A tongue in cheek account of life as an Engineering Services Supervisor

Memoirs of an ESS - or - How I learned to stop worrying and trust the trades team

Be warned all those who seek the position as head of the trades team. The gig of the Engineer Services Supervisor (ESS) is tough, not for the faint hearted. Once on station, for the first half of the year it will feel like the days never end and for the last half of the year, your day will start before sunrise and end well after sunset!

Myself I like to start my day with a latte or ‘cuppa joe’s’ as it’s referred to in the common tongue. Milk, no sugar, naturally (I’m sweet enough). One of the station's plumbers’ hands me my brew as I come down the stairs of the Living Quarters (LQ) into the mess or dining hall as I prefer to call it, sit back and peruse the days papers, Australian, International and puzzle page. It’s a simple enough routine, one that has served me well thus far.

I may also treat myself to a bowl of granola that one of the sparkies makes from scratch along with homemade Greek yoghurt and mixed berries to provide me with the energy required to make it through yet another working day at Davis station.

After you’ve broken your fast it’s important to throw on a high visibility shirt and hard yakka pants (the name says it all) so you blend in amongst the rest of the trades team you’re leading. Then it’s time for your morning stroll which doubles as your commute to the office for a pre-start meeting with your team at the workshop.

At the meeting its important to ensure that everyone is busy for the day, so busy in fact that they don’t get a chance to notice you’re not around… I’ve found that asking a question like “who is qualified to ride a quad bike and knows how to <INSERT UNPLEASANT TASK>?” Is a great way to get unpleasant or unwanted tasks done. Always be sure to “delegate” your own work list as that frees up precious time for ‘meetings’ and other ‘important engineer stuff’.

Once the trades teams are off and going about their tasks for the day it’s time to change out of these ‘hard yakkas’ (LOL!), don some chinos and a sweater, grab your golf clubs and get in a quick 9 before smoko.

If any of the trades team sees you out of high vis don’t give them time to get close and ask what you’re doing, get in first! Start by shouting “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!” Followed by some gibberish, quote a random work order number e.g. IM-1337 finish with “B.M.C.S… FIRE, PANEL, ALARM!” wave your arms about and throw a knife hand*, first at the offending person then towards the nearest building. They will scuffle off pretty quick. Leaving you in peace to enjoy your morning on the course.

It also pays to monitor the radio traffic at all times, this gives the sense that you are everywhere, but you are also nowhere to be seen ;).

Smoko for you will usually consist of coffee, or tea if you desire. Fresh baked scones with cream and jam (of course) and an assortment of both sweet and savory choices ranging from freshly baked cookies, cakes, muffins and other delicacies. Sometimes when my palate desires I choose the smoked salmon, pickles, stuffed olives and assortment of cheeses over the sweeter options… It’s nice to have a little variety in these matters.

After smoko I oft retire to the cinémathèque for a private screening of whatever film takes my fancy that day. A two-hour window until lunch allows you to arrive fashionably late to the dining room, adding to the mystery and image of the difficulties and hardship you face in your role. i.e. you’re so busy you can’t even get to lunch on time (I should point out that it’s advisable to change back into the hard yakkas whenever in a public setting, one should never dine in their golf attire).

Sit with a few of your team at lunch, listen to their furphies of the mornings ‘yakka’, commit some of these details to memory. This will assist you at dinner when you recite them to the rest of the team making it sound like you were right there in the thick of it, leading the charge!

If anyone asks you about your morning you were strung up with meeting upon meeting (after several repetitions of this they will stop asking you and just assume). This aids your cause towards being the grey person or chameleon on station, ever blending into the background and avoiding notice, allowing you to pursue more pleasurable activities.

I have oft found myself rather sluggish after a lunch. This is an opportune time to get in a nap. With everyone else about their tasks there’s plenty of hot water and the living quarters are quiet. Bathe, moisturise (the air is dryer than a cheap martini down here) and rest your weary bones, after all you’re going to need your strength for the afternoons gym, sauna and spa session. In my humble opinion keeping up appearances is most important, both professionally and personally.

The evening meal is announced by the ringing of a bell where by the silverware is set and minimum 3 course banquet is served. A polite and courteous compliment to the chef goes a long way to ensuring the choicest portions are always kept aside for you.

After dinner I tend to retire to the bar for a quiet night cap. I recall a quote I once heard “you can live without almost all of life’s necessities as long as you have a few of its luxuries”. Fine whiskey and live musical entertainment on a Friday night are not uncommon, it’s not Chopin, Brahms or Beethoven but remember where you are, we all must make sacrifices.

Throughout the remainder of the week an evening’s entertainment can easily be found through various gentlemanly pursuits, pool, snooker, darts, a flutter at blackjack or for the scholar, a quiet evening spent at study in the library. These are all vices I’ve taken part in over the year I’ve spent here. There is also an assortment of board games, cards and jigsaw puzzles should you wish to challenge your mind even more.

Once you get the trades team functioning without you there is little else to worry about as the ESS. Acquiesce to requests for things, ‘delegate’ somebody else to do them, then claim the credit for its completion. Quite simple really. Just don’t let the team realise that they don’t require you, so invest in a quality façade. Make the most of your precious time here and set some reasonable goals. I myself have taken 4 strokes off my handicap and I intend to return home a much fatter and happier cat than when I arrived.

Cheerio and pip pip

Dawson Courneya

Davis ESS 2022/23