The beautiful Mountain Ash forests on the Black Spur outside Healesville are my favorite place in the world. Their spicy peppery earthy smell is the perfect fragrance, the smell of home. After the grief and collective loss of beautiful places and animals in the New Years bushfires, I decided to visit the Black Spur. These are some of the most flammable forests on earth and they haven’t burnt in a while. We have 2 more months of fire season to go. So I went there last weekend.
Just in case.
I’d love to see recent pictures of you in your favourite place in nature.
One late night meal break about six months ago, a bored Protective Services Officer drew a picture on a piece of paper towel and stuck it on the wall.
Since then many of P.S.O’s who staff Zoo Station on a rotating roster, have added little cartoons/sketches to the wall signing them with their departmental numbers. Such a pleasure to open up and see what popped up last night. Some are quite talented, some seem to be tracings of pop culture figures but if you can’t draw… – well my favourite is one labeled Mick the Stick which is just a line. My least favourite is of a certain American President. Does he have to be everywhere?!! (an no I shall not put him in here.)
I’m getting ready for my shift in the backroom of the Junction, when the Station Master calls out, “You ladies might like to stay in there. There’s a guy walking around out there naked.”
Feeling sorry for the passengers outside who must face this spectacle without a place to hide, the other “lady” and I search round in the lost property locker for any old clothes. The only thing we can find is a lost MacDonald’s uniform. Possibly giving that to the kind of person who walks around naked at a railway station will get us into trouble. One would hate to offend a multinational corporation.
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org phone: 01797 227426
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.
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
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.