Winton has a council swimming pool which opens in the afternoon, even though I’ll have spent eight hours on my feet I’ll still go for a swim. One afternoon I went and swam a few lengths in the pool that is only part covered by a canopy, after about fifteen minutes I decided to move to the completely covered pool. As I walked over, the attendant said “Is it warmer in that pool?”, “Nah, I’m worried I’ll get sunburnt.” I replied.
I started swimming again, and the attendant dipped his toe in the water, “Oh no, that’s colder!” He gasped.
“I like it cold!” I said.
“You’re from England, of course you like it,” he said walking off and at that I couldn’t help but laugh.
You’re never too old to travel
A couple of weeks a go a man named Pete came to stay.
One evening he sat at the bar, Jedi my duty manager introduced him to me, “Josso, this is Pete, he’s 77 and he’s travelling around Australia. Pete this is Josso, she’s from England, she’s travelling too!” Pete seemed pleased to meet me, and I asked him about his travels, he’d taken the train across Australia to Perth, he lived just outside Brisbane, and told me that if he hadn’t been somewhere it was on his bucket list.
He asked me where I’d travelled to, and as I told him about my interrail trip around Eastern Europe, my trip to India and where I’d been in Australia, he looked at me wistfully.
Pete came down to the bar every night for dinner, ordering a pot of beer before moving up to a schooner. He enjoyed sitting at the end of the bar closest to the hotel lounge, and found mine and Jedi’s goofy dancing behind the bar amusing. On his last night in Winton he made sure to come down and say goodbye to us, “Holly, I want to give you a hug.” He said, “It’s honestly been a privilege to meet you.” I was very flattered, he was one of the sweetest men I’d met on my travels. I found him inspiring, imagine being 77 and deciding to start travelling, he is proof that you’re never too old to travel, even if it’s just around your home country.
He made his way up to bed, after buying himself a bottle of sassafras, and the next morning as I was setting up the café he came and said goodbye again, before catching the bus to Longreach and setting off into the morning sun.
Meet the locals
Now that I was settling in I often found myself sitting at the bar on my afternoons off, keeping my coworkers company, or just using the wifi. I was beginning to recognise the regulars who’d come in most days. There was Archie who came in to bet on the horse races and told me how to use the machine, and where to put the tickets whenever I was behind the bar. There was Alan who came in everyday at happy hour and only ordered pots of 4X Gold, and Paddy who came in and drank a can of cola a couple of times a day, he see to be a boxer and gets dropped off in town early each morning and spends the day wandering around town, telling people he’s looking for someone to rough up, this could be old friends or the buses that drive past.
Then there was Jim, the dingo trapper, he came in every other day and ordered lemon and lime bitters, ordering a steak dinner Queenslander style with two fried eggs. He had made the wooden stick we use behind the bar to muddle the limes for our Landlady’s G&Ts. On one of my afternoons off I was sat at the bar and ended up chatting to Jim, making him laugh by telling him that I had achieved the impossible last week, I had been late for work , I live and work in the hotel and being late by oversleeping felt pretty silly to me.I finally decided to try a Lemon and Lime bitters which is a damn good drink, and now I often sit and drink Lemon and lime bitters with Jim, joking that I’ve found myself a drinking buddy.
“I’m just popping out to pick up Mark, I’ll only be only be ten minutes, but you’re pretty much in charge for now.” The Landlady said and passed me the phone, “if the phone rings, answer it.” With that she left, and I raised my eyebrows at the two guys sitting at the bar. They were visiting from Townsville and staying at the hotel, they’d come down to the bar every night, introducing themselves as Brett and the Offsider. As Brett was closer to my age, I spent most of my shifts bantering with him, as I said in my last post young people are few and far between here and though I love talking to the regulars, it was a welcome change to talk to someone under 40.
For most of the week I’d been pulling inconsistent schooners of Great Northern for Brett, who’d either look unimpressed at his headless beer or say “better” when I’d managed to pull a good one. The Offsider drank cans of beer, before ordering a Smirnoff Ice, which prompted Brett and I to tease him and ask if he was sixteen or going out with the girls tonight. Needless to say, he didn’t order another one for the rest of the week. On hearing that I’d been left in charge of the pub for ten minutes, the guys looked amused. “Ah! I hope I don’t have to answer the phone!” I said putting the phone down and washing the china plates which Jed had placed on the bar with a clank saying “I’ve got a job for you.”
Suddenly the phone rang, I answered with the usual “Hello you’ve reached the hotel, Holly speaking how can I help you?” “Hello Chloe!” said Lee, a tour operator who comes and stays at the hotel. In my bemusement I didn’t bother to correct him, took his message and put the phone down. I told the guys at the bar what had happened, and Brett spent the rest of the night calling me Chloe. I realise I walked into that one, I am slowly getting used to the Australian sense of humour.
Snow in Winton
For the rest of the week I enjoyed working behind the bar and having flirty banter with Brett, as much as I’d detested having a guy chat me up the week before, I found that flirting was fun and made my shift go a little faster. Brett was a welcome distraction, there were a couple of times where I got too distracted. The first incident was when I was asking Brett if he surfed, and the two locals sitting near him picked up their beer glasses and tapped them, coughing loudly. Another time the Landlady wanted my attention, and it took Jedi shouting “Josso!” at me to turn around. I retell these stories for entertainment purposes, it was chronic.
Finally one evening some local boys were playing pool, Brett had been eyeing them up, I suggested he ask them for a game, “make some friends” I said sarcastically. Apparently they were too good at pool for him to consider playing with them, and the conversation went from there, when all of a sudden there was a loud cracking noise and one of the boys playing pool said “Miss, the ceiling is leaking!” I looked up at the air con that had started leaking on the pool table. At that moment ice started to fall out too, “it’s snowing!” someone exclaimed. I ran off and went to find the landlady.
It was Friday night, my only evening off that week and I was looking forward to spending it with Brett. I had just ordered my second drink when Mad Dog said “Don’t turn around Josso,” “Hi Gordon!” she said flashing him a fake smile, this was the second time he’d come in this week! The first time he’d continued his new trend of apologising constantly, whilst also talking to Brett who’d playfully teased him, as Gordon left when I was working on the bar he’d tried to make amends for the billionth time “I’m sorry about the first night, I’ve obviously made the wrong impression, and you don’t like me.” He said, I just repeated that it was fine and that he wasn’t bothering me, and that no he wasn’t making me uncomfortable. He didn’t buy it, “I’m sorry you hate me!” He called over his shoulder as he left the bar.
And now he was here, on my night off. Thankfully he’d got the message and didn’t talk to me for the whole night, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t feel him looking at me as I played pool with Brett. I’m terrible at pool, having found that out whilst playing with my friend Tom in Sydney, and playing pool tipsy was even worse.
As the night continued the more we drank, at one point Brett ordered a Long Island Spiced Tea. Jedi gave him a look, but took delight in finally being able to show off her cocktail making skills, shaking the cocktail, and serving it to Brett, who promptly downed it. I couldn’t believe my eyes. “Holy Dooley!” Brett said, his eyes watering from the drink he’d skulled. I ordered a shot of tequila, apparently beginning a drinking challenge between the pair of us, Brett also did a shot. “What to drink next?” Brett said, Jedi made us a round of skittle bombs, I was challenged to another game of pool by Brett, which I knew was a terrible idea given how much I’d had to drink. I lost spectacularly, at one point forgetting which colour ball I was, before being left with a table full of yellow balls.
Returning to the bar, Jedi asked us to choose between the numbers one and two, Brett said one and so Jedi made us Long Island Spiced Teas. This was madness! I managed to drink the cocktail, and at this point had thrown caution to the wind as I handed over my debit card and said “Two more skittle bombs please!”