Someone told me a joke over the bar the other day. What’s the difference between a toilet bowl and a barman? A toilet bowl only has to look at one arsehole at a time.
That is what some people say, but I actually love my job here. I do the day shift at the Newtown Hotel in King Street, and I think I have it lucky as I get to serve a really lovely crew of people.
We have a lot of regulars and the job of a barman is to have a lot of skills at your disposal. One is to be a bit of a psychologist as people give you their problems over the bar and you just have to listen to what life is doing to them at the time. There are other times you need to know how to handle conflict resolution and not let something get much bigger than it needs to be.
I am originally from Western Australia, and was born on a nudist hippy colony Aboriginal mission in a town called Roebourne, 850km south of Broome on the coast. My mum is English-Canadian and my dad is English, and I have no idea why they chose to leave London and end up in Roebourne of all places, but they did.
My childhood was spent in mining towns across WA. I think this is how I caught the moving bug because after I left school in Perth when I was 15, I began moving around the country. I discovered a love for art at the same time and I began creating fashion and furniture to sell at markets at Fremantle.
But being gay in Perth was not much fun as it is just so small. I came out in my final year at school and while mum was great, my dad disowned me. I figure I have one great parent and that is enough to get me through.
I went to Cairns first and worked at the markets, selling clothing and furniture, as well as working at an art gallery. I was doing designs with my boyfriend at the time and we were recycling furniture and fashion and anything that we could work on. I loved giving a new look, and often a new purpose, to something that was considered old.
From Cairns, I then went to Brisbane and Sydney before stopping at Melbourne for almost three years, working the markets everywhere I went. I loved Melbourne almost a little too much and eventually had to get out of there and go home to Perth.
I was working a lot on my artwork at that time. I do sketches of male erotic images taken from photographs, but I lost a lot of my stuff in a fire, including my equipment. After another three years, I went travelling again and headed back to Brisbane before settling in Sydney almost four years ago.
I actually moved to Sydney to become a tattoo artist, but I found it just too hard to crack that market, so I have been working in hospitality instead. I have 20 individual tattoos on my body and each one tells a story and marks a period of my life -“ it is even better than a photo album. I had my first tattoo when I was 16 and my last five years ago -“ it proved to be an expensive hobby.
Two years ago, I entered one of my art works in an exhibition at the Oxford Hotel and it won. It was a nude portrait of an ex-boyfriend and I was really proud of it -“ and even happier when it won. I plan to continue working on my art, but these days it is about finding the time.
The Newtown Hotel has been going through a change and many people are now dropping by again because they have heard of the changes and want to see them for themselves. I think this hotel offers a great alternative space. It is mixed and happy and there is always plenty of live entertainment. They have dragged me on stage for two of the staff shows and I can’t say I was very good, but I gave it a go.
I met my boyfriend Ben six months ago across the bar. He had to pick me up as I can be a bit shy, but whenever he came in, he always put me at ease. I can’t say he is my favourite customer any more as he now admits he was only drinking here regularly at that time to pick me up. So now, instead of across the bar, I just see him at home.