poor #homeJames

I must admit I’ve been putting this post off as it’s been a tricky time and not particularly fun to talk about. However so many of you gorgeous people have been asking how #homeJames is faring (and most importantly, she’s back!) so I reckon it’s time for an official update.

/ TLDR: #homeJames just went through a major engine rebuild and it’s cost around $9k to fix her. I’m actively seeking paid work so I can repay the people who have loaned me money to cover the cost, and if anyone feels the urge to contribute, I’m accepting donations. Read on for a (fairly lengthy) journal of what happened to the bus and what I have been doing for the last year instead of working for the man… /

A fateful journey

October 13th - #homeJames on a flatbed truck :(

October 12th – #homeJames on a flatbed truck :(

On 12th October, travelling back from WA on our fourth Nullabor trip in less than 12months, plumes of white smoke started pouring from #homeJames’ exhaust. I was somewhere between Port Pirie and Snowtown on the highway heading toward Adelaide, and pulled over immediately (which I really don’t advise – trucks hurtling past making the bus shake is hardly my idea of safety but hey, needs must). I let her cool down while contacting my go-to-guy Jimmy for advice. (Some of you might remember the story of how I found my gorgeous bus – or rather, how she found me! – but you may not know that the team at Roundabout Charter have been the most unbelievable support ever since). Jimmy said it sounded like a cracked head… which is BAD NEWS.

I rang RAA to find my membership had lapsed. More bad news. Fortunately they let me renew without a penalty charge and sent out a mechanic from Port Pirie to investigate. I limped her to the nearest safe space and waited…and waited…and waited. Turns out I was extremely lucky; typically the RAA ask that broken down vehicles are taken to the mechanic’s base for investigation before deciding whether or not vehicles were eligible for towing home, but this lovely gentleman decided to fight my corner. He spoke to the RAA guys, said he was sure it was a cracked head and recommended he took me straight back to Adelaide on his flatbed. More luck – my RAA membership only allows a max towing distance of 400kms. I was 366kms away. (I hate to think what would have happened had I broken down on the Nullarbor). He also elected to not charge me for his return trip to Port Pirie – another beautiful gesture. Incredibly the RAA took all this on board and told me that yes I could be taken back to Adelaide, and that they would not charge me anything more for the journey (which would typically cost at least $600). They also informed me that this generosity would likely never be repeated, but that was enough for me (phew and thank you!).

Back in Adelaide Jimmy and Craig (the mechanic who’s been working on her since she was four) agreed on brief investigation that yes, it looked like a cracked head and recommended a trusted mechanic with the necessary tools for the job. She was tucked away there for nine weeks… nine weeks away from my home. I’m so very lucky to have great friends in Adelaide (some being the closest I get to family over here) so I have had places to stay. But it was hard being separated so long (I get separation anxiety when I’m away from her for a day!) and it also prevented me from attending the Canberra Aboriginal Tent Embassy’s national gathering “Self Determination, Governance and Treaty” where I was supposedly headed next.

The soul of a vehicle

#homeJames on our third anniversary - not the way I expected to celebrate :(

#homeJames on our third anniversary – not the way I expected to celebrate :(

You’ve gotta have a sense of humour in this life; mine comes from my wonderful Grandad, Arthur Cooper. I’m also an old hippy (in case you hadn’t noticed – thanks mum for that one) so on hearing the engine would need replacing my first thought was “but will she still be homeJames?!”. After he’d finished laughing at me, Jimmy informed me that in boat culture if you want to change the name of a boat you have to change the paint job. With that in mind, and given I have no intention of changing her red and white glory, it seems her name/soul will remain intact. Phew.

homeJames’ odometer sat at 976720, less than 25,000kms away from clocking her which I have been really looking forward to doing. But if she needs a new engine, she gets a new engine. Fortunately there was an engine going locally, same type (1HZ block Land Cruiser engine, for the nerds) and with only 104kms on the clock (!). Unfortunately by the time we confirmed our supposed first-refusal they’d sold the fuel pump from it. Gnatch. With no other viable engines available we returned to the rebuild option.

Nine weeks down the track we ended up being held up by the lack of suitable gearbox. Apparently if you’re gonna take out the engine you may as well check up on the gearbox/clutch too and these hadn’t been changed in a while. After two duds (one wrong type, the other more buggered than my original) we opted to rebuild mine. Again a win for keeping her original soul… but not a win on labour costs.

The cost of a rebuild

broken #homeJames - cracked head and dropped (5th) cylinder

broken #homeJames – cracked head and dropped (5th) cylinder

Bottom line: this all adds up to around $9,000. Gulp.

“So you’re doing a another crowdfunding campaign, yeah?” EVERYONE has asked that question. Many have even said they’d contribute if I did (bless ya!). But I’m not. I can’t. For several reasons.

The first is that it might look like a slacker’s begging option but it’s REALLY BLOODY HARD running crowdfunding campaigns (especially when you’re doing it on your own, are not famous, and are not pre-selling an event/product) and I simply haven’t got it in me to go through that again. The second is that there are still outstanding rewards from the original campaign – something I am not happy about at all because I can’t get closure on it until it’s done. Some are outstanding because of difficulties connecting time/place (like dinners on the bus), some because of life’s shifts (for me and the supporter) but regardless, I can’t feel OK about another campaign when the first ‘debt’ isn’t fully cleared (although it’s worth noting that everyone I’ve spoken to about this says they didn’t care about the reward they just wanted to be part of my ‘journey’, bless ’em).

The third (and probably most absurd) reason is that frankly I’m pissed at myself for not having the resources to fix this situation on my own. I’m a fiercely independent woman, always have been (often to my own detriment). I’ve already received so much generosity around rbrt that to set out on a whole new campaign simply to ask for more when I’ve been apparently incapable of taking care of it myself simply feels wrong. It’s my fault I’ve ended up in this situation. It’s my job to fix it. (Although it’s worth mentioning that it isn’t my fault this happened to the bus. I’ve already asked that and been told it can happen to any vehicle at any time). Of course there’s a lot of underlying self-blame/criticism in this which I recognise and am trying to be pragmatic about; my thanks to many lovely people who have picked me up on this, it’s a bad habit for anyone.

Oh and to the one person who said “Oh well, it’s been, what, three years now? That’s a decent run. You should sell what’s left of her […WHAT’S LEFT OF HER?! WHAT NOW?!…] and use whatever’s left as a deposit on a house”. Yeah: no. Honestly I am stunned. You will remain nameless but you should bloody well know better. I didn’t start rbrt so I could take other people’s money and use it to turn a profit on an old bus and go on to live a nice little stable life in a house somewhere. I am FAR from done with this life. It’s bloody hard a lot of the time but everything about my life is now different. The freedom overall is unreal and I can’t see myself ever giving that up. I also have a lot of work to do, there’s so much I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of. Sell what’s left of her – seriously? GAH!

So, no, I’m not running another crowdfunding campaign. Thanks to amazing friends I have been able to borrow the money (and accept a few generous donations) to urgently deal with the situation (THANK YOU, you know who you are! xxx). I’ve already had a bit of paid work (thanks Unfixed!), am about to sell everything I don’t need (instead of giving it away like I usually do) and am planning on heading off to do casual fruit-picking/whatever-I-can-find between now and the next gig. Most awesomely (sorry…) I was the last successful recipient of 2015 for a perfectly-timed Adelaide Awesome Foundation $1000 grant (thank you too!). So I’m trying not to freak out, but if you hear of any paid casual work, going please let me know (seriously, I’ll do anything).

Having said all that, thanks to a lot of people telling me I’m too stubborn and proud and should accept donations, I am accepting donations. Does that make me a hypocrite? I don’t know, but if you want to help out there’s a Paypal donations link here (which has been there since I launched the blog in 2011) or if you prefer I can send bank details by private message.

So, why haven’t you got any money?!

When I started out on rbrt I had every intention of storing away a $5k slush fund for emergencies. Sadly things haven’t worked out that way but I haven’t been on some elongated, crowdfunded, luxury holiday, I assure you.

For the last year I have been working on new learnings in grassroots organising for social change and solidarity movements, alongside long-lead development for a project on creative digital culture for social change in Aboriginal communities. I’ve been living and working with Aboriginal communities including the national GMAR body (Grandmothers Against Removals); the Aboriginal Tent Embassy (Canberra), the Nyoongar Tent Embassy (Perth), the Original Sovereign Tribal Federation (Alice Springs) and being a volunteer for the recent NPY Womens’ Culture and Lore Camp (Ernabella).

During that time, knowing the battles to come in our oh-so-broken world, I have been getting myself ready. I have helped organise protests against community closures with Call to Action Adelaide. I’ve undergone training in grassroots organising through the Perth Community Organising Collective, Rethink the Link non-violent direct action, CCL (the Citizen’s Climate Lobby where I became a founding member of CCL-Fremantle), attended the recent Organise conference in Sydney, and I’ve just finished Amnesty International’s online ‘Human Rights’ course. I’ve dabbled with a few ways to build and maintain online activist communities, raise awareness and share knowledge (some public like Sunday Afternoon Activists Club and Little Activist, some finding their feet, some yet to be revealed). Needless to say as an artist/creative producer I’ve been part of #freethearts too, submitting an angry rant to the Senate Enquiry into Brandis’ NPEA-theft of OzCo funds and feedback on NPEA (now Catalyst). I have attended every rally I have been capable of getting to (often documenting them – see Flickr and YouTube), I’ve been doing a lot of reading (including the fantastic Decolonising Solidarity by Clare Land), a great deal of listening and a fair amount of ranting. In fact many of my friends whinge at me for being overly earnest and ‘taking life too seriously’. Maybe, but isn’t life -and the planet- worth taking seriously?

So yeah, I’ve been pretty busy. But funnily enough, no one wants to pay activists, especially nomadic ones learning the ropes! (We should consider ourselves lucky to still be able to peacefully protest legally, right?!). Financially, aside from a small commission fee for running hammocktime at WOMADelaide earlier this year I haven’t been actively seeking paid work… until forced to by my traitor of a bus! I’ve also not been on Centrelink, partly because I am (stupidly) too proud to give idiots the opportunity to accurately label me ‘a doley bludger’ (despite the biggest doleybludgers being corrupt corporations who refuse to pay their taxes and mining companies who take unbelievable amounts of subsidy to run their profit-making, planet-destroying enterprises), partly because my #lifestylechoice isn’t exactly conducive to the neoliberal definition of welfare (can you imagine the conversation?!) and partly because I haven’t felt unemployed because I’ve been so damn busy!

I’ve coped on a day to day basis thanks to contributions toward fuel costs and dinners from friends and colleagues, amazing communities like FERN’s Soup Kitchen and the Free Haven squat in Fremantle, skip-diving, and accepting that luxuries are not part of my world right now. It’s been hard at times but I consider myself unbelievably fortunate to have had the experiences I have had and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

So, that’s me. Quite honestly I’m exhausted, scarily poor/indebted and have felt more homeless/vulnerable than ever. But above everything else I am so deeply sickened by the greed and corruption of our global neoliberal system that I’m not giving up. I can’t. Consider this a temporary glitch; bear with me while I get myself back on track and then watch out for the projects to come. 2016 will kick off with a second run for hammocktime, this time at Adelaide Fringe Festival – for the whole season! – and then I’ll be off around regional/remote Aboriginal communities with a creative digital culture for social change project.

2015 has been a hard year for a LOT of people and I know I have it comparatively very easy to many – hence why I feel the need to keep learning/sharing/fighting for those who can’t. 2016 has a lot of threats to face (can you believe they approved the Adani mine that will destroy the Great Barrier Reef immediately after returning from COP21?! Bastards!) but it’s rich with opportunity too (like an action to Close Pine Gap, teehee). Onwards and upwards, eh?

So enjoy your holidays, take care of yourselves and each other, and let’s kick some serious ass in 2016, hmmkay?! x