Tag Archives: train

Thursday Doors – Carriageworks, Sydney.

Welcome Back to Another Thursday Doors after quite a lengthy breather, while I grapple with the heavy research load which has seriously exceeded expectations on the book project.

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So, may I offer my humble apologies. Our visit to Carriageworks, Sydney is a bit overdue. I was there a few weeks ago for the Sydney Writers’ Festival and I took advantage of the trip to photograph a few doors and that’s what I was doing when a strange robotic voice started  chiming: “Evacuate” in a tone which sounded all too much like the Dalek’s “Exterminate”. That must’ve been a false alarm, but they evacuated the entire building, disrupting our sacred sessions and emptying about a thousand dazed and confused people onto the footpath. Apparently, there was one woman who refused to leave her session: “I’ve paid for this.” A lot of good that’s going to be when you’re dead…not that I’m catastrophising. When I’m told to get out, I get out. You can ask questions later.

Old Carriageworks

A Historic look at the Everleigh Carriage Workshops

Carriageworks started out as the Everleigh Carriage Workshops which were built  between 1880 and 1889. This was where train carriages for Sydney’s rail network were built and maintained, including the Royal Carriages constructed specifically for the Governor General of Australia and visiting Royalty, the first electric carriage, and the first air-conditioned train in Australia. From 1973 productivity at the site declined due to its inefficient older buildings, restrictive union practices and increased privatization of carriage construction and the site was closed in 1988.  In June 2002, the NSW Ministry for the Arts completed the purchase of the Carriage and Blacksmith Workshops at the Eveleigh Rail Yards site. Soon after, a construction project on the site commenced under the name of Carriageworks. Adaptive reuse of the workshop site began in 2003 with the housing of numerous contemporary arts practitioners, and Carriageworks was officially opened in 2007.

Everywhere you look you experience the building’s railway past. The buildings are massive and clearly big enough to park a few trains and there’s still track in situ just in case you had any doubts about the building’s past life. My husband’s a train nerd and our son was also smitten when he was young. So, we’ve been to quite a few railway sites over the years and caught a few steam trains as well. However, probably what struck me most was the sense of all those people who worked there over the years and an entire way of life which has moved on. I lived in the area in 1988 while I was at Sydney University and I do have a vague memory of hundreds, maybe a thousand workers spilling onto the streets. Or, perhaps I’m just making it up. Sometimes, when you wind back the clock, your recollections wouldn’t stand up in a court of law. That’s where you’re better off becoming a creative writer or yarn spinner than a historian or eye witness.

Door 3

This door had my immediate attention. What don’t they want us to see??

 

 

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This is what we writers aspire to…entry into the writers’ lounge. I actually made it inside once when my aunt presented a paper. 

My apologies because although the site itself was quite interesting, the doors weren’t weren’t the sort to set your heart racing and fill your head with rapturous poetry. However, the doors do form part of the overall structure which is intriguing and particularly appealing to anyone interested in industrial architecture.

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You have to be pretty short to peer through this keyhole. 

This is another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. While you might not have thought much about doors before, you’d be amazed at how they can launch a story and I really enjoy connecting with people from around the world and sharing where we live and where we’ve been.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Macadamia Castle & Ballina…Monday 7th January, 2019.

Well, our travels around Byron Bay continue today, as I explained, exactly a week behind the action in the interests of home security and also actually having a holiday while we were away. That didn’t mean I didn’t do any writing. This year, I’ve committed myself to writing more regularly in my journal (a page to a day diary) and would like to write every day but am not going to beat myself up if I miss a few days, especially atm when I’m trying to catch up on my travel writing here.

Naturally, we usually have the kids in tow when we come up to stay with Geoff’s sister at Newrybar just out of Byron Bay. However, the kids are currently away at the Australian Scouting Jamboree in Adelaide and  so our holiday was a little different. Geoff ended up staying at home and just sleeping trying to recover from the year at work and my in-law’s property is so green, lush and different to our own place, you don’t necessarily feel the need to go anywhere else. Well, unless you’re me and have to get out and immerse yourself in the incredibly rich, diverse and one-off cultural delights this region has to offer.

Above: These photos were taken at The Castle back in January 2009. They don’t have the piglets there anymore.

So, Monday afternoon saw us drive down the highway to the Macadamia Castle for afternoon tea. We usually take the kids there to see and interact with the animals. Although they’re now teens, they still love it and I find that it’s very much like visiting your grandparents’ farm. You never grow out of that. Geoff and I also love it there. However, we didn’t want to pay the entry fee for just ourselves and were more interested in our slice of Caramel Nut Tart. We have it every time we go there and it should come with plenty of caramel sauce, which it has ever other time we’ve been there and they were more than happy to bring more out. We bought a couple of postcards from the castle which we sent off to our kids at Jamboree but so far they haven’t arrived and they’re leaving today. Fingers crossed that that post office fairies can pull their fingers out and get them there in time.

Next, we were off to Ballina to get petrol and post the cards. Ballina is more of a business and practical shopping hub, although it is on the riverfront and quite pretty in its own right. Just not exciting and by and large, seems to lack the sense of creative overdrive you usually find in this region.

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Ballina Manor

However, we did see a sign to Ballina Manor and we went off to explore that. Unfortunately, we were too late for a tour but there’s always next time.

We also happened to park outside a discount book store and it won’t surprise you that that spelt TROUBLE!! I bought a few books as gifts but for myself, or to be more precise as educational material for my role as parent, I bought Maggie Dent’s  Mothering Our Boys. I managed to get about halfway through while we were away and had hoped to finish it by the time the kids returned from Jamboree, but there’s always going to be gaps and I’ve been busy trying to sort out our daughter’s room and somewhere stuck between a rock and a hard place, there’s my husband and I and within that, myself…me. Well, that’s why I’m sitting here with my cup of tea and am writing now. I needed a breather. Indeed, I needed to breathe full stop.

Well, this is a relatively quick stop off today. Tomorrow, we’ll be off to Bangalow.

Thank you for joining me!

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I don’t know about you, but I often have difficulties finding photos to go with my blog posts, even for places like The Castle when we’ve been there something like 20 times over the years. I was looking for a photo of the front of the Castle, which really needs to be taken up by the road rather than where you park the car. I’m sure I’ve walked up the hill years ago to photograph the knight which stands guard out the front day and night. However, I couldn’t find it. One of the reasons for this difficulty is that I’ve often looking for that overall, big picture wide-angle shot for the featured image, while I most frequently take photos from a zoomed-in or close-up perspective. Indeed, working this out has been quite an insight into how I view and photograph the world and that I probably also need to zoom out more to make sure I take in the bigger picture as well as the minutiae.

An Explosion at Harper’s Crossing…Friday Fictioneers.

Jack Cameron was standing on the bridge sweating blood, trying to decide whether to blow himself up, or the train. Alternatively, he could just head home for breakfast and go to work as usual.

This was his third attempt to get the job done, and he couldn’t be a terrorist without any terror. He had to take a stand. Make America great again. Get rid of Donald Trump. Harper’s Crossing was good enough for John Brown’s raid. He didn’t need to go to New York.

Yet, as he lit the fuse, he started to wonder whether anyone would join the dots…

…..

100 words exactly.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields, where we write up to 100 words to a provided photo prompt. PHOTO PROMPT © Dawn M. Miller.

The features image this week was taken at Harper’s Crossing in Virginia where John Brown to initiated an armed slave revolt in 1859 by taking over a United States arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Brown’s party of 22[1] was defeated by a company of U.S. Marines, led by First Lieutenant Israel Greene.[3] Colonel Robert E. Lee was in overall command of the operation to retake the arsenal. Wikipaedia.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Unraveling the Great Bridge Mystery

While the Sydney Harbour Bridge requires no introduction, Sydney’s Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge barely rates a mention. Yet, this bridge also has its mysteries.

I’ve caught the train over the bridge many times. While I usually have my nose in a book or am furiously scribbling in my notebook, I’ve often wondered about the row of abandoned sandstone pillars poking out of the water like ghostly headstones…a testimony to engineering defeat.

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What went wrong? What is their story? Why are they there?

Yet, that’s where my queries stopped.

That was until we went on a historic Hawkesbury River cruise last weekend and we cruised past the abandoned pylons, underneath the new Hawkesbury River Bridge and found out what happened.

Fortunately, the old bridge was safely replaced  before the crumbling bridge gave way and two crowded steam trains crashed into the Hawkesbury River with a catastrophic loss of life.

The original Hawkesbury River Bridge was an engineering catastrophe doomed from the start. Indeed, it could well have been built by Basil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers Engineering!

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Steam Train Crossing the Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge.

Yet, it was quite a different story when the bridge opened in 1889 to much fanfare and acclaim:

“The 1889 Hawkesbury River Bridge, Long Island Tunnel, Woy Woy Tunnel and the heavy earthworks and tunnels of the Cowan bank were the key engineering works on the Sydney to Newcastle rail link (The Short North). Together they demonstrate a high degree of engineering achievement in building a railway line in difficult and dangerous terrain. The 1889 Hawkesbury River Bridge in particular was a major technical achievement at the time: it was the fourth largest bridge constructed in the world, one of its caissons reached 49m, had the deepest bridge footing in the world and it was the longest bridge in Australia, pushing bridge design and construction techniques to the limit. The bridge was also the first of the American designed truss bridges that were introduced to Australia in the late 1880s and 1890s and thus the first to utilise the American principles of lightweight bracing, pin joints and eye bar tension members. It was the only steel trussed bridge of its type in Australia when it was built and the first major use of steel for bridges with previous examples being built in wrought iron. Its remains are tangible evidence of the change in engineering technology from British to American at this time and the decline of John Whitton’s British based design influence on the NSW railway system. There is enough extant fabric in the remaining abutments, piers and the Long Island tunnel to demonstrate the engineering achievements of the original Hawkesbury River crossing. www.environment.nsw.gov.au/heritageapp/ViewHeritageItemDetails.aspx?ID=4800130

However, cracks soon started to appear in this so-called engineering achievement and the original bridge lasted only 60 years.

So what went wrong?

This newspaper report from 1946 tells the story well.

“A chance discovery a necessitated new bridge—a discovery which probably averted what would have been the worst railway disaster on record.
A railway engineer, reading an American text book, found a statement that the interior of the piers of the Hawkesbury bridge comprised rubble.
The Chief Railway Constructional Engineer (Major-General Fewtrell) pointed out that this did not check with original specifications, which provided for metal casing on the outside and concrete on the inside, so that when the metal rusted the concrete would remain.
But the bridge had already developed an ugly pier crack, and in view of the text book statement no time was lost in scouring Australia for men who had worked on the concrete mixing board. One was found, and the information he supplied worried the engineers. They promptly set a diamond drill to work on the cracked pier. The drill made slow
progress through the stone, but once below the water level it dropped into a soft substance.
SCIENTIFIC tests showed that the steel casing would have crumbled completely away in 1939, and the interior would have quickly washed out.
Below water level the pier was several feet out of alignment on one side.
Once daily, two express trains passed each other on the bridge, often at this pier.
To counter the defect, single-track working was introduced, and speed reduced to walking pace. The new bridge was commenced as soon as possible.”
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Steam trains weight testing the new Hawkesbury River Bridge in 1946.

Thank goodness for that. Moreover, with a flush of national pride, this same newspaper report proudly points out that while the American built bridge only survived for 60 years, the Australian bridge would last 200 years!
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Remaining pylon from the original Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge. Photo: Rowena Curtin.

Work commenced on the new bridge in July 1940 and despite best efforts it was not completed until after the war finished, opening for traffic on 1 July 1946.
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Cruising Under the Current Hawkesbury River Railway Bridge.

Following the opening of the new bridge,the steel spans  were floated off the original bridge, dismantled and transported to other parts of the State and re-assembled to form bridges across various waterways.
Two spans were reserved for the crossing of the Darling River at Bourke and Billabong Creek on the proposed Bourke to Barringun railway, part of the Commonwealth’s project for a north-south inland railway through the back of
Queensland, linking up with a cross-country line to Darwin.
Good to hear the steel spans were put to good use.
Meanwhile, the original sandstone piers are still standing, man-made geological features surveying the Hawkesbury
River flow by.
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Me, Myself & I….Writing A Complex Character Profile.

The train is quietly humming over the tracks heading for Sydney’s Central Railway. It’s a long, slow journey without any sense of speed or rush but I’ve come prepared with my journal, writing plans and a water bottle…all but a picnic lunch.

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These trains are usually packed, even out of peak hour but today I’m in luck. Bodies are spread out throughout the carriage, mostly slumped forward like inert sacks of potatoes. So, after settling in next to the window, I spread my stuff out across two seats and finally relax. Phew! I’m so thrilled not to be all squished up with a bunch of strangers inside a cramped sardine tin. There’s nothing worse than having your nose shoved in a stranger’s armpit…even in Winter.

I relax and yet I’m about to start work.

Somehow, I’ve got to start working on the Book Project. After all, it’s Monday and summoning up the threads of long-lost perseverance, determination and what I mistook for an iron-will, I’ve got to get started.

Unfortunately, this trip is challenging my best intentions. Instead of sitting down at my desk promptly at 10.00 AM and getting into that work routine, I’m off to Sydney for a medical appointment, detouring ever so slightly via Surry Hills. That’s where I had the most divine Coconut Chai Latte a few months ago and I also need to get my dose of urban funk.

While writing on the move wasn’t part of the plan, I remind myself that writing is like breastfeeding. You can do it anywhere, anytime. No need to write at the same place every day, being rigid and inflexible. You just need to get on with the job and before you know it, you can write anywhere.

Well, of course, I have no trouble writing anywhere about anything. My trouble is sticking to the Book Project and getting that done and dusted. Something tells me this will require strict, hardcore discipline, not bucket loads of creativity and that’s why the whole project’s become stonkered.

That’s why I’m trying to enforce a pretty rigid routine. Laissez-faire clearly isn’t producing results. Well, at least not a book.

So my task for today, as I pull out yet another fancy notebook, is to write a character profile. This will be for the protagonist, who I also suspect is the antagonist…me. I am working on a motivational memoir about overcoming trauma and setbacks and instead of just writing about what happened, I really want to develop this book into a piece of literature. Have well-developed characterisation as well as a strong sense of place. After all, I am not just a survivor telling their story. I am a writer.

While writing about yourself might sound egotistical and self-absorbed, it is actually a lot more challenging than I’d thought. I can’t just make myself up like a fictional character. I need to be true to life and not necessarily how I perceive myself but how others perceive me, which could potentially be very different to how I see myself.

So, who am I through someone else’s eyes? Of course, this varies from person to person, forming a complex kaleidoscope, which makes me think I am about to become a work of fiction anyway.

That there is, indeed, no “me” etched in stone.

Yet, I’m still not sure.

I pull out the character questionnaire. The one I’m using today comes out of a writing book for kids but I thought I might actually get further with Simple Simon that the more complex ones I’ve tried before. Keep it Simple Stupid (the KISS formula).
This feels so strange. As much as I might observe others, I’d never really considered that others are watching me and perhaps scrutinizing me in the same way. That they may also be trying to work out what makes me tick. Rather, I’ve felt quite invisible watching them.

Looking around the carriage, I start to wonder whether I could somehow describe myself using contrast. Who and what I’m not? What makes me stand out from the crowd?

The first clue is that I’m traveling in the “Quiet Carriage”, which is one way of sorting the chaff from the oats. This is where the readers, sleepers and lone travelers gravitate. That said, every now and then you get people who can’t read signs or at peak hour, grandparents returning bickering children home and simply need a seat (and a stiff drink as well I’ve heard!)

The next thing I’d notice is that I’m writing in a notebook at a furious pace. The notebook is covered in brightly-coloured butterflies, so you could possibly class me as a dreamer. You might also wonder why anyone these days would still be using pen and paper. While it is quite usual for me to write by hand in a paper notebook when I travel, I’m sure that for many, pen and paper are as obsolete as a quill and ink.

My shirt might also catch your eye. Distinctly vintage and rather loud, it’s covered in very large, incredibly bright orange, purple and pink flowers which could possibly be wild poppies. While this might all sound cringingly loud and excessively flower power, the volume is somewhat muted by the conservative, navy-blue background. The shirt is almost sane. I don’t think anyone else sitting in our carriage is wearing any colour whatsover…just dull greys, browns and black. That said, there is a girl sporting a large silver bow on her head a few seats away.

Then, by my side, there’s a bulky backpack and if your eyesight is half-decent, you’d notice “Nikon” printed on the front…a serious camera bag. Evidently, I’m not someone who simply takes photos with their phone on a daytrip to the city. I’m clearly a photography nut.

Artistic.

If they’re really paying attention, they might notice a ring on my finger. Married.

Then there’s the walking stick sitting beside me, which keeps falling over. I strike you as being rather young to have a walking stick and you remember how your Gran used to have one, then two and then forgot who she was and disappeared somewhere very deep inside behind those ice-blue eyes.

In between frenetic bursts of writing, you might notice that I’m staring out the window or looking around the carriage as though I’ve lost something or am looking for someone. Then, you remember about writers going on field trips and how they eavesdrop and observe. Soak up random strangers for material. Suddenly, you feel vulnerable and possibly even violated, suspecting you’re about to be cast as the axe-wielding maniac in my upcoming novel. You could discretely change seats to peer over my shoulder just to make sure but then you remember that you need to send a text. Make arrangements for tonight. Oh and did you put out the cat? You text home. Thank God for that phone! You don’t have to remember anything anymore!

Meanwhile, my attention strays out the window and I’m mesmerised by the passing trees. I feel quite dwarfed by the towering gum trees beside the track. They are soaring giants and I am but an ant.The wattle trees are just starting to flower and the dull green vegetation is illuminated with a stunning golden glow as the train speeds past.

Wattle trees morph into graffiti
sprayed on urban walls.
Red-bricked, ageing units
shuffled with Victorian terraces,
like a deck of cards.
A kaleidoscope of roofs
spread out across the urban plain
rusty, corrugated iron sheeting
dispersed with terracotta.
I wonder if anyone’s home?
Doubt it.
This gang of stragglers
is now millionaire’s row
double-income,
daycare kids.
Only the dog gets to call
the place home.

Once it was me.
Or, was it?

Further into Sydney, the trees are superseded by concrete walls sprayed with graffiti…something which has never made any sense to me… just meaningless tags, ugly scars on the landscape. There aren’t even any words or pictures…anything which could convey a message to anyone beyond their tribe.

Yet, I wonder if your words means as much to them as mine do to me.

Whoops! There I go interjecting my voice into the story when I am supposed to be the observed, not the observer. I am no longer narrating my own story but who can ever truly escape their own shoes, no matter how hard we try to place ourselves inside someone else’s skin?

We are who we are.

On that note, I should confess that anybody who knows me would say that I never shut up but it takes a lot of silence to write and I write a lot. Moreover, here I am sitting in the Quiet Carriage. That immediately divides me from the talkers.

While I haven’t polished off this character profile, I’ve come to a deeper appreciation of the complexity of human characterization. That we’re all kaleidoscopes and not so easily boxed.

However, that doesn’t let me off the hook. I still need to get my character profile done but Rome wasn’t built in a day.

The train is now rapidly approaching Central and we are on just one of many tracks. Yes, we’re well and truly in the Big Smoke now! I start packing up my stuff, getting ready to leave.

I can’t wait to get into Surry Hills and lose myself in the coconut frothiness of the magical Coconut Chair Latte and I love being surrounded by all those quirky Victorian terrace houses while also enjoying the modern.

The Clock Tower at Central Station, viewed from Surry Hills.

The Clock Tower at Central Station, viewed from Surry Hills.

Finally, the train stops. “We are now at Central. This train will terminate. Please change here. All out. All change.”

All out…all change….indeed!

I could have used that line on the kids this morning. They were absolutely refusing to budge. Yes, they definitely needed to get out of the house and have a dramatic change of attitude.

That said. Monday morning is what it is and I have no idea why new projects always start on a Monday. They’re seemingly doomed before you’ve even downed your second coffee.

I guess that’s why I don’t like Mondays!

xx Rowena

Crime in the Quiet Carriage.

Breathe! Keep breathing! Remain calm!

But I can’t. I’m wound up. Seriously agitated and my brain is rapidly heating up, about to reach boiling point. No amount of relaxation, mindfulness or psycho-babbling positive self-talk is working. A rapidly ticking bomb, I’m about to go off. No small explosion either. This is definitely way beyond a small or even a medium-sized bang and rapidly accelerating passed a big one too. We’re talking a nuclear explosion… right here right now at this very precise tick of the clock.

Stop talking! This is a quiet carriage!!!

Stop talking! This is a quiet carriage!!!

There must be worse crimes against humanity than talking in the quiet carriage but right now, nothing comes to mind.

Before you start thinking I’m the psychopath, just let me just tell you that I’m on my way down to Royal North Shore Hospital to have a long awaited MRI of my brain. My neurologist hasn’t ordered this test for fun or as some kind of high-tech photo shoot. No, you seriously don’t have an MRI of your brain for fun and there’s definitely not going to be any smiling for the camera either. As if being covered in a white sheet and shut inside a white plastic tunnel being bombarded with weird electronic noises isn’t bad enough, they’re jabbing me somewhere with a needle.

Having a brain MRI. Covered in a white, sheet you disappear inside a white tunnel. Get bombarded by all sorts of jalting, beeping electronic noises. jabbed and then you're free to go home...you hope!

Having a brain MRI. Covered in a white, sheet you disappear inside a white tunnel. Get bombarded by all sorts of jalting, beeping electronic noises. jabbed and then you’re free to go home…you hope!

They’ve jabbed me with THAT needle before. They jabbed me right in the head, injecting radioactive isotopes straight into my shunt. I tell you, I’m a veteran of jabs and I’ve survived brain surgery and chemo but that jab in the head has no equal. It involved absolute and utterly excruciating pain. I can assure you, there’s some now graduated medical student out there who still bears the scars of near crucifixion in their hands. I dug holes in his soft, polished flesh with my unkept but piercing fingernails.

So here I am getting on the train thinking about the pain, the possible outcomes and how I’m even going to make it to the hospital as I’ve spent the best part of the last month in bed and traveling for almost 2 hours is a huge undertaking in itself. I don’t know what’s going on with me. Either I’m dying, or I’ve finally succumbed to the dark side of the force. I addressed this in a previous post: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/terminal-cyberchondria-yes-please/

Maybe after this monster test is over, the sun will come out again and this will all seem like a distance dream. A black cloud mysteriously scudding across an azure sky which suddenly disappears like magic…a miracle! I’ll go back to my life of champagne and…My goodness! Who am I kidding? We all know real life is no commercial break!

Being such a long train trip, I’m expecting to makes serious inroads on Booker Prize Winner  Richard Flannegan’s Death of A River Guide. Given the intensity and chaos of the MRI plus trying to juggle the kids and all their activities, this train trip is bordering on a sacred journey. I so desperately need peace and quiet and a lot of thought went into choosing the right book for the trip as well. I’ve been flicking through a couple of books over the last couple of days trying to work out where to head next. I’ve read two other Richard Flannegan’s lately and decided he was a pretty safe bet and I was seriously looking forward to both losing and finding myself in a good book. A want which had transcended into something of a desperate need. A cry of the soul.

However, instead of finding myself inside the much anticipated and heavily sign posted quiet carriage, this place is  more like a crowded pub during Happy Hour or even a flipping circus with clowns…wild clowns. There is raucous chatter everywhere..even laughter. How dare they?!! Harlots!

Welcome to the Quiet Carriage!!

Welcome to the Quiet Carriage!!

Alright, so I exaggerate a little. While there was some loud chatter down the other end of the carriage, there was one particular loud mouthed foreignor talking four times as loud as your average Joe talking with his friends…a group of seniors in case you’re about to blame the insensitive youth of today. Unfortunately, I was sitting right behind them. I soon started thinking about asking them to be quiet and pointing out the quite carriage signs which were clearly signposted throughout the carriage. I also thought about talking to the guard.

However, a few of my friends have mentioned the maniacs in the quiet carriages. The so-called “Noise-Nazis” who have a nervous breakdown over the sound of even the slightest pinhead of a pin being dropped. I like to be classified as the “nice woman” and not one of THEM…even by these totally rude, self-centred strangers I’m never, ever going to see again. Instead of being the bad guy, I chose the stoic high road…to suffer in silence. Of course, I could’ve alerted the guard if I’d been more nimble on my feet. They have a special announcement recorded for the socially inept. It goes something along the lines of: “This is a quiet carriage…If you want to talk, move to another carriage.”

I did consider moving to another seat or even try the standard carriage but it was all too hard. There wasn’t another seat and I’m not that steady on my feet. I couldn’t risk trying to change carriages while the train was in motion, even with my walking stick in hand. So instead, I sat as still and as silent as a marble statue…fuming. Fuming some more. I could feel the flames burning in my head. Smoke bellowing out my ears. I was mad. Irate. Furious. This was pure, unadulterated train rage.

Grannies show an umbrella can also come in handy!

Grannies show an umbrella can also come in handy!

In retrospect, I should’ve just taken a leaf out of my grandmother’s book. She would have bopped the lot of them on the head with her walking stick and told them in no uncertain terms that they were in the quiet carriage. “Are you blind? Can’t you read the signs?!!” My grandmother was pretty handy with her stick. What’s more, if she’d bopped them, she would have gotten away it.  After all, she was just a sweet, little old lady. There would have been no court appearances and not even the shout of “guard”! They would have taken their punishment and zipped it. Shown a bit of respect.

Me, on the other hand? One strike of my walking stick and I knew I’d be dragged off the train by armed guards and loaded into a paddywagon bound for greener pastures.

However, in the end someone else stepped in and played bad cop. Yet, this lot of seniors proved themselves a real bunch of reprobates.  They might have zipped it for about 2 seconds, which for this lot even felt like a very pregnant pause, and then continued bellowing through their inbuilt megaphones. You wouldn’t believe it. One of their phones even started to ring and of course another loud voice starts booming throughout the entire carriage. It wasn’t just a case of hello and goodbye either…more of a conversation and as far as I was concerned, quite the life story.

As I said, I know there have been worse crimes against humanity than talking in the quiet carriage but at this point in time nothing came to mind.

After reading and re-reading the same line of my book a hundred times over, I gave up on my book and surrendered to the noise.

Finally, we all alighted at Hornsby Station.

However, as the saying goes, it could always be worse. Aside from country trains passing through, there are no quiet carriages on Sydney trains. You just had to put up and shut up and if you don’t have the luxury of a seat, you also enjoy the thrill of having your nose jammed in a stranger’s armpit as well.

Anyway, after changing trains at Hornsby, I’m now heading down the North Shore Line on my home turf.

By now, I think we’d already established that lady luck wasn’t on my side. Of course, I had timed my train trip to perfection. Yes, it was home time for the hundreds and thousands of noisy, smelly, sweaty school kids who all piled onto my train as it stop started down the line. By this stage, all hope of reading my book was gone. Instead, I became the observer. I must say teenagers intrigue me. Potentially much more fun than the seniors yapping on about their super on the last trip.

I occasionally used to catch trains like this when I was at school…an all girls school. I must have been a bit older than this crowd because we were always conscious of the boys on the train and this lot seemed rather oblivious or perhaps it’s just that they didn’t have Hugh Jackman on their train. We did.

There were no looks, glances or giggles. Each group was its own island surrounded by their own impenetrable shark-infested sea. Ironically, the groups were arranged boys, girls, boys, girls throughout the carriage in their different uniforms. It all looked very strange to me and I felt like I’d landed in some weird, foreign universe. Why weren’t these teenagers all talking with each other? Did all these same kids catch the same train every afternoon sitting in the same “reserved” seats never giving each other more than a sideways glance?

The only thing standing in between them all was different uniforms and yet aren’t we all one human race? You wouldn’t think so. That said, we all know men are from Mars and women are from Venus…even my 8 year old daughter. She and her friends have been “at war” with the boys at school a fair bit lately.

If I could’ve had my way, I would’ve introduced all these kids to each other and tried to build some common ground. Not to play cupid or to nurture teenage romance helping some self-conscious souls find true love, but rather to begin a diologue and cross a divide that starts with different uniforms and extends to gender, skin tone, class, disability and results in war.

If only the problems of the world could all be solved on a simple train ride to Sydney, the world would be a much better place!!

PS As soon as we arrived at the hospital, we heard the dreadful, tragic news that Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes had passed away after a bouncer hit him in the neck, stopping blood flow to his brain. Being a brain surgery survivor myself and being in this really intense state prior to my brain MRI, the news hit me seriously hard. Hughes and his family and friends were no longer strangers but part of our neuro community and I loved them all with my entire heart..especially Sean Abbott who just happened to bowl the devastating ball. I send you love from the  very bottom of my heart!!