How an airconditioning mechanic working in Sydney Australia became an award winning broadcaster in Britain. – Part 9.



We had to make some sacrifices when I got on to the commercial radio course at the Australian Film Television and Radio School. We now didn’t have any transport. I’d quit my job as an air-conditioning mechanic so I didn’t have a work van anymore. We didn’t have a car and without my wages coming in we couldn’t afford one.

Getting a van with the job was one of the reasons we decided to move to Sydney from New Zealand.  Mind you, I hadn’t been that lucky with vans in Australia. My first job was with a firm called Eastaway Air-conditioning. We’d arrived in Sydney on a Saturday, on the Monday I started work and they gave me a brand new Ford Falcon panel van. It was a big, six cylinder, 4-litre, column change automatic, bench seat with air-conditioning and a stereo. The next day I drove over the Sydney Harbour Bridge on my way to my first job of the day listening to Doug Mulray on “Rock of The 90s, Triple M” 104.9. I was living the Aussie dream.

I picked up the apprentice and we headed for Streets ice-cream factory in Turrella, 10kms south of the city center. We were booked to do the monthly maintenance checks. In Arncliffe, we had to make a right turn off the six lane Pacific Highway. I wasn’t used to Sydney traffic and hadn’t noticed a red traffic light arrow. When the main lights turned green, I booted it and headed across three lanes of oncoming traffic. A hatchback hit the Falcon on the same side as the apprentice. We did a 360 in the middle of the junction then collided head-on with the traffic light pole that held up the red arrow.

We were shaken up but otherwise fine. The van didn’t do so well though. The passenger side door was stoved in and the front end had been re-designed to accommodate the traffic light pole. The driver of the hatchback jumped out of his car and started screaming that he had whiplash. I’m pretty sure you only get that from a rear end shunt. Anyhow, he looked fine to me but he demanded someone call an ambulance, it arrived in minutes. The ambulance might not have been necessary but it would have helped with his compo claim. The police got there almost immediately. When they spoke to us and wrote me a ticket for turning on a red arrow. I asked them how they responded so quickly. They told me that they were right behind the bloke in the hatchback, heading north. They were on their way to the Royal North Shore Hospital to identify a body at the morgue.

The tow truck took the apprentice and me to the nearest smash repairs which is what panel beaters are called in Australia. Looking at the wreck of the van when we got there, both titles seemed redundant. The panels were already well and truly beaten and it was obviously way beyond repair. We had a cup of tea then I asked if I could use their phone to call my boss.

John James was one of those people who always had a pen in his mouth. He was permanently twitchy. Even though I’d only worked for Eastaway for two days, I’d seen him react to bad news over the phone in the office. If things weren’t running perfectly, he’d slam his hand on his desk and shout, “Jesus Christ!” I thought I’d break it to him gently.

I said, “John, its Graham, are you sitting down?” He paused and said quietly, “Yes”. “Well, I’ve bumped the van.” “Oh no! How bad is it?” he asked, “Well… I’m no expert” I said, “but… I think it’s written off.” There was silence, followed by, “Jesus Christ! There weren’t any other vehicles involved were there?” “Well John, there was this bloke in a hatchback…” Before I could say anything else, I heard his hand slam the desk and he said “Well let me talk to him!” “Well, John”, I said, “here’s the thing; you can’t talk to him right now because he’s been taken away in an ambulance”. There was another long pause then John barked “Did the cops show up?”  “Yes John, they were actually pretty good about..” He cut me off mid sentence; “Jesus Christ!” His hand slammed the desk, “Put one of the bloody police on the phone right now!” “Well John, they’re not here right now, you see they’ve gone to the morgue”.

At this point, I know his mouth fell open because I heard his pen bounce off the desk. – He thought I’d killed the apprentice.


Craic on!

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