Its 22.30 one Sunday evening and we are once again chivying people off trains and onto buses so that men can work on the tracks. We tend to do a circuit of the quiet station calling out, “Replacement buses outside the station,” to everyone because no matter how many announcements they make over the PA, someone always misses them and gets angry about there being – “No announcements!”
My Indian workmate is going down the escalators ahead of me and coming up towards us on the opposite escalator are an ordinary-looking elderly couple in their 60’s – probably someone’s Nan and Pop.
“Replacement buses outside the station!” she calls helpfully to them as she goes past on the escalator.
And the man turns and says calmly to her retreating back –“Don’t yell at me, you black c**t!
I’m shocked, appalled and unfortunately speechless. I glare at them but they don’t meet my eye as they go past. They are as expressionless as if he’d said nothing – bored people on an escalator. Is saying such an awful thing just every day for them? Like shopping?
I should have said something. But perhaps she didn’t hear him and if I’d spoken out – called him the racist bastard he was – she would have known what he said. And no one needs to hear that. But if she did hear it and I said nothing, what will she think then? That I agree? That would be awful!
I say nothing to her and she doesn’t mention it. She doesn’t seem upset. Maybe she didn’t hear him. Or horrifying thought – she’s used to it. We do get a lot of abuse on these bus nights and it must be even worse if you stand out as different.
But I should have called this guy out as a racist bastard. Shoulda! Shoulda! I’m so furious when I think of it. Why did my words fail me at the time?
One of the matriarchs of the tribe of magpies who thrive around my stations, has broken her leg maybe even a hip or rib – a bad break which causes her to huddle on the ground with her wing all askew. But she’s survived 5 days and, more importantly, nights now. She sits like a duck among the grasses and the customers throw her bits of food. She can fly and perhaps she has found a safe place to huddle in a roof or tree at night.
Concerned zoo volunteers encouraged me to ring the zoo vets. You have to be a true animal lover to be a zoo vet- willing to come out a chase a wounded magpie round a golf course in your own time. They’ve come out twice with nets and boxes but she’s too smart and quick for them – still fit and vigorous despite the leg.
“Perhaps you could try and throw a coat or something over her and then wrap her up” suggests the vet. “Then ring us and we’ll come right out and get her. But be careful. They have a savage bite.”
As if I need warning. I’m scared of that huge beak. (so are most of the customers – sometimes feeding the magpies looks more like a mugging) And I’m scared of the rest of the tribe too. Australian magpies are sophisticated social creatures with long memories who regularly blind school children in territorial disputes.
I’d be willing to be more courageous if I was more certain of the cause. But the zoo vets say they will probably have to euthanize her if they catch her. And she’s still alive and full of beans and pecking at her fledglings when they try and move in on her food.
Do I work towards this death for her- she may be in a lot of pain – or shall I let nature take its course? She may get better. Although probably not. She may survive with one leg. Lots of birds do. Or she may die a horrible slow painful death or be eaten by an urban fox. I do wish she could sign one of those voluntary euthanasia forms.
So that is my Magpie Dilemma.
The little Chinese girl pulls her sleeves over her hands and waves the empty sleeves at me. I look horrified (Oh no! where are your hands?) She lifts up her arms and her hands pop out of her sleeves. I respond with appropriate cries of relief and amazement. We don’t need a common language to enjoy this popular children’s game.
photo by Trudi Canavan
PRESS RELEASE – WORLD ENGLISH LANGUAGE RIGHTS DEAL FOR FANTASY NOVEL BY AUSTRALIAN AUTHOR JANE ROUTLEY
Kate Coe at Solaris Books has acquired World English Language rights to Shadow in the Empire of Light, a fantasy novel by award-winning Australian author Jane Routley. The agent was John Jarrold.
Jane Routley has won the Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Novel twice – for Aramaya and Fire Angels. Her story “To Avalon” was nominated for a both an Aurealis and Ditmar Award.
Shine is an orphan without magical gifts in a family of powerful mages, and is stuck managing the family estates with only an eccentric aunt and a telepathic cat for company. But when the family descend on the house for the annual Fertility Festival, Shine is plunged into intrigue; while helping one cousin to find a compromising letter, rescuing another from an unwelcome alliance and hiding a fugitive, she also discovers a smuggling ring and then stumbles upon a murderous plot to depose the current Family Matriarch, and is forced to run for her life. Kate Coe describes the book as “modern Jane Austen with magic”.
John Jarrold said: “I love the protagonist, Shine, a 23-year-old who I think will entrance readers of recent fantasy by authors like Alison Goodman and Victoria Aveyard. There’s an assured lightness of touch here (and some great humour over the openness of the magic wielders’ dealings involving sex) but also some welcome darkness. The larger story is only starting to unfold as this book ends, and we’re talking to Solaris about that too.”
Contact Kate Coe or John Jarrold for further information:
Kate Coe – e-mail: Kate.Coe@Rebellion.co.uk
John Jarrold – e-mail: email@example.com phone: 01797 227426
24th June 2019
Finest Jamestown Butt Bucket
Outside the station door I have an ice cream container full of sand for people to put cigarette butts in. It cuts down on the mess smokers make. Lately the butts have been disappearing and I’ve naively been assuming the cleaner is emptying them out. So I am terribly embarrassed to walk out of the station and discover a neatly dressed woman my age, crouched over the butt bucket collecting the butts. I cry “opps” as if I’ve interrupted someone doing something shameful, which to my mind I have. But of course that makes it worse because now she knows I’ve noticed. I feel I have created a difficult social situation.
But the lady isn’t ashamed. She’s about my age and looks like a librarian. Glasses and middle class teeth. Assertively she asks me whose bucket it is and if I could put more sand in so that the cigarettes don’t burn down so much. She even asks me if I will collect them in a little bag for her. This latter is bridge too far ever for a chronic people-pleaser like me. I say no I wouldn’t be comfortable with that. Then we have a little chat about holidays, because she is apparently saving for one. Hence the need to save on smoking.
I presume she will take the butts home and either smoke them or unwrap them and make roll ups out of the left over tobacco. Gah!
I’m startled that someone so middle class looking is collecting butts like this which makes me wonder about; (1) my own socio-economic pre-conceptions and (2) more interestingly what sort of life has brought this woman to doing something usually only the homeless do? Divorce, addiction, mental illness, plain bad luck? Homelessness? Its closer to us all than we think. Station life is full of interesting mysteries and wondering about them keeps me going during the quiet shifts.
One of my regulars, a flamboyantly dressed gentleman with a rather camp voice tells me he is “73 and has 5 children by 4 different women – and ten grandchildren.”
He’s in the construction industry, but would rather be a singer and sometimes does perform in clubs. He has a lot of blingy jewelry, a big watch (sadly wasted on me as I have no ability to judge what’s real and what’s costume with jewelry) and an obsession with staying young, He dies his hair “and I’ve spent 10,000 dollars on this nose and I’m thinking of going back and having these re-done.” He rubs the spot on his temples where laughter lines normally grow. His are oddly smooth and shiny. I tell him he looks fine.
“Aren’t you lovely,” he says. He’s a sweet guy.
He’s not so open with everyone. I caught him talking to a younger, prettier woman the other day.
“Yes I’m 73 and have ten grandchildren. You wouldn’t know, would you? Nobody thinks I look 73. I eat a lot of vegetables. I swear by them.”
Clearly he doesn’t tell everyone his secrets. Probably he doesn’t think me worth impressing. But I can live with that.
Horses and birds
Around mid-afternoon the cleaning and catering staff from the hospital come in. I avoid one older woman with badly dyed red hair and a long Australian face, because, as she plods up the ramp like an old horse, all she does is moan at the lateness of trains and how that terrible hill up to the station will be the end of her after a long shift. You cannot get a smile from her. She’s a glass completely empty kind of person.
The small group of Nepalese staff are more like a flock of noisy sparrows, no doubt bonded by their shared experiences of displacement, They’re puffed out by the hill but happy to chat and joke about late trains. Lately I’m delighted to see they have taken the Australian woman under their wing. They gather round her laughing, dragging and chivying her along, all puffing up the hill together to make the train. She smiles more these days.
OMG. I’ve just written a parable about the virtues of immigration. All taken from life, I assure you.
Railway stations are also market places. I’ve seen people selling bikes and I’m pretty certain a lot of drugs change hands.
But this is unexpected – the alleged sale of a sugar glider, seen in the hands of the middle woman, for 1 thousand dollars in the waiting room at North Melbourne station.
Deeply illegal and bad for the environment. ( not so great for the sugar glider either.)
Station staff noticed and reported it to the police, but I don’t know the outcome.
Here is the article from The Flinders News
CCTV footage of the sale of a sugar glider From The Flinders News
Three women are being sought over the alleged trade of a live Sugar Glider at a Melbourne train station.
Police have released CCTV images of three women after the alleged possession and trade of the native animal at North Melbourne station on February 12, about 1pm.
The first woman is described as Caucasian, in her 50s, with blonde bob-length hair and wearing a black cardigan, blue shirt and grey pants.
The second woman is perceived to be Asian, in her 30s, with black hair in a high ponytail. She was wearing a grey cardigan and black-and-white printed dress.
The third woman is described as Caucasian, in her 20s, wearing a grey hoodie covering her face and red spotted pyjama pants.
The Victorian Department of Environment says it has intercepted hundreds of native species being illegally trafficked in recent months.
“We continue to pursue offenders in a bid to stop these cruel, illegal practices. Help us put an end to wildlife being trafficked, traded, and traumatised.”
Sandy and a seriously thrilled Jane
Here is the wonderful Sandy from Geelong, costumier extraordinaire, dressed up as Yanimina Tari, The War Raven, one of the main characters in The Three Sisters and The Melded Child. How cool is that! You know you must be doing something right when someone cosplays one of your characters at Supanova.
Thank you so much Sandy. You made my week.
I’d love to acquire the costume when you’re finished with it.