Tuesday, November 15, 2011

We don’t hire vegetarians

On my first morning at Mt Elizabeth, I sat at the breakfast table with
my new boss, Pat Lacy. Pat's husband Peter was the boss too, but I
reported to Pat. Everyone else had started work and while I had some
breakfast, Pat asked me how I'd slept. In her abrupt manner, pretty
well the next thing she said was, "I hear you're vegetarian," promptly
followed by "...wouldn't have hired you if known that." I was a
little worried, but assured Pat that it wouldn't be a problem, and in
truth, it never was. And not once more did I have to pick the meat
out of my dinner.

Depending on the number of staff and the number of guests dining
(sometimes up to 30), Sharran might cook for everyone or Pat or Peter
might cook for 'the house' or, in what always reminded me of mafia
movies, 'the family' – an all-encompassing term which included the
ever-changing staff. If there were vegetarian guests there would be a
vegetarian dish such as a pasta bake, vegie fritters (my all-time
fave) or a quiche. In time, Sharran expanded her repertoire into
vegie lasagne and mexican-esque bean dishes and even Pat on the odd
occasions she cooked for guests worried that there wouldn't be enough
for me to eat. I can assure you, I did not go hungry!

When I arrived there were seven staff, which along with me included
three backpacker girls from the UK, Ireland and Denmark, Johnny the
New South Welshman and man-of-few-words who was a mechanic and general
station hand, Sam the Pommy station hand and Sharran, the
aforementioned cook. In the time I worked at Mt Liz, about five other
staff passed through with only Johnny and Sharran staying through till
the end of the season in October.

The five family members who were also workers included Peter and Pat,
their niece Kymmie, their daughter-in-law Emily and their grandson
Blake (who at only 16 months didn't have too many official duties).

Kymmie was Pat's 2nd-in-Charge, who knew the answer to everything,
could solve almost every issue and was responsible for teaching me the
ropes and for holding fort if Pat was elsewhere. One of the most
competent 19-year-olds I reckon I've ever come across, Kymmie was
great to work with and work for and came to be a good friend to me
In the first days I learnt the basics of my job, which wasn't hard,
but was constant. Starting at about 6.30 or 7am each day, we girls
helped set up and serve breakfast, cleaned up afterwards and then
started on the rooms.

With 11 mostly twin rooms in the homestead, a further 7 beds in the
cottage and a well-used campground, there was plenty of bed-making,
laundry, sweeping & mopping and bathroom cleaning to be done. This
work usually carried us through to lunch time, but with a decent break
for smoko (even though nobody smoked) it wasn't too taxing as long as
we had enough staff and it wasn't too hot. In the times when there
were only two girls working and there were multiple busloads of
tourists, it got to be hectic.

After a good-sized lunch of leftovers, there was plenty more cleaning,
washing and re-stocking to be done in the afternoon as well as new
guests to meet, greet and deliver tea and bikkies, and campers to
check-in and surprisingly recognise. But we also had a two hour break
which was long enough for a walk and a dip in the creek, if you wanted
to, or a nap and laze about, or if you were John, Shaz or Kymmie a
quick horse ride. In July and some of August it was still cool enough
to do the 45min Homestead Walk, which Sharran did most days, but it
wasn't long before we had to switch to mornings due to the escalating

At around 4 or 5 in the afternoon the dining room had to be cleaned
and set up for dinner. It was a big room, with four or five tables,
which could and did seat 30 or more diners and could and did provide a
nice spot for Mt Elizabeth's dogs and tame wallabies to while away the
afternoons – the wallabies in particular not bothering to find
somewhere else to poo. Thus, cleaning this room was very good
exercise! Exercise which was often rewarded by a warm slice of Pat's
(or Kymmie's) freshly baked bread. If there was a busload of guests,
this pre-dinner time could prove pretty busy, but often there was a
nice lull of serviette folding, or some other relaxed activity.

Perhaps partly because we didn't have a liquor license, it wasn't a
rowdy place. The guests usually went off to their rooms straight
after dinner and we'd watch a bit of TV, or have a fire and a couple
of drinks. Bedtime was usually around 9 or 10pm for me. Nice n

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