Shay Gap – The Chef

When I first arrived at Shay Gap the Poone’s ‘Township Manager’ asked me if I’d mind helping out for a couple of weeks manning the door to the working men’s mess in the mornings.

I may have already told you but just to be on the safe side I’ll tell you again. He managed the running of everything in town except the government controlled offices and bank and was ostensibly my boss.

As he hadn’t the faintest idea about a bar I was left in total control and left to my own devices. Which suited me fine. Nothing worse than an amateur trying to tell a professional what and how to do his/her job.

All manning the door meant was sitting at the entrance to the mess, and, using one of those clicker things, keep count of the number of men who came through the door for their meal. Those coming off nights were having their dinner and the rest of course you’ve guessed it were there for breakfast. I wasn’t told why and I didn’t bother to ask, if it was to keep a check on who and how many were coming in I didn’t see as it made any difference there was enough food available to feed the army of The Rhine.

Anyway I duly appeared the first morning, a bit before dawn, armed with the hopefully trusty little clicker and took up my post just inside the door. Without doubt this was the most boring mind numbing job on earth, luckily I was only filling in for a week or two.

There  was one thing that made it all worthwhile. The dawn! From my seat at the door I looked out at these odd shaped hills/rocks whatever, they certainly weren’t mountains and they weren’t too far away but they were quite big and fairly high. I don’t know if they had any iron ore in them but I suppose they did; we were in the Pilbara, in  iron ore country.

But the dawn was magical, the sun rose quite quickly and the light danced gaily up the side of these hill rocks in a myriad of colours, gold’s, reds, greens, yellows, climbing swiftly up the sides bouncing out of the clefts in those walls and all over in a matter of minutes or seconds, always the same always different and always spellbinding. Magical, I shall never  forget those sunrises those dawns are ever etched on my memories.

And when the sun was up; all went grey and brown and dull and beautiful! I loved it!

Now after that little rave it’s time to get serious and get back to the “Wet”.

When I finished my stint, I’d wander around to the staff dining room for breakfast. even here the food was plentiful the menus ridiculous. Who wants a T-bone steak for breakfast? We were offered the same as the men in the other mess. I usually loved my breakfast, I’d been used to eating in a hotel dining room for the past 4-5 years and I’d order up my eggs and bacon or sausages and enjoy every mouthful, but I was  in for a shock here at Shay Gap.

The eggs! Inedible, that’s the only word I can use to describe them; I don’t know I never enquired as to why, but they had an unusual taste that I’d experienced only once before, that was when I was living in Carnarvon, working for “Iron Bar” Tuckey; and I can tell a few stories about that bloke believe me! I think that all eggs were treated before being sent north of the Tropic of Capricorn, they had a distinct iodine taste to them which I found revolting and I was never able to eat them, they were supposedly just as good as those that you got down south just that they tasted off that’s all!

After breakfast I still had a couple of hours to waste until I opened up my bar for the blokes that had come of night shift so I’d wander back to my digs have a shower and get ready for a quiet boring morning at the “Wet”.

It took me about one day two at the most to see what was wrong with the whole setup that I’d inherited/taken over. I opened too late!

The men were coming off the night shift, getting cleaned up, (Shay Gap was a clean town and I’ll go into that later) having their dinner and then having to hang around ’til 9.30 for me to open the doors so they could have a few beers before turning in for the days (their nights) sleep. Only the real hardy dedicated drinkers did this!

It wasn’t much good for me either I’d finish then hang around ’til around 9 and wander over and start getting my bar set up ready for the opening non-rush.

And who was waiting for me there on my first solo morning?  You guessed it, well you would have if you’d been following this saga of Shay Gap, “The Chef”.

What I’m about to relate happened only the once.

On my first solo morning when I arrived and went into the “Wet” the expected knock came to the door, knowing who it was and what he wanted I opened the door and didn’t stand back and let him in; it was the Chef. “Yes” says I, he looked at me as if I was some kind of nut not knowing who he was and what was expected, he said “I’m the Chef”  I said “I know”, he said “I normally come in for a couple of drinks early in the morning” ,  I replied “Do you?” he answered in the affirmative and then I told him  I’m not open for business, “what you used to do with Paddy stopped when he left and I took over” and that “I would not allow him into the bar while I was getting set up”.

I also told him that I would not enter his kitchens and taste the food  that he and his staff were preparing and I expected the same courtesy, he could not enter my bar until opening time!” After this little lot I excused myself and told him I had work to do, closed the door and went about my business.

I never saw the Chef again; it seems he went and put in for an immediate transfer, to where I know not, but he was gone within a week or so and I truly don’t think anybody really cared especially amongst his cooks and kitchen hands. His replacement a week or so after was a different kettle of fish altogether. Probably salmon, he was a Canadian from logging camps who’d come to the opposite ends of the earth in more ways than one.

But that’s another story. another time


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Paol Soren

A bit of this and that

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