Host: Miss Hollywood
I’m hosting as a ghost writer this week … coming from the sparkling lights of Hollywood to the remote West Australian outback after twenty years in the film biz, the last six living and working in LA. A far cry from phone reception, fast cars, five star restaurants, valet parking and high speed internet, let alone the bitumen and the local latte at the coffee shop on the corner. To make this week special, my plan is to disguise the station I’m on and explore the incredible, glorious life that has been thrust upon me. After isolating myself from family and longtime friends, I emerged from the hectic LA industry/lifestyle/party scene to find myself cocooned by a sea of stars, crystal clear fresh air and pure spring water coming from the earth which threw me for a six with its’ clarity and first hand touch of nature. This is so easily forgotten with the distractions of city life. Primary production … a phrase I hadn’t used since school days, was about to provide the beautifully refreshing reconnection to the land that I had been craving. It’s cool how life sometimes just gives you what you need and lucky for me, my wish was granted …
You can leave the high heels, stockings and nail polish at home girls, as for this gig … you ain’t going to need them! You can probably guess and expect that your days on a station are not going to be your ’normal’ office hours, but I was already used to that with my production experience in the film biz. What I was not prepared for was everything else. I knew I’d feel like a fish out water without having any experience on a farm or station before, so I had to swallow my nerves and pride and be prepared to face whatever came my way, getting my hands dirty and forget about maintaining that manicure.
Dealing with Tom Thumb’s accident was the first of many surprise situations I found myself in on the day to day life out working in the remote paddocks. In a split second everything could change. A bull could turn on you in the yards, a flat tyre sending you into a ditch and a half hour hold up, getting caught in deep sand on the road with a six barrel load of aviation gas, lifting and sending you veering into a fence. An important lesson also when running out of oil in the buggy while ‘Lucky’ was teaching me how to drive a manual, he told me you never leave your vehicle out here. We were in radio silence for about 45 minutes. He told me he had waited all day one time when he had broken down, before he was picked up by one of the station workers. We were lucky that ‘Spider’ happened to have flown high up at the moment we tried the radio again when he responded to our call. The importance of communication and letting your workmates know where you’re going is one of the most important things to do out here. With these vast areas spanning over a million hectare property, it could be easy to find yourself in trouble quick, with a long way to the nearest aid.
It is similar in the film biz when shooting in remote locations. I recall one situation when filming in on a lake in rural Victoria when the boys were trying to secure some equipment after a sudden heavy rainfall. The terrain was steep, muddy and laden with trees. Two of our boys were driving down the slippery slope when they lost control of their ute and started sliding towards a big tree. The guy in the passenger side instinctively put his arm out the window with the thought he could push them away from the tree when they hit it. Unfortunately his arm was not that strong and the force of the ute jammed his arm between them and the tree… ouch! His arm was broken from the shoulder and the others in a frantic effort pushed the ute to free up his arm from being completely severed. He was very lucky that his arm was saved but this again resulted in the loss of work.
Another very important trait you need is common sense and a strong work ethic. This is indeed relevant when it comes to employing The Governess, aka ‘Mad Dog’ for this encounter. To help these kids, ‘Prince Intelligence’ and ‘Princess Feral’, who have a totally different experience from a regular school life and are taught via School of the Air, rely heavily on their teacher who is carefully selected. I could not have been more impressed by this young lady who spent hours every day monitoring the children’s schooling and coming up with yummy treats to motivate them.
She, ‘Mad Dog’, is one of the most important people on the station as the children’s welfare is so important in this unusual living situation. For Mum and Dad to be confident spending hours away from home every day, they need a trust and confidence in another person to give their little ones what they need, along with a gentle discipline that comes with the job. It’s a fine line as you must be very sensitive to the children’s needs and it was wonderful to watch the grace and sensibility ‘Mad Dog’ had with my cherished best mate’s offspring. There is very much a sense of mutual respect and care for one another and the managers make sure they care about their staff as much as the staff care about their roles. This care is extended to the possibility of potential suitors when selecting staff, which had ‘Mad Dog’ blushing and giggling with the acknowledgement of a blossoming romance with another station worker. It’s early days … but things are looking good. Maybe she might need those heels and a manicure after all 😉
Some of the friendly locals.
Staff birthdays are always an event.