Wow!

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.

 

On men at work

On Men at Work

It’s late one Sunday night.  Workmen are replacing the wooden sleepers with concrete ones on the tracks at the Junction.  Since the trains cannot run, I’ve been rostered on to put people onto buses. An Eminem concert, a Japanese festival and the Caravan and Camping show have combined to make the day very busy.

But later as the night comes down and the lights turn everything softly golden and shadowy, the crowds clear and there is time to stop and watch the men working.

The sight has a strange beauty. Machines advance and retreat, lifting rails or dropping or tamping ballast and their human attendants follow them with the elegant precision of a dance number.  There are no whistles or yells, not even much talk, just the love roar of machinery and the rhythmic clanking of steel on stone.  The men have done this a thousand times all over the system and everyone knows his job.  One gang waits at ease while another moves in step tightening rivets with sledge hammers and special hooks.  Here and there small groups huddle secretively over wielding rigs.  Watching these big beefy guys falling in behind the huge machines reminds me of watching the infantry fall in behind the tanks in old war movies or the Guild of Navigators in David movie of Dune.

By the time morning comes it will as if no one has been there except that the wooden sleepers have now turned as if by magic to concrete.    And very probably none of the day commuters will even notice they’ve been there.

 

10.55 to the Junction

 

After two decades of wishing I could swim in the sea more often and 10 years of working out of the Junction, I finally clued to the fact that there’s a beach 20 minutes train ride from there.  Doh!

An organizational task which seemed at first overwhelming, checking train-time tables, packing uniform and bathers and towels, proved on closer inspection to be perfectly doable.

All my life I’ve assumed a visit to the beach must begin with a hot hour (s) long drive to the beach, a heavy hike across dunes from the car park and a day spent rubbing sandy sun screen into boiling skin in the inadequate shade of an unstable umbrella.

But all through this long hot summer, I’ve taken the 8.47 to BeachTown and spent an hour bobbing round in the crystal green ocean, peering at fish and sea lettuce through my goggles and getting well and truly chilled to the bone.  Sometimes a friend comes too so much talking gets done.

A quick rinse off and maybe a muffin and a cuppa at the kiosk and its back on the 10.55 to the Junction in time for work. A low carbon treat that has the added pleasure of sounding like I’m in a novel by Agatha Christie, Conan Doyle or Enid Blyton.  (hopefully without the murder)

 

 

Another reality

Last week I entered the mysterious world of Hanson fans. Two middle-aged women fans met in the waiting room and with the shining faces of true believers were talking of their love for the band while waiting for the train. That was how I learnt (1) that Hanson the band (MMMBop – yes that Hanson) were still playing after 25 years and (2) that they were playing two sell out gigs at the Zoo after playing a sellout gig at the St Kilda Palais.
“I’m going to all their shows and next week I’m following them to Sydney to see all their shows there,” says the middle-aged woman in the brown floral dress.
“Me too,” says the other one, a tall woman in a tight leaf-pattern sheath. “They’re so good to their fans, every year they hire out at a resort in Jamaica where you can spend a week with them.”
“Is it a competition or do you pay to go?” I ask.
“Oh I paid. Last year I went. It was awesome”.
“You went!” cries brown floral dress. “You lucky thing.”
“They appeal to everyone” says leafy dress. “I took my daughter to the gig at the Palais.”
“I took my mother,” says brown floral dress.
“And do they still look as wonderful as they did back in the nineties?” I ask thinking of the bands I used to follow and how they have aged.
“They look better,” says brown floral dress. “My mother took one look at the drummer and said, “You have no business being so pretty.””
There are so many other realities out there and when you brush against them and try to imagine living in them the world gets bigger and stranger.

Hot Velvet Night in Queenscliff

A four carriage train with a blues singer/band in every carriage? How great is that! And it was too. We arrived at 6.30 and were served a delicious meal of salads and slow cooked meats on the quaint little Queenscliff railways station. After a day of 36 degrees, it was fabulous to enjoy the cool sea breeze and watch the sun going down over a golden inlet covered with flocks of swans and pelicans. As darkness fell we boarded the train and set off towards Drysdale. At every stop we changed carriages so that by nights end we’d all seen four gigs. And very excellent gigs they were too. Dancing was not easy in a moving carriage but it was impossible not to tap your feet and claps your hands. We warmed up with International Blues Challengers, Rhythm X Revival, got really revved up by Japanese blues man, George Kamikawa, (Kampai!) chilled to the orginal songs of Wayne Jury and got dancing again to Tiana Martel’s powerful voice. The blues, the train and the hot velvet night – maybe we really were in the Mississippi Delta.

You can’t buy drinks on the train but you can get them (and an ice bucket to carry them around in) at the station. And an ice cream at Drysdale. Now that’s living!
Many thanks to Hugo Armstrong of the Blues Train for the complementary tickets.

The Blues Train Homepage

A young man’s dream

A young man in a yellow high-vis vest gets off the 4.04 and hovers by the front door peering down the platform. I look at him enquiringly and he nods back at me in a friendly way. But he stays where he is, hovering. Just as I’m starting to wonder what his deal is, the platform clears. He turns, puts his fingers in his mouth, lets out a piercing whistle and jumps back in the train.
Apparently our suburban train service has acquired an unofficial conductor who’s whistling at every stop.
I ask my workmates if they’ve seen him and they’ve all had some brush with him.
“The train driver can’t see through him,” says one. “So I told him to get lost!”
Secretly, I hope to see him again.

Train Conductors Hat from Walmart

The kindness of strangers

Sign found in Coburg Station waiting room.

The middle aged man with the beard and the big coat clearly wanted to chat, but I was at the exciting part of my book and had been looking forward to using the train journey to read it. So I replied politely and then disengaged, firmly gluing my gaze to the page
Further down the line, the man got lucky. I was so enthralled with the conversation I stopped reading.
A young bloke with a skateboard got in and the man started a conversation about his neck chains which moved rapidly onto talking about homelessness.
“I lost my f… house, my daughter, my wife two months ago.”
“How are you finding it?”
“F… freezing last night. Terrible.”
“Yeah I know what it’s like. I was homeless for 12 months after my f… step dad kicked me out. Almost died of f… hypothermia a coupla times.”
“Yeah! F… hard to find somewhere dry.”
“Did you know where you can get a free feed every weekend?”
They slipped into talking of ways and means.
Then coming into the junction, the young bloke said,
“I found a place and I’ve been there almost a year. We got two spare couches in the living room. Here, why don’t you take my address and phone number, just come round tonight and we’ll put you up.”
The middle aged man was touched and I, eavesdropping, got a lovely warm feeling in my chest.
“You sure?”
“Yeah, yeah! Just show up tonight. I know what it’s like.
“That’s pretty f… great of you.”
My heart was lifted by this conversation yet at the same time I was fearful. What if someone was hurt? What if someone was assaulted or taken advantage of? I was brought up to distrust the kindness of strangers which is sad. But also wise.
But homelessness cuts down your choices

A Day at the Races

It’s Race Week and I spend the days at Flemington Racecourse station cooking sausages for all the staff there.  And there are many there, station staff, security men, racing club hosts, drivers, signalers and maintenance guys, who sometimes have nothing to do all day but tighten the screws on the BBQ and hold themselves in readiness in case a train breaks down or a protester purposely parks on the railway tracks and throws away the car keys the way they did last year.  Racing is Australia’s third biggest industry, the Melbourne Spring Carnival its biggest race week and consequently it’s also Metro’s biggest week.  A screw up on a race day can seriously dent your credibility as Connex discovered to its cost one year when a train fried itself to the overhead wires and thousands of people had to walk home.

I was bought up by ex-Methodists and consequently I knew little of Race Week until I came to work for the railways.  My parents looked askance at drinking and gambling and saw no need for the ostentatious spending of money on fabulous bags, shoes, clothes, make-up, hair and race tickets.

A day at the races II by Giancarlo Impiglia

But though I’d never spend that amount of money on self-adornment, I really appreciate that others do it.  All those lovely people on the morning train in hats and dresses and suits. They look so important even though they’re probably not.  The really important people are probably driven.

I have to admit that I also kind of appreciate the aftermath in a shamefully smug ex-Methodist way.

This Derby Day, I’d cooked 400 pieces of meat and I stank of sausage grease.  No need to moisturize that night. I took the train back to the Junction with people laughing, staggering and shouting.

On the platform two young men in beautiful suits and ties were doing the drunken waltz – The less drunk one trying to hold up a more drunk companion who is heading for the ground.  Round and round and down and down they went until finally gravity won and the more drunk man had a little lie down on the platform while his mate went off to find – who knows what?

As I plodded up to the station office, I passed another beautifully dress couple in their 40’s doing a similar waltz, he holding up her.  She was barefoot and hatless.  The air was loud with people yelling “Here I’m over here,” “There are no Taxis, call an Uber” and some of them just yelling.  God knows what it was like at Flinders Street and Southern Cross stations where most of the race-goers change trains.

“Someone’s passed out on Platform 4” I told the Station Officer who sighed, and called up the para-medic.  Out the back the other para-medic (two are rostered at the Junction every race day.  Also three extra cleaners) was out there taking care of a young woman throwing up in a bag.

I stayed in the warm office helping the Station officer deal with the stream of lost hats, wallets, bags and shoes and deal with drunks complaining about trains and asking for cabs and trying not to get too close to anyone so that they wouldn’t be overwhelmed by my eau de sausage.

By the time my train home came, the spare paramedic was down on platform 4 wheel chair at the ready, helping the young man haul his mate to his feet and watching tensely as they staggered round and round the platform until a train came in and took them safely away.