Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Lighter Side of Life

Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Lighter Side of Life

Article excerpt

HE was the richest bloke I'd ever met, but if you were to meet him you wouldn't know it, as he was a walking advertisement for the phrase, "Never judge a book by its cover."

And even though the cover of this particular book was pretty tatty, he was far richer than I'll ever be, and quite possibly much better off than our current state government.

We met in the mid-90s in Brisbane, when a labour hire firm contracted me to build a picket fence for "some old bloke".

Now, when I think of picket fences, I'm put in mind of small, white, timber fences which border neat lawns, under shady trees where cups of tea and cucumber sandwiches are served by well-dressed servants. Which was why I was a little surprised an hour later to find myself standing outside a rubble-filled, light industrial construction site wondering if I had been given the right address.

The only sign of life was a convulsing bobcat being driven by someone who had clearly overdosed on cough medicine, so I attracted the driver's attention and after it came to a sudden and jarring stop, a very old labourer climbed out.

His filthy overalls were made up mostly of patches, and his boots were held together with various brightly coloured electrical tape.

"Excuse me mate," I asked, "could you tell me where to find the boss?"

He wiped his palm against his overalls, which actually made his hand slightly filthier, and said brightly, "Yep, that's me, you here to build my fence?"

I shook his hand, aware that I had probably just been given a potent case of galloping diphtheria and said, "Mate, stop mucking about, where's the boss?"

"Well, he's a bit indisposed at the moment," he replied and he started to roll what would turn out to be the world's thinnest cigarette,

"'cause it's his break and he can get a bit tetchy when interrupted. …

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