Small acts

One of my regulars had clearly come off her bicycle.  She was covered in dust and had a huge spike shaped red gash on her arm. With the train 2 minutes away she didn’t want me to do anything for her, but I insisted on getting her some damp paper towel to clean the still bleeding gash.  Then as the train rolled in a complete stranger stepped up and offered the lady one of those big band-aids in plastic for her gash!

Thank you, stranger. Another person who understands if you think someone should help someone, perhaps you’d better be the one to do it.

I’m a firm believer in taking responsibility for making the world a better place through small daily acts.  I’m getting more and more involved in Climate Change activism through a group called Climate for Change. http://www.climateforchange.org.au/ They encourage people to have everyday conversations about Climate Change concerns in order to encourage a ground swell of support for government action. The more of us pestering companies and M.P.’s the better. So now at when someone at the station says we’re having strange weather, I take my opportunity and say “This is what 1% climate change looks like.” I get some strange looks but also a lot of nods.  Scarey to think what 2% will look like.

The things you read

Those who know me, know I will read anything. Even the back of plastic water bottles found while tidying up the platform. This particular one assured me it didn’t just look good, it “had ancient wisdom” as well. That made me stop and take a closer look.

Apparently this is because it is “infused with native flower essences”. “Handpicked native flower essences” no less. Apparently Northern Australian indigenous people are involved in this process. I couldn’t resist taking a quick sniff of the remaining water, but I can’t smell anything floral. Perhaps that is because it is “refreshingly non-flavoured”

But I can smell something.

Ahh! The scent of male bovine manure.
P.S. School’s back and I had my first train surfers yesterday. They even wore balaclavas as they rode on the rear coupling. Guess the summer holidays are over.

Interview with actor and playwright Nick Backstrom

On Thursday night I went the see to see Train Man and the Rail Way – a quick-witted, hilarious look at the joys of customer service, trains and KNOBBIS by co-worker, Nick Backstrom .  Not only did it speak to me and the rest of the railway folks in the audience but the rest of the audience were chortling too.  Check it out if you can, it’s on at the Meat Market as part of the Melbourne Fringe, tonight (Saturday) at 8.00 and tomorrow night at 7.00 only $20.00 a ticket. A fun way to spend an evening.  (and there’s a bar and a Mac and Cheese Truck!)

 

 

I managed to have a quick chat with Backstrom.

Please tell us about Train Man and the Rail Way.  

The play is a comic lecture on how to be a better customer – based on my experiences doing customer service on the metropolitan railways.

 Does any particular incident stick out as an inspiration for the play?

The plays based on an accumulation of events, which fit a broad pattern. It’s when you give people correct information and they don’t believe you – that’s the most annoying.

What do you do for the railways?  Did you work there long?

I worked as a station officer for 6 years.  We sold tickets, topped up MYKI cards and provided information.

beware-of-trains

Tell us a little about yourself.  Born and bred where?  When did you decide to become an actor?  A playwright? Which do you like best?

I’m from Brisbane.  The decision to become an actor grew slowly while doing plays at school and uni and amateur shows.  I went back to uni to study drama at 26.  I enjoy both acting and playwriting. They each have different appeals.

What other things have you performed in?  Written?

I’ve appeared in over forty stage productions since graduating from USQ. I’ve done French farce in Western Queensland and ancient Greek drama in Cyprus. I was last on stage in JYM’s production of Merrily We Roll Along, but I’ve also appeared in Romeo and Juliet, and Henry IV 1, and Shakespeare’s Best Bits for the Australian Shakespeare company. Other highlights include The Importance of Being Earnest (Citizen Theatre) Playing Rock Hudson (Left Bauer) Sight unseen (Exhibit A- Theatre) and Yarrabah the musical (Opera Australia). I’ve played the Emperor in Amadeus, Benedick in Much Ado about Nothing, Bottom in A Midsummer night’s dream, Stephano in The Tempest (4MBS Classical Productions), Petruchio in The Taming of the shrew, Edmund in The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe, Hale in The Crucible, Antonio in Twelfth Night and the lead role in Charlie’s Aunt (Harvest Rain), roles in QTC’s A Streetcar named Desire and The Cherry Orchard.  I’ve also done film (Any questions for Ben) and television (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries).
As a playwright, I’ve written and appeared in Who You Are, (La Mama),  On the riverbank, and Coffee in the park. My play A room with no view was performed in the 2010 UK Brighton Fringe Festival.

Do you write regularly or just when the spirit moves you?

I try to write regularly but it doesn’t always work out.

What’s your favourite afternoon snack from the Railway Station Kiosk?

White chocolate and raspberry muffins.

 

nick-backstrom

A large wheelie suitcase

Due to a sloppy head cold, nasty wet weather with a chilly wind playing off the snowfields and an upsurge in customers, last week was a tough one for yours truly.  I’ve had to break out my woolly vests for the first time in 3 years.

The increased visitors were the result of the school holidays, but there were also a large number of extra customers who had lost their gruntle due to buses at the nearby stop.  Trams are slow but buses in city traffic are slooooow.

“Very poor service!” snapped one entitled young woman in crisp, upper-class tones. “I’m going to miss my country train because of you.”

Her posh accent (Melbourne Grammar at least) made my hackles rise but I resisted temptation and refrained from pointing out that she’d cut her connection too fine if it was that important.  That never goes anywhere good.

But the toughest thing about last week was seeing M and C who once again find themselves homeless.

They showed up with a large suitcase having had to put their new-born baby into care with the Salvos.  So at least he is warm and dry.  Apparently they are able to visit him every day too.

Lately when M has showed up scrounging money “for milk for the baby” I’ve wondered if this unseen child actually exists, but their distress last week was palpable.

“It was awful leaving him.  Little M cried and then M cried and then I couldn’t help crying,” said C.

M tells me he was in care from the time he was six. I suspect he fears for his son as well.  Bad luck and small mistakes make a critical mass of difficulties that are difficult to get over.  There but for the grace of God …

What is Cli Fi?

What is CLI-Fi?

 

 

This week I asked Cat Sparks about to define (Climate Change fiction) in an interview in SFFWorld.

Cat Sparks TBP-cover-art

http://www.sffworld.com/2016/06/interview-with-cli-fi-author-cat-sparks/

Cat Sparks is a multi-award-winning author, editor and artist whose former employment has included: media monitor, political and archaeological photographer, graphic designer, Fiction Editor of Cosmos Magazine and Manager of Agog! Press. In 2012 an Australia Council emerging writers grant enabled her to participate in Margaret Atwood’s The Time Machine Doorway workshop in the U.S. She’s in the final throes of a PhD in climate change fiction. Her short story collection The Bride Price was published in 2013. Her debut novel, Lotus Blue, will be published by Talos Press in February.

Cat Sparks

 

Preconceptions

Noisy miner in the waiting room

Noisy miner in the waiting room

When working at the railway station or even just with the public, its important to keep an open mind. Last week I was giving the stink eye to a tough looking group of young men in hoodies and tattoos on platform 2 because I thought they were hanging around waiting to do a drug deal. I mean it’s the Zoo station!  There are children here!

I considered it particularly low that one of them had bought a baby capsule with him – clearly to hide his stash.  So I felt kind of mean when the train came in bringing a newcomer and one of them started showing the newcomer how the capsule worked.  I am so middle class!!  The capsule owner showed up later with his partner and toddler-in-pram and confirmed that yes, they had all been hanging around to pass the capsule on “to my cousin whose fiancée has just fallen pregnant.”  Just because someone is close to twenty and has tattoos doesn’t mean he can’t be a responsible family man, Jane.

On the other hand earlier this year a zoo-visiting Buddhist monk surprised me, by indicating I should use my broom to chase out the birds roving round the waiting room. I had expected him to be all “animals are my friends – all life is one” not “get that grubby bird out of the indoor space.” Another preconception bites the dust. Maybe I’m better off without either of them.

Aurealis Award winner Trent Jamieson

Jamieson_DayBoy2-669x1024

 

 

Congratulations on winning the 2015 Aurealis Award for both Best Fantasy and Best Horror novel! https://aurealisawards.org/  That’s amazing.

Thanks! I was completely surprised, and delighted.

It’s about Mark – a Day Boy who works for a Vampire, running chores, protecting his master during the day. It’s his last year as a Day Boy and he must decide how he is going to enter adulthood as man or monster or something not quite either. And, things don’t go smoothly at all. I kind of pitched it as To Kill a Mockingbird meets Dracula – which is a bit cheeky, but kind of the mood that the book went along. My mum didn’t like it because it was too violent – and she’s read all my stuff. I’ve promised her the next book is very different – but you never know with books.

Can you pin-point an initial inspiration for the book?

A very strong image I had of two boys smoking in a crypt flicking cigarettes at a coffin. I knew at once that they worked for vampires, but I wanted to know what they were like, how they had gotten so comfortable, even brazen, in their job. Everything sprang from that.

What are you working on at the moment?

A novel called the Stone Road. I’m just picking through a messy first draft and trying to work out what it’s about – which I think I know, now, but we’ll see. There are many drafts ahead.

You’re clearly a fan of Lovecraft and also devoted to Brisbane where you now live. Brisbane is nothing like the gloomy windy shores of New England. Is Brisbane a gothic place in your mind? What makes it so?Trent-Photo

Funnily enough I’m not that into Lovecraft other than the cosmic horror, though I tend to play around with it a lot less seriously in my work. But I adore Brisbane. It is not a gothic place in my mind at all, in some ways, like most cities, I guess, it’s a blank slate. But that’s just an invitation to artists. Brisbane is a place that drives some great fantasy writing. You’ll be seeing new fantasy and horror novels set in Brisbane by Angela Slatter and Gary Kemble in the next twelve months or so, and that excites me. I think it’s a city worth writing about, and you know, what makes a city great comes down to the community that lives in it, and the stories they tell. The more stories and art we have the richer the place we live in. Brisbane sings with stories, and I’m proud to be a part of that.

What’s your writing process for books? Do you throw a lot away? Do you write every day? Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of the pants?

I am slow and non-linear. And I slap scenes together and see how they work. I write thin – my early drafts are whisps – and then too thick, and then have to thin again. I don’t plan, but I do a lot of rewriting, structural and line-by-line – I don’t know if you’ve noticed here, but my punctuation is awful! I try and write every day, even if it’s only a few words. I don’t tend to do marathon sessions until I am editing and deadlines come into play. Otherwise it’s just chip, chip, chip and see what you end up with.

How do you go with social media? What do you do to increase interest in your work and how much time do you spend on it? Any tips?

I have gotten worse at this over the years. I’m a bit weary of social media as a platform, or maybe just weary of the sound of my voice. As a place to have fun it’s great, but as a selling tool for me, I’m not so sure. I don’t spend nearly enough time on increasing interest in my work. But I am always open to anything interesting when it comes along, promotion wise. What I do do, I try and have fun with. If you’re going to promote you need to be creative, honest, and have fun. Writing books is the thing that interests me, and reading. Everything else is just waving flags (unless, you’re great at it, and there are some really wonderful self promoters out there) and hoping someone notices.

What 3 artworks (books, music, visual arts, films) have most inspired you?

I am terrible at narrowing things down to favourites. They always change, because I keep reading and listening, and you forget your favourites (well, I do, anyway), and then you encounter the work again and you remember that, yes, you listened to that album non-stop for a year. But there is a constant churn of inspiration. Currently it’s Ursula K. Le Guin’s Tombs of Atuan, N.K. Jemisin’s book The Fifth Season (which I am reading at the moment), and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian.

All of which are feeding into the new book whether I want them to or not.

http://www.trentjamieson.com/

Trent can be contacted at teacupthrenody at hotmail dot com

Trent Jamison 2