On casual racism

 

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?

The Magpie Dilemma

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.

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/offtrack/thbe-magpies-among-us/6777832

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.

On International relations

 

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.

 

Woo Hoo! I’ve sold a book.

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: j.jarrold@btinternet.com phone: 01797 227426

24th June 2019

Campbell Arcade Art Show

The Campbell Arcade, the strange but beautiful little pink tiled throat that links the Desgraves Street entrance to Flinders Street Station, is likely to be modified to make way from the Metro Tunnel though its not clear how much.  Will it remain a refuge for arty types when it is turned into a tunnel linking to the new town hall station or will it be freshened and modernized out of existence?

Till then the Vitrines will continue displaying art.  I really enjoyed Heroines in Petticoats, one of the best displays I’ve seen for a while.

Check it out.

Here is a review by Melbourne Art Critic Mark Holsworth

Heroines Petticoats @ Dirty Dozen

A dozen surreal installations tell a history of Australian women. “Heroines in Petticoats” by Kelly Sullivan, Kirsti Lenthall (Empire of Stuff), Gigi Gordes and Liz Sonntag (Tinky) is an engaging and accessible exhibition that has a coherent and relevant theme.

The height and depth of the dozen vitrines in the pink tiled Campbell Arcade, the Degraves Street underpass to Flinders Street Station has been used to great effect. Too often the Dirty Dozen has been occupied by art students who have alienated the general public, forgetting or ignoring that this space is very public at Melbourne’s central metropolitan railway station. There were several people paying close attention to it when I saw it around midday on Thursday.

The vitrines create a timeline of the lives of Australian women from the colonial era to the present. The heroines of this timeline are not specific women, heroines to represent an era but women in a general non-specific way. This absence of specificity meant that the artists tended to represent white suburban women.

As well as, the timeline there were specific causes associated with specific eras from the anti-conscription movement of the 1910s to the domestic murder rate of today. There was no mention of the temperance movement, as it was a women powered movement, but it is not longer seen as righteous.

Although each of the cases is labelled as the work of specific artists there is a coherent look to the whole exhibition. There are differences Kelly Sullivan’s collage, Kirsti Lenthall’s ceramic decals on plates and impressively on quartz rocks, or Gigi Gordes’s disembodied body parts; hands typing, the eyes on the glasses, mouth on the mug, mouth on the phone (I don’t know why the objects are covered in crochet) and, a few cabinets later, the hands on a glass of wine.

It was Tinky’s work that drew my attention to the exhibition as I know Gigi and Tinky’s art from the street. However, Tinky’s puns were the weakest elements of the exhibition. Written on paper and the little titles didn’t match the style of the rest. Unfortunately her puns give meaning to her tableaus and without them they would just be some odd HO scale model train figures.

About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne.

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.

 

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.

 

The Bee Man

The Australian native teddy-bear bee photographed by Erica Siegel. From https://www.aussiebee.com.au

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been fascinated by an older man who potters past the station in the late afternoons, wearing a floppy khaki hate and carrying a fine mesh butterfly net.

Recently I managed to speak to him and discovered that he was (1) French and (2) an expert on Australian Native bees.  Apparently Royal Park has 90 (yes 90!!, I queried this figure at the time) different species of native bee and now the flowers were coming out he was hoping to find some of them active.

He’d been disappointed so far though.  The ground was too cold still and the bees weren’t interested in the wattle trees that are bursting goldenly into bloom on all sides.  Which makes sense because wattle trees are wind pollinated (and wildly hayfever causing as many of us know to our cost) https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2018/oct/29/bees-of-australia-up-close-with-native-species-in-pictures?ut