“Listen James, if you’re coming up here, then you’re coming up here to work, the John Lennon days are over!”
They were the last words my best mate Matthew said to me on the telephone before I left Sydney to go and work in the Blue Mountains. That was about fourteen weeks ago. It’s been an adventure, wild, sometimes pushing on the brink of insanity; hard work, early mornings, mountains, training, beers, girls, cement, sand, chin up competitions off scaffolding, reflective hikes, caves, abseiling, Sydney weekenders, police, ambulances, junkies, partying with Macy Gray’s band, a haunted derelict hotel, legendary train journeys, 35 mixes, the wall, sunshine, rain, the biggest most electrifying storm I’ve ever seen, ghosts, a deadly brown snake, wheelbarrows, fitties with Cadbury eyes, waterfalls, a spider named Tonia (Matthew was sleeping with her!), conversations with Toombafied locals whose heads were more fried than an egg in a saucepan on fire, a smashed up watermelon, Tom Jones, ridiculous amounts of protein and grenades……a bubbling cauldron of Katoomba madness and thrills!
In all honesty, you had to be there to believe it.
After my initial introduction to ‘Hotel California’ (the haunted, derelict building that would become home) we signed in another mad Welshman, Nutty Neil. I renamed him ‘The Bulberine’, for his love of getting to the gym, smashing a load of heavy weights just to get (in his very own words) “one elllll of a bulb on!”. Following the gym, he could not wait to venture down to the Station Bar (or Staccshh as we called it), ‘bulb’ a load of beers and show off his ‘bulbing’ dance moves to the women of Toomba Land. Intrigued by the cosmos, Bulberine self-confessed that his head was somewhere between Mars and Jupiter!
The women of the gym nicknamed us ‘The Welsh Wolf Pack’, we loved that but we labelled ourselves ‘The Toomba Trio’ – loved by many, feared by some, known by all! We became a law unto ourselves and Katoomba knew it.
There were those doomed Monday mornings when I stared into the mixer; the cement a gloomy grey and my arms ached as I threw in 16 sand, 1 cement, 1 lime…it was like a never ending mantra. Matthew (Boss of Gourlay Construction Worldwide) marched around site with his sensible head on condemning every barrel full of cement as either “too wet” or “too dry”. He was like Jamie Oliver testing the soup on his f**king Entree menu! But his attention to detail is the reason why he is simply ‘The World’s Greatest Plasterer’, a Van Gogh that uses cement rather than paint. There were times when the rest of the site were simply in awe of his craftsmanship.
As with everything in life, change is the only constant and after about eight weeks we got kicked out from Hotel California. We had to say goodbye to Bridget, the middle aged Kiwi woman who had been living with us.
Two Scottish lads; Bruce and Seff we’re brought in to work. The Trio evolved, and as they did in Braveheart, we united the Glens and evolved to The Celtic Union. Weekenders kicked off in the Staccshh straight from work on Friday and usually ended somewhere in Sydney on Monday morning.
To all those who were part of the Toomba days (and there are many!), I’d like to say a big thank you, it was (in Bulberine language) “one elllllll of a laff!”
Also, a thank you to the The Gourlay Bird, who set up the gig and got us all work. Since proving himself as The World’s Greatest Plasterer and conquering the ‘Building Game’, he now free climbs around the cliffs of the Blue Mountains seeking The World’s Most Dangerous Wall, which he wishes to then Plaster.