The light at the end of the tunnel

I’m coming to Mackay, Middlemount, Dysart & Moranbah in Queensland!

That’s exciting.

As part of the Anywhere Theatre Festival (from March 13 to 22) I’ll be performing two shows (all tix only $15):

Mining My Own Business (in Mackay, Middlemount, Dysart & Moranbah)

2015 – When We Were Idiots (comedy history walking tour in Mackay)

To celebrate, I’m publishing a few chapters from my first book over the next week or so, with photos. Enjoy!


Mining My Own Business

Dispatch No 1 – day 0

The light at the end of the tunnel

Ch-1 start Edinburgh

Me at the Edinburgh Fringe. The moment I realised I was completely broke.

So, I need a job. After maxing out two credit cards and my overdraft to pay for the past few comedy and fringe festivals where I’ve performed, I’m completely broke. For a few weeks I continually dropped in on friends around dinnertime, did gigs for food instead of beer, and wasted days wandering around the supermarket wishing I could afford instant noodles, and hoping that they’d put the black bananas on super special. Then I moved back in with my parents.

Not that comedy isn’t a job – it’s actually four, but all of them with no wages. As a comedian who produces his own shows I’m a publicist, producer, flyerer and writer. On good nights, I’m also a comedian.

And the past year of festivals hasn’t been a complete disaster. In comparison to other comedians, my shows were a runaway mediocre success. Plenty of people have told me how well I’m doing just to continually get audiences, that I’m a good- sometimes-great performer, and that it’s well worth sticking at it. Only problem is, there’s this massive mountain of debt that says ‘NO WAY, SOCIETY HATES YOU, THIS SHIT COSTS MONEY, HOW DARE YOU FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS, GET A JOB YOU LOSER’.

So, as well as attempting to continue with my artistic career, I now have one more job. For a year I’ll be an admin assistant on a mining site in outback Australia. To protect the privacy of the mine, and everyone who works there, and keep my job at least until I’ve paid off the aforementioned debts, that’s all I’m saying. So I’ll be working three weeks on, one week off, and using that week to continue with the comedy.

Another reason I’m not giving away many details is I don’t want to piss off the people who run the mine. They have a lot of money. Like, heaps. Like imagine all the money you can. All the money that will fit inside your mind. Squeeze it in there. As much as possible. Then times that by ten. That’s what these people spend on a weekend. When they’re staying in.

One more good reason for not telling you where I’m going is that I don’t properly know. I know the state, but that’s it. Leading up to my departure, people keep asking me where I’m going and every time I honestly reply, ‘I’m not sure.’ I’ve been busy and, more importantly, I don’t really care.

It’s the middle of nowhere, turn left and then some. It’s going to be very hot, and very dirty, with a lot of very big but not very environmentally friendly holes in the ground. How do I feel about that? Not great, but maybe by writing about it and living it, I’ll at least develop a better informed opinion on the whole thing. And afterwards, I’ll need extra bags to carry all my money.

A month, then a week, then a day before I’m due to leave, I still have no details of what I’ll actually be doing. I’ve bought some steelcapped work boots though. Worn them for a day, and now I have blisters the size of golf balls. Well, not quite. Maybe angry marbles.

I don’t have any high-visibility shirts, and only two pairs of jeans. The uniform is long pants and a long-sleeved high- vis shirt, every single day. So I don’t know what I’m doing, where I’m going, and I don’t have enough or any of the right clothes. Basically, if I ever manage to make it to the right place, and I manage to borrow a shirt so I’m allowed in, a week from now I’m going to smell terrible.

It’s a fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) mine, reached via a QantasLink plane, and I leave on a Wednesday. This plane actually has propellers, which is a surprise as I thought they’d all been phased out sometime around World War II.

When we land, it’s like we’ve crashed, but that is really just the full force of the tyres hitting the tarmac, as felt in my seat situated over the landing gear, and separated from it by a sheet of aluminium only slightly thicker than a budget roll of foil. Really, it’s quite safe and I’m a wimp. But who isn’t a bit scared of flying? If we were meant to fly, we’d have wings.

Still, it beats sitting on a bus. Statistically speaking, it’s also a whole lot safer, and by ‘statistically’ I mean ‘who cares? It’s still a tiny plane’.

From the airport, there are two buses to the two separate accommodation sites. My name is on the list for one. My name is on a list! I’m in the right place!

Halfway there, the driver stops. Apparently my name is on the other list too. So I’m transferred to the second bus, via a complicated and awkward procedure with lots of list- checking and ticking that could be straight out of a boring spy film, where the spies have been replaced with overly tattooed men all up past their bedtime and blaming me. At that accommodation site, my name is not on a list. So I get a lift from a very nice older gentleman in the appropriate high-vis to the other accommodation. Confused? I am, and worried I’ll be sleeping in the desert, which is exactly all there is for 100 km in every direction.

At the other accommodation site, a New Zealand bloke, still buzzing from his purchase of Big Day Out tickets, turns down The Offspring’s ‘Self Esteem’ long enough to give me a room key. Lovely bloke. Cracking song too. Reminds me of my teenage angst, which I now realise was just extreme sexual frustration, and my current angst at having put everything on the line to follow my dream of being a writer/comedian, apparently doing quite well for two years, and still ending up here.

The accommodation resembles a caravan without windows and slightly smaller. Or half a corrugated iron shipping container crammed with an air conditioner, bed, table, television and toilet. Certainly not spacious, but far better than a backpacker hostel. But so is a bed of nails. Really, it’s not too bad and the food’s great. As much free fresh fruit, salad and meat as you can swallow, with a hot buffet every morning and evening, and desserts available 24 hours a day. According to those who’ve been here a while, after your first three-week stint, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll still fit into your pants.

Up at 6 am tomorrow, for an induction at 7. If I sleep through my alarm, that’ll be awkward. Nobody’s allowed in late, and you need to sit through an induction in order to be permitted onto the mining site. There’s only one each week, and being stuck out here unable to work, even though I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m no good to anyone. If I miss it, I’ll probably be fired, sent home and made to pay for all my flights. That’s just what I need. More debt. I probably should go into banking next, because at least in banking, nobody seems to give a stuff about debt.

So far everyone I’ve met seems nice, but they remind me of the men you find in a nightclub after 2 am. Big, rough and friendly enough, but possibly on the verge of violence, especially against me, the sole guy in a Hawaiian shirt – my attempt at high-vis until I have a proper shirt.

Also in keeping with the 2 am nightclub analogy, there is a small proportion of women out here, a few of them as rough as the men, and most with more tatts. If there’s any picking up, I reckon it could go either way. Some of these women could easily lift the men, and I just hope no-one of either sex corners me. The whole place has a bit of a jail vibe about it, and I wonder if I should skip sleeping, and stay up all night fashioning my toothbrush into a shiv. You know, to protect the sanctity of my bumhole.

Ch-1 end Dongas

The dongas. This picture was taken during my first night onsite. Notice the overwhelming jail vibe of the whole place?

Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian

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Then, don’t forget!

I’m coming to Mackay, Middlemount, Dysart & Moranbah in Queensland!

That’s exciting.

As part of the Anywhere Theatre Festival (from March 13 to 22) I’ll be performing two shows (all tix only $15):

Mining My Own Business (in Mackay, Middlemount, Dysart & Moranbah)

2015 – When We Were Idiots (comedy history walking tour in Mackay)