30 June 2013


I like trees, you can cut them down and make really useful stuff like boats, and books.

You can use them to hold up birds, so the cats don't get them.

You can plant them near your letterbox and let them grow wild, so the postie can't get close enough to deliver your bills.

You can buy an expensive house and poison them to improve your view, forgetting that the trees are actually part of the view.

They also have another use that people don't always think of.

While I was delivering mail on Friday, I looked at the time and realised I was really going well. It was a light load and I reckoned I'd finish well before three. A good way to finish off the week. I'd had a good week too, Monday to Wednesday had all been beautiful, weather-wise. I'd had light loads and no junk mail to deliver. Thursday was a bit crappy, because it rained, but Friday looked to be good. There was rain around, but the way I was going, I'd be finished before it hit.

Then, just over a third of the way through my run, I did a u-turn across a street and noticed the bike was feeling a bit wibbly-wobbly. I looked down at the rear tyre after delivering some mail to number 4 and thought, that tyre shouldn't look that wide.

I'd got my first puncture since I started the job.

I rang the depot and they told me a spare bike was on its way. In the mean time, a lady asked me if I was okay and offered me a cuppa, which I politely declined. Caffeine and 4 hours on a bike without access to a toilet don't really mix. Shortly after that, someone from across the road came over for a chat and he offered me the use of a pump and some sunscreen, since by now I'd taken off my helmet and the sun was out.

He mentioned the soggy footpath on his side of the street. I'd discovered it pretty soon after starting the job. It's really waterlogged and a bit scary to ride on. I assumed it was a leaky water-main, since I can see the water-meters there, but it seems the reason for it was something else.

This particular street is at the bottom of a hill. A little way up the hill, one of the neighbours used to have a lot of trees in his backyard. Apparently he cut down about forty of them. That's forty trees that are, or were, sucking all the excess moisture out of the ground. Once the trees were cut down, all that water ran to the bottom of the hill and turned the footpath into a swamp. Before the trees were cut down, the footpath was always dry.

It's a common problem in areas where trees have been cleared, especially on hills. Where the trees used to draw the water up to the surface on the hill, that water now comes closer to the surface on lower ground, bringing with it salts from the under-lying rocks. The resulting salinity makes the land unusable, since nothing will grow in it.

I don't know about salinity in this particular case, the grass there is certainly loving the extra water. However, it was a good example of one of the things I learned about at uni in one of my ecology units.

Trees might spoil your view, drop their leaves in your gutter, get in the way of that swimming pool that you want in your backyard, but they're not just a source of timber, or a habitat for wildlife. They're more important than that.

15 June 2013

Ticking the Boxes

When I started working for Aussie Post, someone said there are two things guaranteed during your career as a postie, you will drop your bike and you will get attacked by a dog. I managed to tick both those boxes within fifteen minutes of each other this week.

I should mention right from the start, neither of these incidents were major.

Wednesday was an absolutely miserable day, it was raining, but despite it being winter here in Australia, it was uncomfortably warm in my wet weather gear. I was feeling a bit off colour on the way to work. You know that feeling, when you start to feel seasick and the more you think about it, the worse it gets?

I started off on my round, going a lot slower than usual, partly because of the wet ground, partly because I had junk mail to deliver, meaning I had to stop at nearly every letterbox, and partly because my mind wasn't fully on the job, due to feeling ill. About five streets into the run, I had to get off the bike to post something at the back of the letterbox, as it wouldn't fit through the slot at the front. It's something that will happen more and more in the future, as people shop more online.

I put the side-stand down, slipped the bike into neutral and applied the park-brake, then got off. As I was leaning over, discovering the parcel wouldn't fit in the back of the letterbox either, I heard that familiar 'crump' sound, as the bike toppled over and letters and rubber bands spilled out of the front carrier.

I swore, reached under the bike to turn off the fuel tap and ignition, then picked up the bike. They're actually quite easy to pick up by yourself and, as they have a side-stand on each side, I could lean it over the other way, where it wouldn't fall again.

After having rung my team-leader to let him know what had happened, checking the bike for damage, removing my jacket and helmet because I was starting to sweat, I managed to get the bike started again and was off. Actually, I think it was trying to start the bike that made me sweat, it took a while.

On the very next street, right at the top of the hill, is a house I don't always deliver to, even if I have mail for them. The reason is, their letterbox is at the top of their driveway, instead of down by the footpath where it's supposed to be. I can usually ride the bike to the top of the driveway, then reverse the bike down, but if there's a car parked in the way, their mail goes back into my pannier and I try again the next day. I just can't get safe access.

As I approached the house, I had already put their mail away, as I could see I couldn't get access to the letterbox again. This time though, there was a dog running toward me down their driveway and into the road.

Now there's another dog on my run that often comes running toward me. He's a Staffy and just wants to say hello. He invariably has a ball in his mouth. Once I've patted him and handed his owner the mail, he leaves me alone.

I wasn't sure if this dog was the same, but slowed to a stop to greet it, giving it the benefit of the doubt.

The little bastard grabbed my boot and tried to drag me off my bike.

Here's an example of what it looked like.

I blew my horn three times to try and get the attention of the owners, but as soon as I did, the dog walked off, as if nothing had happened. It was like it was saying, "I didn't do anything". We're told not to kick out at dogs when they attack, since you may fall of the bike. I reflected as I rode away that, had I kicked this particular toilet-brush-with-teeth, it would have ended up in Ormiston, the next suburb in that direction.

Things only got worse after that. The rain got heavier, my right pannier clipped one of those plastic pillar thingies that have something to do with the underground power and I nearly collided with a letterbox. By the time I got to one of the retirement villages on my run, where I usually get off the bike and have a bite to eat and a drink, I'd decided that carrying on the way I was, I would probably kill myself. I rang the depot and told my boss I was coming back in sick and had the rest of the day off.

Yesterday, on the other hand, was a great day for being a postie. The weather was beautiful, there wasn't a lot of mail and no junk mail. When I got to my last pick up, someone else had grabbed four bundles and delivered them for me. I knew he was going to do that, but not that much. So, a great day, working outside, and an early mark. Couldn't ask for better than that. I'm finding the job much easier now. The first few weeks were killers. Now I'm more used to it physically, it's just a case of plodding along until I get to the end of the run and I'm gradually getting quicker.

I just hope I don't have too many days when it rains and there's junk-mail while I'm feeling ill.