Archives for Station Stories (and others)

Like many writers I have another (sadly more real) life working as a station host at a Melbourne railway station.  I actually love this job and all the public transporty things that come with it.  I get to see a microcosm of the world pass through my station every day and thousands of little stories unfold for my delectation.  I’ve started sharing some of them and a few non-station stories that take my fancy on Facebook.  Why not join me there on my facebook page? Or subscribe to my news page to receive new station stories

Station Story

Leaving the train, heard one youth saying to another youth.  “So we poured acid down the front of his pants.” Shudder! Can only hope its a computer game.

A friend tells me that a blow up sex doll is currently floating in a drain near Lilydale lake, slowly making its way down into the lake (and hence out to sea?)

Station Story

Sitting on the train yesterday, a sweet little white terrier wrapped its lead around my feet and I got into conversation with its owners.  Hard not to, because one of them G—a Big Issue vendor, was offering everyone in the carriage a bite of his KitKat or a swig from his coke.  It seemed it was his 57th birthday and he asked everyone for 5 dollars but was good humoured about the refusals.  His girlfriend (a similar vintage) told me all about how she had rescued the little white terrier from the puppy farm and how G—wasn’t right in the head since he’d been bashed up during a mugging.  She even showed me his bitten off ear.  Thus the time passed happily until I reached my stop.

Station Story

This morning even scattering of seeds covered the entire length of  Platform 2 as if someone had set out to plant a lawn on the asphalt.  I would have loved to know the cause.  Artwork? Insanity?  The greening of Metro? It was too evenly scattered to be the wind.

Later in the waiting room a girl with long dread locks was playing a pink ukulele.

 

Not a station story

While I was playing with my niece and nephew in the garden, the cat decided to relive itself in the nearby garden bed.  My niece crouched down in fascination hoping to the see the turd exist the animal’s behind.  My still crawling nephew scooted over to check out what was going on.  I managed to grab him and pull him back just before he lunged under the cats tail.  I was the only one worried by the whole incident.

Station Story
One of my workmates tells me that as he was locking up his station at 2.00 am Sunday morning he saw a naked woman get off the last train from the city. She was with a group of friends and walked calmly down the platform and went out. I hope very much that he wasn’t hallucinating. Ah me! Enquiring minds would love to know.

Station Story

As the 8.14 am pulled in this morning, one of the carriage doors opened and a pair of hands in blue business suit stuck out.  The hands parted and a butterfly flew out and free up into the sun.

On a different note, yesterday a woman came up around 9.00 am complaining that there was beer in the coin return slot.  I checked and sure enough it was full of beer.  Strange thing was it had probably been there since 6.30 am (and before) when I had tidied up the nights beer bottles – which meant that everyone that morning had collected their change out of a puddle of stale beer AND NOT COMPLAINED.  Note to self – in future check coin return slots. Even the passing school kids who regularly check the coin return slot in hopes of forgotten change had said nothing.

 

Station Story

So its Christmas time again and this year my work mate has encouraged me into a frenzy of Christmas activities.  ( I told her it was great to have kids around at this time of year and even though she’s only 21 she wasn’t v appreciative of this.  I wonder why not? J ) We have decorated the station with tinsel (up high so that it can’t be stolen when we’re not there. (oh the black hearts of some people. They WILL steal your tinsel if they can) and she is wearing a Santa hat of surpassing furriness.  It falls to me to wear the reindeer ears (the senior partner gets the toughest job)  I have three sets which I vary.  The set with the bells is my favourite but its structurally unsuited to windy conditions so sometimes I have to wear a shorter pair.  I have yet to wear all three at once.  Should I?  Xmas is a time for the big questions.

 

 

Station Story

The Holiday season seems pretty much over with the trains full of people who don’t have children on school holidays. Today was as similar and as different as any day here. While my workmate and I were discussing the rights and wrongs of arresting whaling protestors and the Kardashians predilection for oil enemas (Gah!) the JD Ceaux Street furniture man showed up to change our poster. Then another showed up and another until there were four.  We were worried that our offering them cups of tea may have lead to our having racy reputations among the JD Ceaux poster community but it turned out that three of them were there to change over a broken poster case for a newer and beauter one with extra back lighting.

Station Story

The retired jazz pianist showed up and brought us chocolate cake.  He likes to cook but lacks sufficient cake eaters at home and we like to be public spirited here. Another lady brought us delicious peaches from her garden. The smiling lady told us she was off for a medical procedure.  The walking frame lady was off for her doctor’s appointment. A very elegant lady got of the train and told us that a man reading aloud from Koran with a big bag clasped in his arms had give her the hebbe gebbes.

Station Story

We checked out the tall lawyer’s new wife.  Late last year he and the kiosk man were having one of those annoying conversations men have. You know the kind –

“I’m getting married next week.”

“You poor bastard.”

Lucky bastard you mean!   She was A TOTAL DISH! and seemed very sweet.

Station Story

The local mental health issue came round scrounging. I never buy him anything, but the Sudanese cleaner often buys him a coke.  The LMHI is my one man campaign against smoking.  You can’t light up anywhere around the station without him asking you for a smoke.  His size and the tattoes on his face make him look scary and he tends to leer at the nice looking women customers but if you get aggressive at him, he backs down. I’ve known him for almost five years now and he’s never done anything bad, unless you count the leering and the dancing and loudly singing along with his walkman. He’s like a big chaotic dog.  Everyone knows him.

“You know you love me,” he says today.

“Not after yesterday,” I tell him.

Yesterday he was leering too loudly at the female passengers and I told him to stop bugging them as I often do. So he mooned me.  A low moment and before my sustaining plate of breakfast porridge too. You have to tough to work on the railways

“Come on,” he says.  “My girlfriend says I’ve got the best arse around.”  And he swishes off to platform two where he continues to tell me that I love him. Guess that’s me outed.

Funny thing is he has a girlfriend, a new one every other month.

Station Story

Getting off at my own station a young man is hanging around asking for 2 dollars.  He’s the same guy I saw the day before staggering off a train with a plastic bag full of paint leaving behind a carriage full of paint fumes and middle class shock.  Chroming is not illegal, but it can’t be good for you.  Nor can it be a great high.  I suspect its mostly a testimony to the Chromers poverty. Chromers aren’t dangerous, but once I was standing on my work station and the train couldn’t go because the customers were holding the doors and refusing to travel any further with the chromer in the carriage with them.  The smell of paint was eyestinging and they wanted me to throw the chromer off. The testy train driver came and did the job for me in the end.

“Just let her go on the next train,” said my Station Master when I called to ask what to do about her.  So I did.  She was well known at our junction station and if she got too difficult, the police would come and drive her home.  I say was because she’s passed away now.

Station Story

Either it’s boringly quiet at a station or everything happens at once.  Yesterday just after the Station Master arrived for his daily check-on-the-staff visit, the next train was cancelled without warning and we had to run the gauntlet of disgruntled customers.  Added to this the Local Mental Health Issue started yelling from Platfrom 2 that we were missing out because he was dedicating himself to his current girl friend, a man wanted a glass of water to take some medication and in the middle of all that the Crystal Lady came up and asked if we had any nail polish because it was her first day in sandals for the summer and her toes nails looked ratty.  I guess my dark red nail polish prompted this request which on the whole is a pretty typical one for the Crystal Lady.

She’s very sweet older woman who deals in New Age things and who goes down the line most days to take her arthritic elderly dog for coffee at the local dog friendly café Of course I hadn’t bought nail polish to work, but just last week some one left of those clear plastic make up bags on he platform and since no one had turned up looking for it we’d figured we’d throw it out sometime soon. So we figured theCrystallady might as well have any nail polish that was in the bag and after the next train finally cleared the platform, we took a look to see.  We didn’t find any nail polish but what we did find hidden in a plastic bag was a tiny little miniature Johnny Walker bottle which had been beautifully turned into a bong.  A lovely delicate piece of street work.  Shame about its use and the fact that it stank of nicotine.

 

Station Stories

A busy day – first a lost purse, then when the 8.52 came in, a group of passengers beckoned me over to their door and thrust what looked like a white stuffed toy at me.  It turned out to be an unspeakably cute and woolly little terrier who had got on the train by himself a few stations earlier.  Dogs do this and then when they get off they’re too far from home to find their way back.  I had a feeling I’d seen this one before.  He was very friendly and jumpy. I searched for something to tie him up. Since I’ve lately been working with people who will insist on throwing everything out, all I could come up with was Christmas wrapping ribbon which is however extremely strong.  I rang the council ranger, gave the doggy some water and left him tied up at the station entrance under the eye of the kiosk men where he proceeded to charm everyone.  I went inside to eat some breakfast and when I came out 15 minutes later he was gone, wrapping ribbon and all.  Even the kiosk men have no idea what happened. But when I rang the ranger I learned he’d been safely collected.

Station Story

Today the Crystal lady was in great distress (although not willing to miss her train) because she had dropped a container of freshly made organic peanut butter on the train tracks.  I leapt in to help like the hero station host I  am.  Although these days railway employees are forbidden to enter the Pit (this is the evocative name we rail types use for the area of train track between the platforms) I do have a Scoopy Thing.  This thing, which is a plastic milk bottle cut in half and attached to a pole, created by some great hero station officer of times past, enables me to fish all kinds of things mostly mobile phones safely out of the Pit.The ST performed admirably but to be honest, I’m not sure the Crystal Lady will want the peanut butter as the jar has a big germ emitting crack in it.  Still that’s her decision for tomorrow.

Station Story

Last July someone scattered seeds over platform two.  My workmate Mel swept some of the seeds into the pit (the railway track between the platforms.) and the spring winds did the rest.  Over the past mild rainy year a field of grass has grown up between the tracks, a sward of tender green that waves elegantly in the wake of the passing trains.  So we are very happy to announce that this year someone or something has sprinkled seed on Platform 2 again.  Thank you whoever you are.

Station Story

Last week I admired the picture of Bender from Futurama on a customer’s tee-shirt.  She grinned at her partner and said, “Yes and he’s on our wedding cake too!”

Not a station story

During a routine X-ray I got chatting to the nurse.  We started talking about a recently deceased old family friend of hers.  “He was a lovely man and so funny.  He used to love our toilet.  I had ballet dancing statues on the cistern and he used to always complain that he wasn’t used to urinating in from of ballet dancers.  Oh dear!  Every time I clean the toilet now I think of him.”

Station Story

In October 2012 I was redeployed to a new station near Melbourne Zoo.  Its a much more tourist focused kind of job.  On the one hand I really miss all my old friends at my previous station especially Haci the kioskman and my lovely partner, Mel. Over 6 years I’ve got to know a lot about the people in my area and now I’ll never find out whether the Malyasian lady had a boy or a girl.  On the other hand there are consolations in working to the sound of monkeys hooting and lions huffing and the hours are much better. 

Station stories

I have to say it’s not as exciting at my new station.  This weeks highlight

A kinder class coming home after a zoo trip.  They always have one adult per two children and adults always sit them firmly down on the waiting room bench and stand over the sweet little kids as if they were prison guards at Guantanmo bay.  They are clearly terrified (understandably) of losing a child. This week brought a particularly smart kinder teacher who kept her charges happy by playing a singing game with them. “Willaby Wallaby Woo, An elephant sat one [add the name of the pupil whose name rhymes with the last word]” etc.  Good work that teacher! Give her a raise.  A big improvement on one I had later in the week, who after a day at the Zoo with a group of vigourous ten years olds, had clearly lost the will to live (not that I blame her) so that I had to be the one to prevent them from pressing the red button (more than three times) and making the myki software crash. Still it is a bit vanilla.  Could it be that I miss the Local Mental Health Issue? Surely not!

Station Story

The male lion in the zoo has been expressing his dominance lately by roaring at midday – astonishing to think that a flesh and blood body little bigger in volume than a humans can produce such mighty huffs of sound.

Noisy Miner

 

Out on the platform I have my own dominant wildlife.  A couple of clans of noisy miners (a native bird of great aggression and personality) live in the trees above platform 2.  They share this territory with some magpies. Recently the two sets of birds drove off an unfortunate crested pigeon which had the cheek to come into their territory with great determination and a lot of lost feathers.  They are quite fearless – willing to come up to your very shoe in order to pick bits of jelly bean and potato chip off the platform.  They can’t manage big pieces with their little beaks so I crush any large chunks of chip or biscuit with my feet so they can eat them up.  This doesn’t mean the ungrateful little sods recognize my right to be there.  They fly through the waiting room, little grey missiles with pointed yellow nose cones.  I’m not sure whether they are dive-bombing me or not, but sometimes they come so close their wings brush me so it’s hard not to take it personally.

Station story

A very strange figure got off the train around 3pm on the opposite platform a couple of weeks ago. As it tottered down the station towards me it proved to be a woman in a long red evening dress, her dark hair covered with the hood that was part of the dress.  Black high heels completed the ensemble.  She stopped at a bin to throw out a bottle and to light a cigarette.  I  couldn’t help staring so she waved and said hello.  Assuming she’d been out all night, I said “Did you have a good evening?” and she said something about the races and tips.  Then as she came even with me I saw that she was wearing a false arm, which she held very realistically but you could see the arm and straps across her back under the sleeveless dress.  “I’m 38 and about to become a grandmother,” she yelled cheerily at me.  My 20 year old is pregnant.”  What more else could I yell back but “Congratulations.” Oh, if only I could know the backstory here.

Station Story

The Zoo is very busy at the moment and hence the station is also busy.  One family – granny, mother and daughter stood out for me, because it was Granny who was covered in tatts.  As she got on the train I saw that they were all the faces of cats.  Were they memorials to all the cats she’d owned in her life, I wonder?

Station Stories

The Royal Melbourne Hospitals’ mobility unit is just nearby and so one of the “features” of my new station is people with missing limbs.  I have made friends with a young one legged Palestinian man who pushes round a wheelchair so that he can rest while he gets used to his new leg.  Yesterday he showed me a list of new names he is making.  Apparently the people he sees daily can’t manage his real name so he trying to work out what to change it too.  Since his real name is the same as a well known Australia river I’m not sure what their problem is. I told him they should learn and he said they hadn’t in the year he’d known them so they were unlikely to start now.

Station Stories

Yesterday as I walked across the crossing to work, a car screamed up and a woman leapt out and rushed into the station.  The driver, who turned out to be a parking inspector, told me that when she’d got out of the train at the previous stop, her 8 year old daughter hadn’t made it in time and had been left on the train.  He’d driven her down to our station where a family had taken the missing child under their wing. Mother and daughter had been tearfully reunited by the time I reached the waiting room.

As I was preparing to leave work, a man with two huge sticks got out of the train. They turned out not to be wizards staffs but fire sticks and he was looking for a nice big piece of parkland to practice his fire stick spinning in.  Thinking he’d terrify the golfers I directed him to a nearby oval. Such a useful Jane.

Station Stories Feb 2013

Plastic Dog Sausage Lust.

Last Friday picked up a shopping bag containing one zoo T Shirt, one dog toy consisting of a string of grinning toy sausages and one Incredible Hunk mobile phone cover.  Put it in lost property where it will probably go in the brotherhood bin if unclaimed.  But I was seriously tempted to make off with the dog toy which was cute. [Later I took a closer look at the T Shirt which proved to bear the immortal legend “A blow job is better than no job” Call me middle-aged, but who would wear this?!!

Station Stories

The man who whizzed unwisely

My station in middle of the Royal Melbourne Golf Course and the golf course maintenance men whizz around the place in their ride on mowers.  Unfortunately one of them whizzed unwisely over the railway crossing and one of the mower wheels fell off.  First thing I knew about it, three maintenance men were struggling to push/pull it off the tracks.  I stood there gawping for a time until I realized that my duty in this instance was to call Central and warn the oncoming trains.  Hard to take a ride-on-mower seriously as a vehicle but it could probably stop a train.  Fortunately by then someone had bought up the Gold Courses Bobcat and the mower was quickly dragged off.  The mower was scooting around happily the following day so no real harm done. They have better toys then me, the golf course maintenance men. I’m just happy to have a brush and shovel with a long handle.

Giant tortoises ate my bush

Now here’s an appropriate Story for a Zoo Station. Yesterday two Zoo Keepers showed up on Platform 2 and started chopping branches off the mirror bush. When I asked them what they were up to they told me that they regularly harvest this bush because apparently the Giant Tortoises just Luuuuv mirror bush leaves – their favourite treat.  The Keepers are happy when people ring them up to ask them to take the bushes out of their garden too.  I should perhaps mention that mirror bush is something of a weed in Melbourne.

Station Stories

An ordinary day

Well the lady who told me all about how the CIA were tracking her via her MYKI travelcard and bombarding her with infrared rays was unusual (though not as unusual as you might think.)  I wish there was someone you could inform about such people so that they could be brought in to have their medication reassessed before they got into trouble.

Anyway after she left I had a chat with some Canadian tourists about Vancouverand some people from Cairnswho thought Melbournians were wimps about humidity.  The nice Mediterranean lady with the husky voice came by and gave me a chocolate Easter bunny for my niece and nephew.  This lady travels 3 hours on the train five days a week to look after her very sick sister.  And they say no one cares about family anymore (mind you they’ve been saying it in every generation since the ancient Greeks.)

Later a train was cancelled (more unusual than you might expect) But the atmosphere in the waiting room remained good because of the small toddler wearing pink fairy wings who tottered around cutely offering everyone her water bottle and eliciting gooshy smiles from onlookers including yours truly.  (I should keep a good humoured toddler in stock for just such moments or maybe I could organize get some sent over from the Zoo. They always seem to have an enormous number there.)

Beer for Dummies

I made a new “friend” today. A young guy in his 30’s who was clearly under the influence of alcohol and carrying a large water bottle containing a liquid that looked and smelt like white wine, saw my uniform and came over and shook my hand.  “I’ve just moved into the area,” he said. He was on his way to Narcotic Anonymous and showed me the track marks on his arm. We got on the train together. He was a pleasant guy but of course no inhibitions, so he admired the redhaired girl on the next seat very loudly.  Then he noticed the cute baby opposite.  “That’s a cute baby,” he said.  “And well-behaved too.  When I was his age my father put beer on my dummy (pacifier) to keep me quiet.  Probably not the best idea”

 

Exploding preconceptions

One of the things I like about train travel is the way that exposure to the public explodes your preconceptions.

Like the other day when the Chinese-looking family I was sitting next to, started speaking to each other in fluent german, completely disproving my assumptions about their country of origin. They were three adults and two little children and the youngest in her pram was wailing with that tired whine of the exhausted toddler.  A Skippy guy standing over by the door, who with his long beard, tatts and Harley Davidson hoodie was clearly identifiable as a bikie, surprised me, when as the mother turned pram around to face him, started making those wide eyed goo-goo faces that helpful adults make to distract crying children.  Somehow he hadn’t struck me as the type to care for either Asians or babies.

 

Punk rockers 30 years later.

Well Johnny Rotten does butter commercials now.  But yesterday I was harangued on the station’s failure to provide toilets (apparently it’s a plot to encourage people to pee in the park so the cops can fine them) by a fifty + year old man with jelled up hair in a sex pistols t-shirt complete with tears and safety pins.  Maintain your rage people.  But don’t then smoke a pipe and chat to your family while waiting for the train.  Somehow it doesn’t fit the image.

 

The mix

This weekend they have track works near North Melbourne station which means yours truly has been working persuading sleeping drunks off trains (funny how often drunks tell you they love you) and directing people to replacement buses.  The buses a bit to the left are the buses for the costumed folk going to the Supernova SF media convention.  The buses further to the left are for the conservatively dressed people going to the races.  Have been giggling to myself about how delicious it might be if the two groups got mixed up.

Early morning station stories

Its hard to get up early for a 5 am start, but the pre-dawn sky is beautiful and speckled with stars and beyond the wall the docks are alive with lights as small vehicles rush up and down and cranes slide into place with stately precision.

The station is beautifully quiet and calm until around 6am, when we hear a strange slurred voice shouting “let me out let me out.”Down on the empty platform a man in a red t-shirt is standing screaming up at the sky to be let out and released from all these black people and women.  We collect on the concourse and peer down at him, one woman, some three Indians, one Indian woman.  He’s not trapped in the station, he could easily leave but whether from substances or psychosis he’s in a reality of his own. This is clearly a situation beyond station staff and one of us calls the police. But even we call a train comes in. An unfortunate young African man gets out of the train right into the face of red t-shirt.  Red tshirt stands over him abusing him until the train bell sounds.  Red tshirt then forces the door and jumps on and is whisked away to an outer suburb where hopefully the police will pick him up. We wait at the top of the stairs sighing with relief, grateful that no violence occurred and as the unfortunate young African comes up, I apologize to him.  I could have killed him if I wanted says the boy stiffly.  You did the right thing I tell him and he seems mollified, pride soothed.

Station Story for Autumn May 2013

Small parrots have gathered round the station to harvest the autumn grass seeds and their green and yellow plumages stands out against the grey autumn sky like streaks of colorization in a black and white film.  A group of Spanish ladies with little English take such interest in my work boots – are the soles hard, are the toes steel caped – that I suspect them of being Occupational Health and Safety consultants on holiday.

 

Local Characters

Last week I filled in for the man who goes out every day to checks the unmanned stations for faults and cleanliness.  Several times I came across one of the local “characters” Sometimes this huge square man in boxing shorts stands round chatting to people but when he’s got no one to talk to he squirts spray paint into a shopping bag, inhales the fumes and after he’s done that he talks to no one.

“Bro bro, we should start a boxing gym,” he says. Having this huge guy standing next to you swaying and talking to space is not the most comfortable experience.

If the stations seem grotty it’s not because they’re neglected.  They’re all cleaned twice a day.  “Do you know that big guy who chromes,” I ask the grey-haired Macedonian guy who cleans our line.  “Sure.  I call him Buffalo,” he says and starts laughing.  “He’s harmless.  I tease him sometimes.  Did you go pee pee in this corner? I say. He gets so embarrassed and apologizes even though he didn’t.”

It seems that Buffalo like most weird people on the train is not as dangerous as he seems but I don’t think I’ll put that one to the test- just in case.

Station story
A young man with an English accent and a guitar gets off the train and asks me the way to the walking path towards Jewel station. We get talking and he tells me he’s meeting a woman in the park halfway between the stations. They’ve met on Facebook and decided to get together and play their guitars. The weather changes and he’s back a couple of hours later. “Did you find her?” I ask. “Yes,” he says. “We had a couple of hours good playing songs up there. We should be able to get a performance together.”

Station Story August 2013

I’m back from the warmth of far North Queenslandto a week of working with chill winds nipping at my ankles and people fibbing to me about why they failed to validate their tickets.  (yes I do feel slightly bitter) The cleaner had to pour water into one of the wheelie bins to stop a cigarette butt fire.  The following morning he was pottering round the station, changing the garbage bags and rolling the watery wheelie bin to the edge of the pit and pouring the water onto the tracks.

“Look at him,” sneered a 14 year old schoolboy standing near me.  “His parents must be really proud of him.”  I was so shocked at this snobbery I glared at the boy and he saw me. I’m glad he did. It probably said more than all the witty ripostes I later thought of. Because, really, a more decent bloke than our cleaner you couldn’t hope to find. How could his parents not be proud?

Rainy day customers

Yesterday was rainy but the customers were good. An elderly man who told terrific jokes, a lady who showed me pictures of the banana pancakes she made for her pets and a man in a wheelchair. “I’ve just walked for the first time in 6 years,” he cried bubbling over with joy. We talked of the pleasures of being 6 foot tall and able to look people in the face again.

Umbrellas

We always pick up a lot of lost umbrellas at the station and its kind of practice to hand them on to other people during rain. On a day of pouring rain a man in a suit came to the station door and asked the way to a nearby conference centre. Its ten minutes walk away I say. Would you like one of our lost umbrellas. We happen to be a bit light on that day but he’s happy to take what he’s offered and goes off into the rain a man in a suit carrying a little clear plastic bell umbrella covered in clear flowers.

The singer

Heard singing from the waitingroom and tentatively stuck my head in fearing drunkenness or mental health issues. Surprised a young man in black, ipod buds in ears standing legs spread, hand on stomach and imaginary microphone pressed to his lips off in his own world concert.

The problems with little dogs

My friend in the wheelchair was back again this week, thrilled about the fact that his Chihuahua has had pups. He showed me pictures of these tiny little dogs and said it was a bit of a worry having seven very small dogs, most of them pups, racing round in front of his wheel chair – so he keeps a kitchen spatula handy so that he can nudge them out of the way when he moves.

Police.

A very distressed-looking middle-aged man was sitting in the platform 2 waiting-room while three policemen stood over him with the nonchalant grace of the young, strong and fit.  Their Greek god beauty took my breath away, but their intentions were entirely benign.  They’d found him drunk and asleep on the train and since he had nowhere to go, they were waiting for an ambulance, which I guess would transport him back (hopefully) into the social safety net.  In the meantime they listened patiently to him rave and at one point took him round the back of the waiting room and help him upright while he had a pee.(Were they humiliated or unfazed by this small necessary service, I wonder? )   I’ve often seen police caring for life’s casualties, buying food for junkies etc and its oddly confronting to my left-wing preconceptions. Another homeless man who got off the train didn’t see this scene as benign.  Galvanized into memoir, he sat down on his shopping trolley and started writing in a notebook in big red letters.  When I peeped over his shoulder, he was writing about being bashed and in between that describing the other people on the platform.  A less structured version of what I’m doing now.  After everyone had gone, I went over to Platform 2 to tidy away the drunk’s bottle and was startled to discover he’d been drinking our favourite medium priced Cab Sav.

Into the pit

Arrived at my supervising station to find a battered looking visually impaired man sitting in the staff room.  He’d fallen into the pit (on to the tracks) Though he was badly bruised, he was fairly fatalistic about the fall, but this station is extremely busy and the chances of his being run over high, so if anything the station staff were more shaken then he was.  They’d rushed around at top speed, stopping the trains and pulling him out before an unlucky accident became a tragedy.

Locomotives

Got chatting with a man on the platform who told me he’d been working for a rail freight company that had recently closed down.  “Give you an example of why,” he said.  When one of their locamotives broke down they payed me overtime to drive a car toNewcastleand stay overnight to pick up the part.  Said trains were too unreliable.

 

Station Story

In which Jane’s dignity is sorely compromised

How?  By being locked in the toilets, is how.  Someone shut the bolt outside the door and it took 10 minutes of rattling the door and yelling “help let me out!” before a rather bemused looking backpacker opened the bolt and did so.  Who was the culprit? Were they malicious or just being tidy? Or one of the number of children on the station at the time? It was a reminder to me to carry my mobile phone in my pocket so at least I could call someone from the central station to take the train down and let me out. Strange thing is it turns out everyone’s been locked in a toilet sometime.

 

Sunflowers

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the piece of waste land where people were living in tents had undergone a change. The number of tents has dwindled to one and a half.  An artist has come along and sown it with sunflowers. And they are now coming into bloom.  So if you are travelling between FlemingtonBridgeand Macaulay keep an eye out to the left.  I asked the artist how the guys in the tents felt about the art work and he said they were basically cool with it but felt a bit exposed when the initial work was done.  The artists name is Ben Morieson. The work is called Fieldwork and here is his diary of the project http://ben900.wix.com/fieldwork

The little old man

A little old man regularly takes the train two stations down the line to check the past use-by sale bins at the local supermarket.  His wizened face is the colour and texture of a dried fig, he always has a rollie sticking out of his mouth, and his dusty black baseball cap is on backwards.  Over the year, he’s given me a number out-of-date yoghurts and mars bars.  Alas his heavy Greek accent is almost incomprehensible to me.  I know the conversation always starts with the weather but then??? After a few minutes of him talking and me nodding and smiling, he pulls a wry face as if he’s told me the punch line of a joke (maybe he has) and darts quickly off as if avoiding a scolding. He sometimes leaves little piles of bread and noodles for the birds.  What I don’t understand is why he doesn’t take the noodles out of the packets.

The lost child

Occasionally it happens.  A mother struggles out onto the platform with a pram or a child, the second child is a bit slow in following, the train may be late, the visibility is poor, the door slams shut and the train takes off with the unaccompanied child inside.

In an American crime drama, something sinister would ensue, but in the real world there is still a lot of Benign about.

In the 2 mins it took for the train to reach my station, a kindly couple had taken the screaming child under their wing, red buttons had been pushed and everyone was on top of the situation.  An anxious train driver rushed down the train and oversaw the couple handing the lost little girl over to me.

She was a dear little thing in a pink dress who told me that she was four years old.  Once I’d reassured her that mummy would be coming on the next train and given her what presents my station contained – a bottle of water and an old children’s book – and promised her that I wouldn’t go away, she settled down quietly to play with the ticket machine.  Few little kids can resist that touch screen.  Ten minutes later a very relieved mother arrived and took her away – on the tram.

A poem!
Today the staff at my supervising station received a big box of chocs and a poem thanking them for their help in all weathers and wishing them a Happy Year of the Horse. Someone does love us, railway folk after all! (And no the chocs weren’t poisoned, just in case you were going to say that)

Teleconferencing
Also at the supervising station, a lady seemed to be teleconferencing with mobile phone and lap top on the bench outside the kiosk for an hour between 7 and 8 until the noise of rush hour got too loud. Then she moved to the corridor outside the insalubrious toilets and teleconferenced
on the floor there for another half hour. ??????
An itinerant travel writer talking to her publisher perhaps?
Diamante Hearts

A number of street people frequent my station.  I think there’s a counselling service nearby.  I’ve been very worried about one of my regulars, J. I like J because he is such a gentleman.  He always says, “Hi how was your day?” in a polite pleasant manner, even when he’s so stoned his eyes don’t focus properly.  He’s been chroming (paint sniffing) a lot lately, forever sitting around the station with a plastic bag full of paint shoved over his face.  He even got so stoned he fell over in front of a group of primary school children from the outer suburbs and lay there till I went round and helped him up.  He cuts himself on the arms and wanders round with blood all over his sleeves.  Apparently this is all down to the fact that he’s argued with his girlfriend and she’s “gone away to the farm” without him.  But this week he was back, a little stoned, it’s true, but not a plastic bag in sight.  “Did you enjoy your Easter?” he asks and he tells me he had pizza and Easter eggs at the pub with his girlfriend so all must be well again. He’s wearing a pair of dark glasses with a diamante heart picked out at the bottom of the right hand lens.

A number of street people frequent my station.  I think there’s a counselling service nearby.  I’ve been very worried about one of my regulars, J. I like J because he is such a gentleman.  He always says, “Hi how was your day?” in a polite pleasant manner, even when he’s so stoned his eyes don’t focus properly.  He’s been chroming (paint sniffing) a lot lately, forever sitting around the station with a plastic bag full of paint shoved over his face.  He even got so stoned he fell over in front of a group of primary school children from the outer suburbs and lay there till I went round and helped him up.  He cuts himself on the arms and wanders round with blood all over his sleeves.  Apparently this is all down to the fact that he’s argued with his girlfriend and she’s “gone away to the farm” without him.  But this week he was back, a little stoned, it’s true, but not a plastic bag in sight.  “Did you enjoy your Easter?” he asks and he tells me he had pizza and Easter eggs at the pub with his girlfriend so all must be well again. He’s wearing a pair of dark glasses with a diamante heart picked out at the bottom of the right hand lens.

Missing partner

On Friday C, one half of a homeless couple who frequent the station and make a living begging at the local shops, had mislaid her partner M. She came through the station a couple of times all the time worrying, worrying, about M.  First she went to the case worker and then to her partner’s step father as he is the contact if the police or hospitals pick up M when he’s drunk or has had an epileptic fit. She wasn’t willing to ring the police directly.  She clearly didn’t trust them.

C and M doss down in an old shed somewhere near the park which they say is nice and dry, thought I was relieved to hear that they have moved in with a friend for the winter.  Once when she was a bit drunk, C told me all about her life which seemed to involve abusive by ex-prisoner partners, estranged children and struggles with the State Trustees. She’s short and round and very non-descript looking but on the rare occasions she takes off her beanie, she has beautiful auburn hair. She and M seem very happy together – a world of their own contained in the small backpack they carry round.  I was very glad to see M safe on yesterday when he waved out of the train at me as they were going by.

Hungover

A man got off the train and collapsed onto a seat with his face in his hands.  When I went over to see if he was alright, he said, “I’m just sooo hungover. I had to get off the train.”  Poor thing, he didn’t think he could even keep a glass of water down.  Unfortunately he’d chosen the wrong station for a quiet sit down. About 5 mins later 100 cheery school children came over from the Zoo and spread out down the platform

 

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