After a few months at Station Master Sydney’s Office, I got worried by the Greeks and other refo Porters all threatening me with a knife if I didn’t hit the bundy clock for them when they left two hours early to go to the pub.
Also I missed my girlfriend at Glen Innes. So I asked to be transferred “closer to home”. This was a a small misuse of the truth because Dad had left Bolivia and was God Knows where, probably chatting up some barmaid. Anyway, there was some poetic justice because my girlfriend dumped me sadly.
So the Railways transferred me to the Inverell Goods Shed as a Junior Clerk.
This was a serious mistake, because my job there involved extensive arithmetic. I had to enter the Pounds Shillings and Pence amount of all the waybills in a giant journal (using nib and inkwell). Then I had to add up each page of the journal and carry forward the balance until after about the 20th page, the month would come to an end and the dreaded Balance would be commenced. Miind you, there was no such thing as an adding machine.And pounds shillings and pence are a mongrel to add up.
The Balance was occasioned because my boss the First Clerk (whom I hated to the core of my being) would have entered the waybills in ledgers of which the top page would be sent to a Company to be paid. The Balance meant that the total of the dozens of ledger pages had to equal the total of the Journal. It never did.
So we would have to hunt for the offending errors…and the First Clerk always knew they would be mine. And they always were. And he would swear and carry on like a bloody drongo, and I would develop a little more hatred for him.
At the end of this two years of blooding with arithmetic the great thing for me was that my young mind learned to recognise numbers and they would stick, and to this day I can add up faster in my head than with an adding machine.
(“Oh I see…you’re a Deaf Adder!”)