and more resentful as his plans became more and more transparent. It probably culminated with his comment that he was probably quite capable of designing and building hydroponic gardens, but that he needed a "pretty face" to sell them, and so demonstrating his true thoughts of my capability, and his own chauvenism. He had been flattering me for my understanding of science, but ultimately he needed a front-end to his business, someone who could talk the talk and flutter their eyelashes, and charge so much money from each garden design that he could give up farming. Once again the working week culminated with a head-butting contest, which was again amicably resolved just before I returned by train to Perth. We'd both got our feelings & opinions across, and had both conceded that perhaps we were being unfair & judgemental. But it was clear that this was to become a running theme....