PART354 work in Shed 3

Thursday, 28th, April, 2011. Work at last. We worked in shed 3 today, the bigger and newer pack house. The machines were quieter and they only dealt in packing gold kiwi fruit. The D4 tray liners were spread thin as the conveyer belt line was much longer so we were given at least 5 lanes to feed boxes to. Also because it was slow almost half of the team was sent over to be packer’s side to help out.

The owner James Trevelyan was walking around today. Talking to the supervisors and other workers. From people I won’t name they have been saying he is a money tight person. Always micro managing and telling people how to work. “he should stay in his office counting money” one person said. Often he will walk around the pack house and tell people not to make too many spare lined boxes. They nod and then when he goes away they continue doing what they were doing all along. He commands a wary contempt from some workers. “ he doesn’t know what it’s like working here, he just wants people to do what he tells them” Personally apart from his face which doesn’t warm ones heart instantly he appears to be a decent person, he has adopted two Chinese orphans and when I first started working here he gave me a lift when I was hitch hiking. I think that any boss has a hard job to stay popular.

Victory was moved today from his position down at the far end of the conveyer belt. Ever since he found out that the end of the line was also the slowest and least labor intensive station he has stuck to it every day. But now he was next to me working. He told me that “someone has it in for me down at the end so Raywen sent me here, you are polite, this is good but when someone is rude to me I don’t like it at all. He isn’t even the supervisor and he tells me what to do. I can leave this job any time I don’t need it” he said looking at me with his big pail watery eyes. Poor Victor repulses almost everyone with his smell, although he is learned and a gentleman he just stinks, a horrid ill smell which one on contact instantly tries to get away from. Many a conversation with Victor, on the cusp of interest and knowledge has had to be abandoned for this reason. It’s a shame.

Later Sebastian the springy Argentinean man bound down the line and began chatting with me. “You know Victor I was working next to him and he was being so lazy and I just wasn’t helping him at all, he didn’t like it one bit” he said. Victor is known for being a lazy so and so. Raywen our supervisor shot him many a concerned eye today as he sat like a baked potato on the table usually used for box lining. “ I just asked for one of those nice Asians to come and help me and Raywen told me to come down here, I am not being racist I just wanted some help” Victor explained why he was ousted from his position.

The day was slow but still the changes from different boxes was complicated and clumsy. Supervisours shouting over the conveyer belt at each other, us getting mixed instructions and although the belt moved slowly my mind was not the same.

Tomorrow Sarah and I have two days off work to go for a job interview at the Mt Ruapehu further down south. I am excited because I have an interview but Sarah failed to get one. I hope we can both get a job. I am looking forward to seeing some snow capped mountains, a new place and continuing in this experience of living life in a constant exciting, tiring, interesting ever changing way. A phoenix caught in a constant state of rebirth.


PART353 unforgettably forgettable Rob

Wednesday, 27th, April, 2011. Another day of inaction, my poor back is twanging a little with all the slouching I am subjecting it to. Unfortunately Sarah has borrowed a Korean soap opera series from Candy our roommate and she has been glued to the computer watching this offal all day.

I went for a walk on my own and tried to find the Te Puke basketball club, I followed the directions to the sports centre, past the garages full of beat up old sports cars. Scruffy pathetic looking fake gangsters, playing thumping pop music out of their car speakers. Then down a narrow road, houses on one side and a large green field on the other, rugby posts mapping out the pitch.

One of the houses on the left had a fence and a raised garden so that the garden was actually above street level and the fence served more as a cliff face to the end of the garden. A huge unhappy German shepherd darted out on top of the garden gnashing its teeth and barking at me as I pasted. I walked steadily not making eye contact and thinking how easy it would be for the dog to just jump down from the raised garden and maul me. Thankfully the dog didn’t.

Many a Monarch butterfly was seen down this road, and also tiny blue butterflies fluttered around the over grown flowers and plants which were advancing onto the road from the already conquered gardens. A slopping track leading into a shack house in a dip, a herd of Donkeys stood around stubbornly. Loitering in the filth. For a moment I wondered which country I was in, I thought I was back in China. This has happened on several occasions, especially as we get the big bus back from work every day, most of the people getting the bus are Asian and of those Asians most of them are of Chinese decent, either from Taiwan, Hong Kong, the mainland or Malaysia. They speak Mandarin and the volume of the chatting rises to a loud level. I sometimes look at all the people, the familiar sound of Chinese and for a second I can trick myself into believing I am in China.

Now back to the walk, I reached the sports centre, a large building with tennis courts surrounding it, looking like a place which used to be well kept and modern, beer bottles outside, ugly uncreative graphite tags on the red brick walls, and the glass door, locked with no signs of life beyond them. The sort of place you could imagine a colourful hopeful opening ceremony then a quick rundown into the ground from lack of interest. I asked a few gangster look alikes if they knew if and when it was open. The boys said they didn’t know anything about it and walked on by.

Disheartened I walked into Te puke, I crossed the main road next to the Mc Donald’s, the large bush were we had first met MJ, back then was golden and full of busy bees was now dull and brown without a bee in sight. Two butterflies danced together high above the busy road. A big lorry past and the butterflies were sent into a swift spiral by the gust of wind. They whipped around and funneled towards each other, circling ever closer and ever faster until they became tangled and dropped onto the road. Cars continually driving over.

I reached Te puke and thought I should go to the Library and read some comics. So that’s what I did and I enjoyed it, I read a dark X men comic about Gambit a explosive card throwing mutant thief . “As a mutant, Gambit possesses the ability to manipulate kinetic energy, as well as a hypnotic charm. He is also skilled in card-throwing, hand-to-hand combat, and the use of a staff”  

(From Wikipedia).

I haven’t read a comic in a long time and the pleasure I gained from remembering what a fan I am was truly great. I sat in the quiet warm Library with my fellow readers, comfortable for hours as I quickly and eagerly read the whole comic in one go.

When I had finished the comic I continued rifling through some other ones to see if I could set about another when who should I see but Rob, the trolley boy for D4, he was looking at a big photograph book of the Galapagos islands. We had a brief conversation and quickly after realizing we both had nothing else to say went our separate ways. I thought about Rob, quiet Rob, nice enough but beyond forgettable that he is actually unforgettable.

He is just so quiet, whenever you talk to him he talks in two word replies, when asked to the few parties we have had he always reclined. This young Canadian man is just a hermit, not a brooding self absorbed teenager who is trying to be mysterious but someone who appears to be very comfortable in his own company and doesn’t care much for others. Not to say he is rude or aloof, just that he doesn’t care either way for human interaction. This is my take on Rob, our silent trolley boy.

PART352 the hurt locker

Tuesday, April 26, 2011. If you have to think for more than 30 seconds about what you did yesterday then something is wrong. Either your brain isn’t working very well or you didn’t do anything interesting.

In my case sadly I think it’s a combination of both these things. The only scene I remember is that our butterfly has gone missing. We never let it out of the house so I assume it’s either dead or its hibernating in a warm corner. I had quite a few ideas for short stories today, note pad always close I jotted them down even if they sounded stupid.

It’s frightening how many good ideas must be lost in the constant current of thoughts rushing through our heads. For all you know, you may have had an idea today which if persuade could have lead to a cure for cancer or clean renewable energy but then it failed to get a foothold in your interests and sailed out into the oblivion of forgotteness. But maybe that says exactly how important ideas are in comparison to hard work.

I finally got round to watching “the hurt locker” film today. It was incredibly good. I had become bored of modern war films set in the Middle East, mixing government corruption with the horrors of war. For some reasons the older war films about Vietnam were much more interesting to me. Platoon, apocalypse now, full metal jacket. But the hurt locker had believable characters and the suspense as the main character sergeant William James played by Jeremy Renner disarms bombs in Bagdad. The Iraq people who watch the soldiers with a suppressed hatred is a scary thing, peering out windows, do they have a mobile phone detonator on them? The high buildings of the city with many windows make you realize exactly how exposed you would be in urban warfare. A tense well made film.

The reason I took so long to watch it was because of all the press it got when it was released. It was at the same time as Avatar and during the film award ceremony’s the hurt locker won more awards than the much more expensive and high-tech Avatar. So many of my friends were talking about it and maybe I was just being rebellious but I became sick of hearing its praise sung and thought “ right I am not going to see it now” I was put off by its popularity. To this day I still haven’t seen ‘slum dog millionaire’ for the same reason.

Yes I am shooting myself in the foot but when someone ever asks me “have you seen slum dog millionaire?” I have to keep my mouth shut or I might say something snide. Is it just me or is the name slum dog millionaire pretensions? I don’t know why but it sounds it to me.

Anywho now I have started writing film reviews because I haven’t done anything yesterday. Maybe this is the life of a film critique, do nothing with your life and then bitterly slate the hard work and effort of artists who didn’t even ask you to watch their creations let alone tell them what you thought of it.

PART351 a spooky dream

Monday, 25th, April, 2011. A moody cloudy land, buildings which bend over a person, looming like disapproving parents. More underground than over. A spindly dangerous house with winding spiral stair cases. Rooms with dusty old furniture, randomly discarded objects which don’t belong together, rather than an old uncared-for house. It wasn’t a real house, it was something malicious pretending to be a house.

. “Don’t go into the attic for more than ten seconds” I was warned by the woman of the house. But why?

 The only stair case in the place which actually ended somewhere. The attic entrance, a closed white door in a narrow cramped passage way. The door knob was freezing cold, it moaned as I opened it and then I was met with the deathly silence of the room, the hairs on the back on my neck rose and a cold fear shot down my spine “get out now!” A voice whispered in my head, but I walked forwards into the long room. Whatever this house was its concentration inhabited this room, a gold framed rusty bed stood in the farthest corner, a stained nighty lay half visible around a wooden beam. I counted to ten and stayed longer but nothing happened. A building suspense and tension grew in the room and a hard evil ora contracted the attic space like an eye suddenly exposed to the light. Terror gripped me and held me unable to move, I stared at the hard vicious room, all its hateful intent coiled and about to lash out at me in some devilish fashion.

I turned and ran back down through the narrow passage way and scrabbled down the rickety stair cases in the hellish gloom of the cursed house, it was falling apart, the cracks in the floor, the gaps in the stairs were of little concern to me as the terror which pursued seemed to be breathing on the back of my neck gnashing its teeth.

I woke up when Sarah sat down hard on the bed beside me. The dream evaporated instantly. Our Monarch butterfly friend was flitting around the room, we sliced some apple and put a little honey in a spoon but the Monarch was having none of it and flew around clumsily. We didn’t let it out as there was a hefty gale raging outside. More ice cream, more reading and the day cantered past and what was now becomes then.

PART350 monarch butterfly

Sunday, April 24, 2011. A day off work. I dreamt I had a new born baby, I was living in a caravan and all around me were raucous partying campers. I lay with my baby and hoped that it wouldn’t be woken by the noise.

I myself woke at midday refreshed; there was a heavy rainfall audible outside. Sarah had gone out with Maggie and I was left all by myself as Jorine and Candy were both at work. I took a long ponderous shower, thinking about how if I had given into my slight urges to drink last night then today I would have been laiden with a hangover. I was glad I had not drunk.

I took an umbrella and went shopping, the rain cleared as I approached Te puke and I put the umbrella in my bag. I bought the necessities and another can of cream soda from the sweetie shop. As I cracked open the can outside the shop I saw a poster in the window advertising whippy ice cream. In the poster a cartoon child was running and smiling with an ice cream in hand. The name of the brand was called farm boy “always licked never beaten” was the slogan below the picture. How peculiar I thought to myself as I walked away.

I met a fellow Trevelyan worker in the countdown supermarket; He told me he was also going to a job interview at Mt Ruapehu. It seems many seasonal workers are planning their migrations down to the ski slops. I feel like I am part of a flock of geese, traveling freely, stopping where ever we will for a short honk and a rest, then off again to pursue this life of a traveler.

On the walk home the rain had began again and as I popped open the umbrella I saw a large butterfly which after finding out the species reviled its self to be a Monarch the king of butterflies, pail orange wings with black edging and the body was black with white spots like a Dalmatian dog. The butterfly was slowly walking on the foot path, raindrops which looked like led weights beaded on its wings. I picked it up and it faceed forwards as I took it home under my umbrella.

When I got home Sarah opened the door and after showing her delight at my buying some crisps she gave her attention to the butterfly. We put it on the table in our room and left it be. It didn’t move at all, I thought it was dead but after gently prodding its antenna I found out that it was just tired.

The rest of the day past smoothly, like most times of idleness I ate out of mere boredom, heaps of ice cream with chopped up Kiwi fruit, mountains of noodles and sand wedges. As evening approached I was bilious and felt pretty sick. I wonder if having time off from work is actually wise?

PART349 A party at Sebastians

Saturday, 23rd, April, 2011. In fact I had the sticker checking job again, thankfully the day was slow so the old reels were not pushed beyond their skills. To all our dismay our supervisor Raywen told us that there wasn’t any work for 5 day and also this day we would only work until three but on a positive note Raywen gave us all Easter eggs which was very kind.

During the break time a group of us sat outside in the smoking area. I was eating my lunch and at the end of the table, Iona and Arika two girls from Japan were talking to each other in English. “why don’t you speak in Japanese?”  Joseph asked them. “Because no one else can understand, I hate it when Chinese people are all talking Mandarin together, I don’t understand” Arika answered. The Chinese people at the table noticeably shifted angrily at this comment. Sarah leaned over the table and spoke to Arika “you should get over it, we are Chinese, we always speak Mandarin there are so many of us hear it’s comfortable” Sarah said with a hint of annoyance. Arika looked shocked at the back lash.

We finished work at three and Sarah and I ran to the bus in the pouring rain and got a lift back to Te puke. When we got home Sarah cooked Kung paw chicken for the party we were going to. Sebastian and his girlfriend Kala had invited a large group of the tray liners to their house a little out of Te puke, we were all expected to bring a dish each.

Raywen our supervisor picked us up at 7:30, she had her long black hair down and it was a surprise to see her without her hair net and luminous jacket on. I was laden with a huge pot of curry as I sat in the front seat “ my daughter cooked the curry and my Mum cooked the apple pie, even at home I am a supervisor” She laughed as we took off. The roads were dark and misty and it took some hawk eyed vision for us to get to Sebastian’s countryside house. We did finally arrive after some very careful driving and found Sebastian’s abode to be a very modern looking two story house. A long porch with French windows walling the whole front of the house, inside a wooden floor, black leather sofas in a spacious living room with big speakers and a flat screen TV. It was a proper house; I was surprised as I had not seen one in a long time. I am more used to small working accommodations at the moment.

Sebastian and the rest of our tray lining team were inside. We entered and found a host of dishes from every person. Different cakes, sweet and sour chicken, Thai soup from Lexs, Empanada pastries from Sebastian and the other Chilean and Argentinean people, Robby the Hong Kong man had cooked egg fried tomatoes and many more dishes as well. Many people were drinking and just after eating a spicy chicken wing I viewed an ice cold beer left in front of me and I must admit I could have very easily quaffed it. I didn’t and went and quenched my thirst with a glass of water. The party was fun, everyone laughing loudly and dancing but Raywen looked a little quiet and uncomfortable and Lex also was very quiet. As Raywen was the one with the car at about 11:00 I suggested we head off. We did so and on the drive home I realized how tired I was. Back home Sarah and I went to bed almost at once.

PART348 the wheels on the reels

Friday, April 22, 2011. When I woke up this morning it was still dark and cold. I was having a dream that a large handsome Spanish man was making me a massive cocktail, it was looking so good but he never seemed to finish making it, anyway I woke up and I thought it must have been the middle of the night but to my horror the alarm went off, it was morning already!, what a sorry excuse for a sleep. I want my money back, what made it even more irritating was I had gone to bed so early. Unlike when you stay up all night and the next day’s tiredness is your own fault I felt as if I was unjustly set a pone by feeling so tired. A deep tiredness, in my very marrow.

I got up and ate a bowl of special K, it tasted like cardboard, but I suspect that if I had eaten cardboard it would have had the good manners to have kept out of my teeth. Not so with the special K, it was like glue clinging to my teeth. Everything was subject to my moody scrutiny. Why was walking so hard? Gravity had a personal vendetta against me surly, as we walked to the bus I felt like a lead man. I was so tired I had to remind myself to breath. I would feel a building stress and then I would remember that I had dent breathed in a while.

We had to stand up on the bus on the way to work as well, the movements of the bus as it went round the bends in the road felt unnecessarily forceful, couldn’t this oaf drive with a little more care? Then to work and back to my station, I was thinking to choose a line of boxes which wasn’t moving fast but today I saw the dark green boxes for organic kiwis at all the stations so it wouldn’t matter where I went.

I was to find exactly to what extent it would matter when Muki the boss of shed 1 told me that for the second half of the day I would be trained to take charge of the sticker changing job.

The conveyer belt runs like a straight road through the middle of the shed, at the far end where you can see the graders as they check the fruit and either send it onto the conveyer belt or to be thrown in the bin, there is also a small bridge going over the conveyer belt, a stair case goes up and down to either side of the belt. On the runway over the belt there are many reels of stickers, looking like old cinema film reels, they are attached to an axel which has many octopus like suction pads, they suck the stickers off the reels and moving round at the same speed as the conveyer belt they stick a label onto each fruit which passes under the bridge. You have a small desk to change old reels for new ones, with an assortment of pens, screw drivers and lights which flash when reels need to be changed, pressure valves which periodically need to be released.

 The view is interesting as you can see the whole workings of the shed. You can see the graders as they watch the fruit slowly roll into view, they look them top to bottom and all over and then release them into the fast moving conveyer belt if they are suitable, then from there they tumble down a green springy plastic and onto the straight of the belt, under the bridge where they become labeled and then onwards, soon they fall either side and down into an inclined shoots which lets them roll into the readymade boxes to be arranged by the packers, then when the box is full it is pushed along a roller table and sealed by a stacker who then carries the completed box to a pallet and stacks it there. When the pallet is full the stackers will use the trolley and bring it to the shed hanger door were a fork lift will come along and carry it away from sight to be loaded onto a truck.

All this was visible from this elevated platform. The constant millings of the workers instantly made me think of the movements of ants. On the surface they appeared to be moving in random directions but as the eyes adjust to such a large amount of movement you can see patterns emerge. The bridge is also the noisiest part of the Shed 1. It is the oldest shed at Trevelyan’s and the machines are noticeably older and noisier.

I was trained by Andy, an older man from the UK. Although he had dent been back there for 40 years. I guessed he must have been his mid to late fifths but to my surprise he told me he was 72 years old. “Wow, what’s your secrete? No drink or drugs?” I asked “no I used to drink a lot and do drugs” he laughed. Andy took me through the tasks which were part of the job. The first and main job was to take out the spent reels and quickly put in a full one to the axel so that as few kiwis miss being stickered as possible. Then to go through the fiddly and laborious jobs of re loading the empty reel. Cleaning the dusty thing with the air pressure gun, threading through the new stickers, in one hole, through up and over this wheel onto that grip and finally out the end again. “There must be a simpler way of doing this” I told myself as I finally finished my first one. The other job involved watching the reels and checking that they didn’t jam or get out of control. There were three rows of reels each in succession to the next, with 6 reels in each row. The front line as it were got the brunt of the work. The octopus suction caps whirring round as kiwis passed under them at a rate of 10 a second.

The beginning of my training which was the early afternoon was easy. Andy and I chatted leisurely and only had to change a few reels every hour, and only a few stickers flew off and had to be picked up. Although Andy on the outside wasn’t old the things we talked about reviled what time he had come from. He told me about even though he was little and down in Devon he can clearly remember the air raid sirens and being rushed to the air raid bunker. He remembered rationing and he remembered how when he had traveled to New Zealand he was applying for a job at the Ministry of works. His future boss asked the group of job applicants “we have now got a room which we will be putting a computer in, does anyone here have experience with computers?” On seeing that no one raised their hand Andy took the initiative and told the man how he used to use a computer when he was in the navy, it was strapped to his knee and it was used to calculate the air speed and the direction of the ship. This information was then relayed to the air craft which wanted to land. Andy said with this information he got the job on the one computer in the office. “What I didn’t tell my boss was that the computer I used was made out of card, it was similar to one of those astrology charts, like a wheel which shows what star sign you are when you put it on the right date”

Andy seems to have almost completely cut himself off from his past. In 40 years he still hasn’t been back to the UK and only 2 of his three brothers have come for a visit in NZ. I asked Andy if Maoris can stay in the UK in the same way English can stay in New Zealand; his answer was that they could stay for 2 years. “ it’s strange how we invade their country and take it over then only let them stay in ours for a few years, England has always been funny with immigration” I said to him as we lent against the bridge banisters watching the sticker reels do all the work. “ well according to my brothers they should be kicking more of the immigrants out, you know they just let a group of immigrants in from Libya, Jesus what are they thinking?, they are just going to bring their cousins and family as well aren’t they?” Andy said, giving me a smile. “Well after all the grief we have caused the middle east and Africa, taking a few refugees in is the least we can do I think. What else should be done? Where else could they go? If they stay in their country they would probably be killed” I said back, trying my best to round my words and not sound too angry. Andy gave a shrug and a wimpy little smile as if to say the problem was unsolvable, or rather that he couldn’t care less. Indifference is infuriating.

I asked Andy if there were any problems between the Kiwis and the Maoris. “ oh no no, nothing too bad but you know the Maoris are like the girl with the curl, when they are good they are very very good, but when they are bad they are very very bad”

At this point everything went crazy, the machines were sped up to the point the poor old reels kept breaking and jamming and so Andy and I spent almost 3 hours running around the bridge fixing the constantly breaking machines. The reels aren’t the sort of thing which haste works for, you can only fix one so fast, if you go beyond so fast then you make another mistake and the whole process of threading and lining begins again. I felt like a mule, working for the man, working for the machine. Having to keep up with it. My rider is gaining ground by the sweat of my brow.

 The noise was deafening, the speed was ridiculous, I was sweating, eyes budging, in a constant state of semi panic as Andy and I were always seconds away from complete collapse, if the labels stop then the whole operation is mucked up and we would get a serious talking to. Almost 100 people stopping work even for a minute costs a lot of money.

The end of the day came and I went home so tired that I was angry. I closed my eyes in bed and saw the reels spinning round and round. The reels on the bridge go round and round, round and round. I am thankful that this will not be my job tomorrow.