The Ballad of Barry

Now where did that image go?

A Massive Monkey with a Heart of Gold

I wrote the following song for Barry, my new friend and former employer. Never did I have such a boss and never did I meet such a man. Getting to know Barry was a barrier-breaking experience and I leave his company with a few less prejudices.

So far, he is the only one I know who can consistently call me bitch, cunt and dickhead and still make me feel appreciated. So in reciprocal appreciation I dedicated this song to Barry aka The Cyclone.

I’ve recorded the song but since I cannot presently upload audio files, just imagine a Neil Young-like melody, played on a Western Guitar with a shaker and a choir of happy volunteers on the chorus.

The Ballad of Barry

If you’re feeling merry
No matter who you are
Come and hang with Barry
At Camp Moogerah

Chorus:
He is full of fun
Shining like a golden sun
(He’s a pure blonde)
Take you by surprise
‘Til you realize
What a friend you won

There is something funky
Something young and old
‘Bout this massive monkey
‘Got a heart of gold

Chorus

And forever after
Though we say our goodbyes
We will hear his laughter
See his smiling eyes

Chorus:
You are full of fun
Shining like a golden sun
(You’re a pure blonde)
Take us by surprise
‘Til we realize
What a friend we’ve won

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Pickin’ Coffee

Let me tell you this: If I had to pick all my morning coffee beans myself, I would be drinking a lot less coffee… I’ve just spent 8 days working 11-12 hours daily, picking coffee berries all day long. It’s not really that hard a job to be honest, but it takes a long time. From now on, I will always send a kind thought to the person who hand-picked the coffee that I drink!

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This is about 8-9 hours worth of picking…

I had been told by my saviour Andrew, that I could make up to $200 a day, which sounded like an incredibly good deal to me. I guess that it was indeed possible to make that kind of money, but I sure didn’t…

When I got dropped off at the farm by one of the ponies, I went up to the owners house to present myself. He reassuringly said; “oh yes, you must be Andrew’s mate”, but then not so reassuringly continued; “you are here for a day or two right?”. Wrong. I was thinking more like a month! What had happened? I looked at him very puzzled and said that I had been told there’d be work for at least a few weeks… “Well, thing is, we’ve nearly spent all the money we can afford on wages for the pickers, so there really isn’t much work for you… But let’s see how it goes and then perhaps there’ll be 4 days of work…”

“I’m happy to work for you in whatever capacity you may find fit” I replied, feeling like a desperate man, pleading his bank-advisor for yet another loan. But there were no other capacities – only picking – so picking it was…

That first night, I was the only picker on the farm – the others had gone to town for a day off. I barely pitched my tent before a great big storm of rain and wind came rolling in over the beautiful hills of the Bangalow area, and as the nature showed off its muscles outside I took refuge in the old rickety dairy barn where the other pickers had set up a manky make-shift kitchen space.

At least I had brought lots of food and a good cooker, so I carved out a space for myself among all the trash and sacks of coffee beans, and sat down to enjoy myself with a meal and my mandola.

“I ain’t got no money, but I’ve got a soul! And I wouldn’t trade my life or death, for anybody’s gold!” I sang to an improvised blues-riff. One of those evenings where you don’t know if you’re bought or sold and whether you should have perhaps done something completely different with yourself… “Ah well”, I thought to myself after a long time feeling a mixture of disappointment and frustration; “I might as well make the most of it!”.

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Believe It Or Not, This Machine Actually Works Just Perfect

It turned out that Andrew had thought that the farmer would end up giving me at least a weeks work and that I wouldn’t have come if I hadn’t been sure of more than a couple of days. Quite rightly so and good on him for not telling me: The farmer did hire me for 8 days, which was sufficient to make it all worthwhile for me.

The next morning, I set out to pick as much coffee as I possibly could, and surprisingly I did quite well. 58 kg I picked, and even the farmer was quite impressed, when he weighed my crates on the old and battered bathroom scale. The whole operation was a bit “ram-shackle” in his own words.

That’s one way to put it. Another is “charming”. You see, in Denmark, there would have been a whole hangar full of hi-tech machines and state-of-the-art equipment to handle the processing of the beans. Every picker would have been issued with matching work-clothes, ergonomic buckets for carrying the pickings, digital scales weighing every gram of coffee-berries, big and shiny new tractors to drive around the farm with and so on and so forth. Here at Bangalow Coffee, it seemed that a wheelbarrow and a 1950’s Massey Ferguson would do the trick. I loved it!

The only thing that made the next 8 days different to each other, was the slight variation in how many kg I picked and how tired I felt. The two things kind of went together, and towards the end I was picking minimal amounts with progressively heavier arms. Oh yes, there was one other difference. I only got a tick-bite 5 out of the 8 days.

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A Huntsman Spider On The Roll…

Those little fuckers, can’t believe how strong their jaws are. It took my co-worker three strong pulls to pry one out of my hair and it felt like my skin would come off too. Not to mention the one I pulled off my left testicle… But beyond that (plus a few snakes, wallabys, laughing birds and giant spiders), nothing much to write home about really – although we did have lots of laughs in the evenings.

Basically, it was me and 3 other pickers who were there full-time. Interestingly, we represented 4 different continents gathered in a 5th; Andrew from South Africa, Xavier from Canada, Fumi from Japan and myself from Denmark. Not that it mattered much; we all had stiff necks and cramped fingers by the end of the day, regardless of our nationality.

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My Temporary Paradise In The Himalayas

Another thing we had in common was India. Many a conversation revolved around this incredible country (litterally; hard to believe) and its enigmatic citizens. And for the first time since I left my temporary paradise in the Himalayas in June this year, I actually felt like I might return to India – one day. Definitely not soon. Maybe never. Argh, who knows..?

Anyway, in my last post I wondered how much coffee I would have to pick in order to earn $1000 dollars. The answer is 465 kg. And guess what? As the coffee farmer weighed my very last bucket of beans, I triumphantly threw my hands in the air, happy and proud that I had picked 468 kg in total, thus making just over a thousand bucks in little more than a week!

What next? Well, I’m heading back to Ponyland to rest my arms and enjoy the exquisite company. Hopefully I can find some more work around Nimbin (no ginger-planting!!!) but as it is, I have enough dough to see me through the next month at least. Come what may, I’m ready!

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Kicking Back In The Sunset After A Long Day’s Work

Meanwhile, you will perhaps enjoy reading the song that I wrote in my head while picking picking picking away. Whenever I came up with a verse, I would sing it out loud, much to the joy of my fellow pickers. One day, however, I realised the farmer himself was picking away in the row right next to me… So, dear coffee-farmer, if you are reading this, please understand that it was a joyful way of passing time, not some kind of criticism of my job. I am very happy indeed that I got this opportunity!

Imagine a slow and rusty blues melody sung by someone like this guy and with a whole choir of coffee-pickers singing the chorus for him:

Pickin’ Coffee Blues

Chorus: Pickin’ cofffee, pickin’ coffee all day long, pickin’ coffee

I got a job on a farm (chorus)
I got a job on a farm (chorus)
I got a job on a farm,
lost my lucky charm, pickin’ coffee all day (chorus)

My arms they feel like lead (chorus)
My arms they feel like lead (chorus)
My arms they feel like lead,
I’m like a living dead, pickin’ coffee all day (chorus)

I got a tick on my ball (chorus)
I got a tick on my ball (chorus)
I got a tick on my ball,
yeah it’s no fun at all, pickin’ coffee all day (chorus)

I got no money on my pocket (chorus)
I got no money on my pocket (chorus)
I got no money on my pocket,
gotta be a hole in my bucket, pickin’ coffee all day (chorus)

If I was paid by the hour (chorus)
If I was paid by the hour (chorus)
If I was paid by the hour,
I would’ve had time for a shower, pickin’ coffee all day (chorus)

Instead I’m paid by the tonne (chorus)
Instead I’m paid by the tonne (chorus)
Instead I’m paid by the tonne,
ain’t got no where to run, pickin’ coffee all day (chorus)

I might just drink me a cup! (chorus)
Oh yeah, just pour me a cup! (chorus)
Goddammit, pour me a cup,
so I can wake my ass up, for pickin’ coffee all day

BREAK – then triple tempo

Pickin’ coffee, pickin’ coffee all day long, pickin’ coffee!
Pickin’ coffee, pickin’ coffee all day long, pickin’ coffee!
Pickin’ coffee, pickin’ coffee all day long, pickin’ coffee!
Pickin’ coffee, pickin’ coffee all day long, pickin’ coffee!

repeat and fade out…

 

 

One Up For The Factory


My ally and fellow journeyman Philip, who has trodded this trail before me, said of a place unlike most. Where warriers and wanderers and wanters of wisdom will wade in weed and wonderful awakenings. T’was indeed…

I arrived at the Arts Factory late at night and stepped right out of the bus and into the jew-bear Brad’s calm and collected cigarette break. Night security & all round solid boss, twinkle in the eye, good fella. Pulled my leg. “Sold out tonight” he said with a grave face, looking me up and down. Caught his bluff, but shrugged and lit one too. Got talking about my mandola. “Don’t fret” he finally said, breaking a laugh and a puff, “let’s go set you up”.

Next morning I came down to reception. “Oh yeah, you’re that Danish guy. You can drive the night bus.” Easy peasy. Drive a beat up 10 seater van between the Factory and the Rails for a star lit 6 hour shift. A simple 1 minute and 26 seconds drive, back and forth about 32 times. Pays for 4 nights of accomodation. I’d mentioned to Brad that I needed work asap, and he had already set me up. Good omen I say.

In this case accomodation means squatting a patch of sand in a rain forest garden together with possums, bush turkeys, dragons and a crew of young and enthusiastic travellers and roustabouts. Good toilets, great showers, functional kitchen – bring your own shelter and food. So off I went to the local Byron Bay Camping Disposals and, more reluctantly, the nearest supermarket. Holy stools this place is expensive.

Byron Bay is a tourist town with a strong alternative flavour. Drinking, surfing and relaxing is what this place is about for the passer-by. A hedonistic haunt some would say. Like a minuscule San Fransisco where a 2 week stay gets you a ticket to the long-termer’s club and where everyone is looking out for each other.

At the Arts Factory a straight forawrd “yes I can” is all you need for a ticket to the jungle. So here I am. Writing a song on the beach. Loading up on Australia’s abundance of natural medicine. Slowly and joyfully understanding the nature here. Laughing like a 6 year old when I look up at the night sky and my 32 years of subconscious star-mapping suddenly doesn’t match anymore.

Everyone I know here is looking for a job. Any job. It’s the early beginnings of the summer, cold gusts of wind still linger and traders have yet to hire this season’s hungry hands. About half of us serve at the Factory in exchange for her hospitality. Old lady she is; from the early 70’s onwards, the Arts Factory has delivered her promise of a refuge for the odd-outs and the creatives on the road to more roads. Lord knows how many before me…

Here’s a song I wrote for her…

Verse

D
I’ll tell you a story
G                    D
and I’ll tell it today
A                 D
about all the folks i met
G          D
in Byron Bay

Arriving one evening
to where it was at
I had my leg pulled
by a fella named Brad

He did put me up though
‘said “come stay with us”
and before I knew it
I was driving the bus

Chorus

A
And it’s one up for the Factory
D          G      D
and her crazy crew
G                C           G
you know, it could be you!

I moved to the jungle
t’was a bungle of tents
and within the hour
I had a hundred friends

There were all sorts of Hippies
and Travelling Types
playing their music
and smoking their pipes

They took me around
for a magical ride
with star-studded eyes
to the beaches at night

And it’s…

It’s like a big family
of Nutheads & Grinners
Lovers & Sinners
and Pro’s and Beginners

‘Got Bushturkeys and
a Bushman on the site
with a bird on his shoulder
and a mouth full of shite!

The Gal’s at the desk
they’re always a pleasure
if I was a Pirate
they’d be in my treasure

And it’s…

I spoke to a fellow
one day over tea
I asked him his job
and he said this to me

“It would be a shame now
although I’m in need
to look for a job
while I’ve got all this weed!”

And it’s…

So the days roll by
in peaceful bliss
t’will be a time
that I’m going to miss

‘Cause I’m going to Nimbin
where the weeds grow tall
to work on a farm
but I’ll think of you all

And if you pass by at
the Arts Factory
could you check for my mail
I’d be grateful to thee…

And it’s…

Repeat Ad Lib