A Guardian writer discovers their essential uselessness

I shouldn’t make fun of inner-city Guardian-type lefties, but sometimes they just make it so effortless. I’ve written about the Aussie uni student who packed it in after just one day’s forestry work in New Zealand; and about the ABC journalist who discovered that “preppers” actually have a whole lot of skills that pampered “progressives” have completely forgotten.

A Guardian columnist is the latest luvvie to inadvertently serve up the comedy gold as they discover out just how fundamentally useless latte-belt types really are.

I’m driving up a corrugated red dirt track, hours from Broome, with two architects and three builders, into a remote part of the Kimberley. We are visiting a traditional owner, Bruno Dann, to help build him a shed…

I was in the Dampier peninsula five years ago…I wasn’t useful then but maybe I could be useful now.

Or maybe not.

Pitching your tent on an ant’s nest is not the best way to start.

I wake up at 6am…When I clamber out of the tent (is there any other way to exit a tent?), I’m covered in lumps and sores. They’re up my arms, on my eyelids and there’s a clump of bites in each knee crease. I itch madly…I go up to the building site and show Adam, who carefully uses his thumbnail to remove the creatures from my weeping sores. “I think they are ants,” he says, then gets back to work.

In other words, suck it up, princess.

I live in a country area of Tasmania and, even here, city visitors marvel at the night sky. Go a few miles out of town and its even more mesmerising. Camp out up on the Central Plateau and the stars are like jewels. I still look at the stars practically every night.

I go to bed early but am woken by the builders. There are four of them, lying on the ground near my tent, in thrall to the hectic night sky.

“Shut up!” I yell.

But Ryan, who hails from “the dodgy part” of Kent, does not want to go to sleep.

“Look at the fookin’ sky and all those stars,” he says, with a voice full of wonder.

As the days pass, though, our intrepid Guardian correspondent steadfastly refuses to be of any actual use.

I visit the site although I don’t do any work…I offer to help lay the gravel, whatever that means, but oversleep and miss it…

To crown her contributions, the Guardian writer goes and gets bogged in a salt pan, trying to go to the beach.

Here, I can sympathise in some way: I grew up near salt pans. They might look nice and flat and shallow, but you’ll easily sink up to your knees – or further – in the stinking mud. More than likely you’ll lose shoes or gumboots trying to get out of the muck.

After that, it’s time for me to return to down south. While I’m still covered in lumps and oozing sores, I don’t have so much as a callus from my week on a building site.

I can do things in a city – like jaywalk across four lanes of traffic while holding three big bags, a coffee and sending a tweet – but take me to a building site at the Kimberley and I’m as useful as tits on a bull.


While it’s a bit satisfying to have a chuckle at these city softies confronting the hard reality of life outside the latte belt, at least they’ve given it a go. And they’ve learned that maybe instead of joining their pals sneering at us deplorables in the sticks, they might actually have something to learn.