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'Funkytown' comes to Richmond Station

We're working hard to keep Melbourne moving right now, but we want to keep you smiling too! 😊This is what happened when 'Funkytown' came to Richmond Station. 🎵🎵🎵#metromovesmelb#richmondstation#tiktok#metrotrains#publictransport#melbourne

Posted by Metro Trains Melbourne on Monday, May 11, 2020

The staff at Richmond cheer strutting their stuff to “Funky Town” during Covid-19

 

Although I work in an “essential service,” I decided to use up some of my holidays at the beginning of lockdown because I knew there’d be nothing to do. The Zoo is closed, there are no tourists and we are 88% down on customers.  But I went back to work this week.  And there are still customers.

An infectious diseases specialist was working on his laptop in the waiting room while waiting for a train and told me that the hospitals were all ready for a second wave of infections with a ward full of prepared beds and plenty of spare ventilators in ICU. “ Keep washing your hands” he said. “And don’t touch your face.” We were interrupted then by another less respectable looking man who told us that the Covid-19 tracing app was compulsory, Big Brother was upon us and that we wouldn’t be able to use hospitals or get into Bunnings unless we had the app on our phones.  He waved his fist and kept crying “Resist! Resist!” until the train fortuitously rolled in and took him away.

One of the Zoo volunteers dropped by to have a walk around the outside of the zoo.  It’s closed tight and she said she was missing the animals terribly.  According to the on-line Zoo keeper chat the animals, especially the monkeys and apes are also missing the entertainment of the visitors.

Those of my regulars who are still working were happy to see me.  Probably my return is a sign of normality.  I missed my Burmese hospital cleaners who apparently are now driving to work because it’s safer from infection, but my Vaccine makers from Sequirus labs were there in force.  They hard at it making more flu vaccines.  The uptake has been tremendous this year and the government has asked for an extra million and a half vaccines for our southern winter, which must be made before they can get their start on the regular flu vaccines they always make for the northern winter.  If you are run down from having the flu it increases you chance of catching Covid-19.  They don’t have any news on a Covid-19 vaccine.

Although the station was very quiet, the Park itself was like a high street.  It was one of those golden autumn afternoons when there is just a tinge of chill in the air and a constant stream of people went past on foot or on bicycle, including the many happy golfers.  Their club house was opened last week.  One of my regulars stopped and told me how happy he was, all was back.  He’d had to make do with a putting machine in his living room for the past 6 weeks and as he lived alone it had been very lonely.

I suspect this is also true of the man with out of control hair who is still using the train to carry all the timber for his new shed bunker/ and still likes to stop and tell me ALL the details of everything.

The person I most wished to speak to did not stop and talk.  Why is a man in high vis, walking through my railway station with a such a huge hole torn in the back of his work pants that I can see half of his blue star spangled boxer shorts underneath?  Alas I will never know.

 

 

 

In your favourite Natural Place

 

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.

The Picture Gallery

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.)

 

 

Flinders Street Station Wins Cake Prize

 

Here’s my beloved central station resplendent in icing and with a tram circling it on a rotating disc – winner of Batter, Bake, Build – Melbourne University’s Architectural baking competition.

Click through here to learn more about the competition and see the other entries.

https://architectureau.com/articles/sweet-success-winners-crowned-in-architectural-bake-off/#

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/melbourne-architectural-baking-competition

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.

 

On Delicate Matters of Etiquette

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.

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.

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