Pony, our hitch hiker friend from yesterday’s Dollop, declared herself to us as a woofer. We started to wonder just what kind of person we’d picked up. Was she actually a hitch hiker? Or is a woofer the Australian word for a dogger? She’d seen our car and stuck her thumb out, which we assumed to be the universal sign of the hitch hiker, but perhaps in Australia it’s the symbol of the dogger. Actually, that would explain why she’d kept her seat belt unfastened and smiled so broadly when I told her to belt up or feel the pain. Was everything about to unravel like a chaotic scene in a slapstick comedy? But no. Sadly Chloe, this is not a blog post about our dogging experience.
It turned out that a woofer was not a dogger, but a name given to someone who takes part in a scheme called Workers On Organic Farms. It’s an initiative that gives bag packers free accommodation on an organic farm, in exchange for a few hours of work on the farm for five days of the week. I’m not sure if the farmer who took Pony on realised that she was a bag packer taking part in the woofer scheme, or maybe he got confused by her name and assumed that she was actually a pony. After all, he had put a post on a website saying that he was looking for a work horse for his farm. He then heard back from the website saying that he could have a pony for free who would work for five days a week simply for free accommodation. He was a bit surprised that the pony came with such terms and conditions – had they started up a horses’ union now? – but it was a free pony and you couldn’t say fairer than that. Maybe this is the real reason she calls herself pony, in order to dupe hapless farmers into giving her a place to live for free.
Maybe woofing isn’t actually a real scheme, but is just a group of people who con farmers into taking them on by pretending to be farmyard animals. By the time they’ve realised their mistake, they’ve already signed the contract, plus if these crazy people don’t mind living in a stable and helping out on the farm, then maybe it’s not such a bad deal after all.
Later on in the conversation, we discovered that, while she may have been a Woofer, she was not a Doofer. A doofer is an Australian word that apparently referrs to someone who enjoys going to raves, and partying to to loud bass heavy dance music. The name Doofer is due to the kind of music they listen to, and relates to the sound of the bass going “doof doof doof doof.” Apparently it makes her ears hurt and feel nauseous. The doof, she can’t handle the doof! I know, can you believe I’m giving this away for free?
She was a folk fan, volunteering at the Port Fairy festival, which was where we were heading. We spent the car journey having a lovely conversation about doofers, woofers and also the fact that she was a keen rainbow girl, which has nothing to do with the brownies, but is a community of people who get together for a month in a forest and live in the wild without electricity and general modern amenities, cooking and eating vegan food together, singing and dancing and sharing stories. She also played a couple of tunes on her penny whistle. It was nice to spend time in the company of someone who was living such an interesting and vastly different sort of life. She was a free spirit, with no plans and often no idea where she’ll be from one day to the next. It’s so easy to get pigeon-holed and to become molded to a set identity, living the kind of life that you feel is expected of you, doing a predictable job, getting married, seeing the same friends, drinking in the same pubs, eating at the same places. It’s refreshing to be reminded that this is not necessarily the only way to live life, and that it is possible to experience the world for very little.
Yesterday we swam in the ocean, and walked on the beach. As I walked along the sand, I recalled how I would yearn to go to Australia as a child. The concept that there was a world below my feet was thrilling as a kid, as my dad instructed me and my brothers to go and dig as big a hole as we could to see if we could reach Australia. Obviously, this was simply a ruse to keep us occupied and for my parents to get some peace, but I was obsessed with the idea of being able to dig a hole deep enough to take me into this exciting magical world called Australia. And now here I was, walking on the beach, but not on English, but Australian sand. One day I grew up and realised that it wasn’t possible to dig a hole to reach Australia. At some point in my life the dream fizzled and died.
As I walked along the beach I remembered all this and felt a connection with my childhood self, and imagined how excited and happy he would be to know that he had made it. If I could only reach into the past and tell him to keep on digging. Obviously my five-year-old self would hear these words and simly just keep on slamming his spade into the sand, with a naive intransigence.
“What are you doing you idiot? When I said keep digging, I was speaking metaphorically. I was using digging as an analogy for ploughing away at life, for keeping going in the face of adversity.”
“What’s metaphor? What’s allegory? What’s adversity?”
“Bloody hell, was I really such an idiot. Oh just keep digging. You’ll get it one day.”
The gigs are going really well. We’ll be featuring our Australian exploits on a Young’uns Podcast in April, but I’ll share a few stories in these Dollops too. Back tomorrow.