An Art Installation?

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For some reason 🙂 St Patrick’s Day last week made me remember some photos I took back in January.

Why were these bras hanging outside Brunswick Station? Could this be an Art work?  Somehow they didn’t look like it. The fact that there was a backpackers hostel and pub nearby could have been relevant.

I ride past the station on my bike every day and after they’d been there 48 hours, I undid them and put them in the local charity bin. (I noticed they were all the same size.  Relevant?)

I asked the cleaner who is a devout Iraqi Christian (from Mosul, poor man), “Did you see the women’s underwear outside Brunswick.”  He said he had but he didn’t like to remove them. “I thought they might be part of your Australian culture,” he added.

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The Man-kini

 

D is studiedly bogan. He shakes my hand with an iron grip, tells me he’s from Gippsland and that in his depressed country town every third street has an ice-lab. Shades of “Winters Bone”. He describes getting drunk and driving down the main drag yelling at the shards (ice addicts.) Then he tells me he’s joined the local medieval re-enactment society and how much he likes fighting with the rattan canes. (thus exploding the whole bogan persona in my eyes.)

A pleasant young man. I’m not sure why he’s in Melbourne, but I haven’t pressed him in case he’s here with the Mental Health Service or the Juvenile Detention Service both of which have flats in the area. He may just be here to go to University. What I’d really like to know is his relationship with the two different young women he took the zoo the week before Christmas both of whom he seemed to be on arms-around-waist relations with. (Watch out for your station staff. They notice things.)
Today he looks a bit rough. Apparently, he drank too much on New Year’s Eve.
“I don’t remember much but my mates say I was wandering round Elizabeth Street in a man-kini singing and playing the guitar.

“Did people tuck money into your man-kini?” I ask.
“No,” he says, “But I do remember getting smacked on the arse a lot.”

Inquiring minds want to know!

So on the last day of the year a little old man potters into the waiting room  – carrying a pick.  I’m so curious and just a tiny bit concerned. What sort of person carries a pick on the train? Is he a miner? A madman? An assassin?  .

The old guy looks rather sweet.   He seems to know me – we must have spoken before.

“They making you work even now,” he says sympathetically.

“I see you are too,” I say, hoping for more information.

“Oh I’m still working on that primary school. But I’m a volunteer and can stop whenever I like,” he says and potters off down the platform.

WITHOUT GIVING ANY EXPLANATION OF THE PICK! ARGGHH!

I hope the primary school is still there when the children get back from holidays.

Happy New Year to you All.

 

Train Surfers

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The 3.04 stopped and the driver got out and took a walk down the platform.“I think there’s kids riding on the rear coupling,” he said as he went past. Sure enough as he got further down the train, three youths jumped off the end of the train. Giggling they leapt off the furthest end of the platform and ran into the bushes beyond.

The driver came back and the train left.

A couple of minutes later I heard yelling from the nearby tram stop. Two youths were hanging onto the back of a departing tram while a third ran alongside trying to get onto the running board. How on earth did these guys survive? But they must have because no ambulance came. They also showed an impressive turn of speed in running that kilometer between the far end of our platform and the tram stop.
I’ve started checking the back of all the trains more assiduously because kids ride on the couplings regularly (a couple of times a month I see them) I recently caught one trying to get on a coupling on the opposite platform and was able to drive him off with a shout and a glare. (he was clearly too young to ignore me, about 15)
Once a group of them inside the rear carriage saw me checking and started waving and blowing me kisses. Hard not to be softened by their cheekiness.
I understand the appeal of riding on the rear coupling, I really do, but if you fall off it’s a long way down and fast and the trains have to stop while some poor para-medic scrapes you off the tracks.

Tattooed Love

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Back at work after a holiday. Blah!
But we amuse ourselves as best we can. Yesterday I got talking to one of the regulars, a highly tattooed man with a false leg who attends the nearby physio classes.
He wears tattoo sleeves on his artificial leg so that it matches his real one and I must say it’s a good way of disguising it. Also I find people with only one leg tattooed always look as if they are limping.
While he was telling me you had to be tough to get tatts, a woman on the other side of the waiting room pipped up and said it didn’t hurt all that much. Soon she was telling us how she drew a tatt in texta on her ankle back in the 70’s (“when women didn’t get tatts”) for two weeks just to try it out and see if she could handle the attention. Apparently she could, because she had lots now. The two of them got talking and when the train came they got on together still talking. Have I created a relationship here? Maybe started a true love? Probably not. But it’s nice to dream.

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.

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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.

 

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Three mobile phones

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One skill I’ve developed over the years of working on the railways is the ability not to scream the words “Are you insane?!!!” the minute they come into my head.  This was useful this week, when I saw someone walking down the cutting beside the tracks.  There’s not a lot of space in there and while not actually deadly, it’s certainly not “minimizing the risk” as the Occ. Health and Safety folks say.  Also it upsets the drivers who are inclined to be jumpy over people walking beside the tracks.

I was surprised to discover the trespasser was a young woman.  They usually have too strong a sense of self-preservation for such hi jinks.

“Hang on,” she replied, absent-mindedly poking around in the bushes when I went down and yelled “Hey get off the tracks it’s not safe.”

At length she came up and handed me three mobile phones to hold while she climbed up onto the platform.

“What are you looking for?” I asked, thinking I could help.

“A Pokemon!” said she.

Hence the jaw-dropping moment when I discovered the Pokemon-Go craze.  Apparently my station is a Pokemon-Go point of interest.

Oh Joy!

Pokemon Go players looking for Pokemon

Best wishes to all you Pokemon-Go players.  Glad to see you around.  But stay safe.

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 …

Trial of an Ex-Metro Employee

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http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-01/nicholas-archer-pleads-guilty-to-train-derailment-sabotage/7467344

Bad luck for Metro and the CFA! Glad they finally caught this guy.

Metro has around 3500 employees and in that number there are sure to be a few bad eggs that make you look suspiciously at the rest of the carton.  Most of my workmates are lovely highly decent people.

HOWEVER …

My first week at my first station a man rang and asked for X.  I’d never heard of X so I asked my station master who took the call.  After he hung up he told me that X was no longer working for us.  He was in jail having held up 8 service stations!

“Startling” news when you are just fresh out of working in libraries, where assigning the wrong Dewey number is the worst offence you get from other staff.

But I stand by my assertion that my workmates are mostly lovely decent people.  2 in 13 years among 3500 is pretty good odds.

A Moment of Stardom

On Tuesday a huge TV crew were at the junction filming scenes for a new Channel 10 series called The Wrong Girl starring Jessica Marais.  They needed someone qualified to wrangle the escalators so I spent an hour and a half pushing the stop button every time the location man tapped me on the shoulder.

The patience of film people!  They did the same 20 seconds of scene half a dozen times with the stunt double, a couple of times with the actress, and then they did it all again from a different vantage point.  They had to stop, and I had to restart the escalators, every time a train came in.  I never realized how many trains come in on Platform 1 before.

The customers were startled to reach the top of the escalators and find a middle-aged Metro employee hiding cross legged behind the railing, but my knees are shot and it was much easier to risk being trampled than get up and down.  The film crew were lovely. They kept offering me cushions to sit on and bringing me tea.

Of course I forgot to take a picture but luckily someone going past in a train did and you can see Jessica Marais and her stunt double behind the extra in the purple top.

The location man assured me that my big moment was a pivotal scene and wouldn’t wind up on the cutting room floor.  When you see the escalator stop, you won’t see me, but you’ll know I’m there pressing that button!  Watch out Jessica Marais!  I’m on my way and I’ve got stars in my eyes.!!! 🙂