People I Have Known

Avocado Rememberings (1)

Vic was an astrologer. We met her when we had our market hairwrap stall in Freemantle in western Australia. She used to stop by and chat with us, and in time we hung out with her and during a rather difficult phase in which Malou's mad boyfriend Danny had disappeared with his pitbull in his pick up truck and several hundred stolen dollars and the Homicide squad turned up looking for him but to no avail as we had no forwarding address and due to the illegal substances in our house that the police knew about we needed to leave rather quickly – so – Vic said we could stay with her.

It all went well at first and Vic made amazing salads and introduced us to eating avocados with a dash of soy sauce. But the first hints that our move could have been in error occurred when our Colombian asyulm seeker friends Paco and Lluis were round for a few beers and Paco went to the bathroom and Vic said she was going to get some more drinks and after about 20mins they both reappeared and Vic told us all that they had had sex in the hallway. It all seemed a little icky and random and Paco sat silently whilst Luis nearly coughed his drink up and then the guys left.

We knew Vic and her mother were both seeing a therapist for sex addiction and she told us about how they had both slept with this 'professional' as part of their therapy. I met her mother once and she was wearing a huge clear quartz stone tied to her forehead.

Anyway the end came when one day, during an afternoon, Malou and I arrived home and Vic was in the kitchen wearing a baby doll type nightie with her hair in bunches and clutching a teddybear. This woman was in her 40s and not sylph-like. She was also crying a lot. We asked her what was wrong and she said that the therapist had told her she needed to contact her inner child – it seemed she was taking it to its limit and spent the next days playing with toys, dancing and twirling, crying and wailing and wearing the oddest of clothes. It was during this period that she decided to throw all our things out onto the street as she suddenly felt that they held bad karma and so we got back from the markets one evening to find everything in bags (some things strewn on the pavement) and a crying Vic locked inside the house and not opening the door.

We never did see her again, but I always remember her soy sauce avocados.


Avocado Rememberings (2)

The staff called him FB. It was short for Fat Bastard. We had ended up there, 325 kilometres from civilisation, in Kakadu National Park, Australia – because we were on limited options and needed money. FB was hiring; me as a chambermaid and my errant boyfriend as an odd jobs man. Of course it all soon went wrong.

Nick was unable to do any jobs and as a stoner and an alcoholic his only goal was getting high – so a lot of time was spent with him 'going walkabout' – whereabouts unknown - and me and others trying to cover for him.

I will always remember our little shack and our bed with a circle of ants which I kept at bay by a ring of salt around the circumference of the bed base. It could have been a simple but happy experience, living deep in the north western rainforest and bush but of course so much depends on company.

I had the pleasure however of befriending Noni and Marianne; 91 and 87 respectively – they were two beautiful old school friends who had been separated by marriages and then refound each other after their husbands' deaths. Noni had been the first ever woman to be invited to join the veterinary university in Sydney but it was during the Great Depression and she had to look after her family farm instead. She had also been a crocodile hunter and after her father and brother's deaths she gave half of her family land to the aboriginals who she said it had been stolen from and she lived with a community of aboriginal women thereafter. In the winter of their years Noni had sold up her farm and taken Marianne who was pretty much blind and off they had gone in a campervan around Australia; picking flowers for money when they could. They had found themselves under FBs employment as washerwomen – and given food and a cabin only – but they were content to sit on the veranda by the hanging clothes and sheets and drink their tea. I found out that the cook, or the person employed as a cook (as she was evidently not such a cook) had refused to make them anything soft enough for their old mouths and teeth and so they had hardly been eating for some time. I told them I would cook for them if they would be happy enough with my vegetarian diet, they were delighted by the idea and so we found ourselves in a happy little daily dinner club and became good friends.

FB was a large and cumbersome man; and had an ape-like walk and a face that looked like several squashed cushions. He preferred to wear beige khakis – like a colonialist – which essentially he was, and one that still supported the genocide of the aboriginal people whilst running his safari company offering tours such as 'The Dreamtime Tour' which he sold for X amounts of dollars to soft hearted artistic types who wanted to experience an authentic Australia. What the guests didn't know was that all his tours were actually the same tour with different names, lengths and prices – and FB made it my job to stop guests from different tours from speaking to each other at the dinner table. I cannot tell you how difficult that was but I was on threat of being fired and a terrible anger if he heard any guest speak to another from a different group.

It also became my job to accompany him on some of the safari excursions. One might think this would be fun; but FB suffered from narcolepsy and would fall asleep at the wheel about every five minutes. Being an angry, controlling nutcase he wouldn't allow anyone else to drive – so you can imagine that the outcome of the scenario was horrendous every time. It was literally my job to sit next to him up front and hit him on the leg everytime he fell asleep; then he would wake for a while, pull the giant OKA back into the road (from where it had started trailing off) and then sleep again. Guests, apart from being terrified, were rightly angry and so I found myself on a few occasions having to talk him out of the driving seat and driving the OKA myself (a huge, huge vehicle resembling an army truck or tank).

Then we had Hans the autistic bush tour leader with OCD. Hans was another huge man, like a bear, a very angry bear with a big beard – he was also obsessed by the colour blue and had to have his safari hampers and all equipment in that colour. He once left all the guests in the middle of the rainforest at nighttime whilst he drove 250 kilometres back to the safari base to get his blue tupperware that someone had either forgotten or purposefully not packed and then he drove 250 kilometres back; he literally kicked the back door of the kitchen in and began shouting wildly about someone having put a yellow beaker in his bag.

Nick took one of the safari vehicles once but he crashed it into a vicar's car and it resulted in the man of God starting a police case. That and the fact that Nick managed to shut down the entire farm generator meant that we were going to have to make a move from the place. Before we left we had various other challenges such as me nearly killing FBs father by feeding him and his wife vegetarian chilli one evening whilst as he was spooning the kidney bean dinner into his mouth he was recounting his allergy to kidney beans that had seen him in intensive care. It was a very tense affair. And Noni and Marianne tried not to laugh or wince whilst I sweated out the decision options of telling him or not telling him about the ingredients of the dish. I didn't tell him. But he did not die.

On our last days there a huge bush fire overtook the land; we could hear the wild animals screaming and we were told that we had 30 minutes to get out if we were going to leave. I sat with Noni and Marianne on the veranda and Noni said that she knew the wind was about to change. I chose to believe them and took a cup of tea with them watching the huge flames devour the forests and sure enough, the wind changed and the fire receded. Nick had hidden himself somewhere with a bottle of something; 'That boy of yours is a liability' said Noni. He sure was.

On one of my last work missions FB took me to the supermarket to get huge amounts of food for incoming guests. Apart from his ongoing racist and generally misanthropic statements I recall him having a one off almost divinely chanelled moment about avocados. In the midst of the crowded shopping lanes, the clamour of the supermarket and in amongst the tins, plastic, and packaging, as I was hunched over the burgeoned trolley, he began to extol on the virtue of the green fruit and almost approached a spitting rant about its use instead of butter in sandwiches.

It was like a monster, talking about love.

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