The girl with no pants on

On a freezing day of sheeting rain, a dark-haired young woman without shoes gets off the 1.44 train.  Not only are her feet bare but so are her legs.  I can’t tell if she’s wearing anything on her bottom half. The shirt and hoodies she’s wearing covers her down to the top of her thighs.

I greet her thinking she might be one of the clients of the youth mental health service nearby and in need of directions.

“I’m hungry,” is all she says.

Figuring she needs it more than me, I give her the chocolate bar I have squirrelled away for my afternoon treat.  I can think of a number of reasons why a young woman would be out in cold rain with no pants or shoes on and none of them are good. She eats it and proceeds to wander around outside the station. After a while she comes back with a cigarette butt she’s picked up outside and asks me for a light which I can’t give her.  She tells me she is off to another youth health service in the city at which I am much relieved.  Hopefully she can get the care she clearly needs there.

If she gets there ok.

The train is late and for a long time she stands on the edge of the platform staring grimly into the pit. She’s calm – not agitated. Stoned?  In shock? The Boss is visiting and she starts to get worried. So do a number of the other people on the platform, many of whom have children in tow. Everyone is watching as the Boss approaches the girl asks her to come away from the edge and is told, “Don’t treat me like a Fucking Child!”

At this the Boss goes inside and rings Control.  The driver is told to come in slow and on the lookout.

As the train creeps in the young woman leaves the coping and walks away down the platform.  I shadow her.

But the train stops without incident and she gets calmly into it.  To go where?  I wish I knew.

Later that day I ring the place she said she was going, but I only get answering machines.  I hope she’s alright. I wish there was more I could have done.

Yucky

A woman in the waiting room looks very sick.  I rush inside to get the rubbish bin for her.  She clutches it in her arms and throws up.

Shortly afterwards we discover the bin is not watertight.  Yuck!

Note to self – next time leave the garbage bag in.

When I go back to the junction they have a much worse situation. Some poor woman has taken too much ICE and has had a psychotic melt-down on the platform.  Police AND Ambulance.  Makes my sicky bin story look a bit pathetic!

P.S. Sorry I’ve been absent for a while.  I got involved in the fight for Climate Action.  At the moment in Australia we are trying to stop our government putting a coal mine on the Great Barrier Reef. Please sign if you feel strongly.

https://secure.avaaz.org/en/india_great_barrier_reef_loc/?pv=236&rc=fb

https://www.acf.org.au/stop_adani

 

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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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 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.”

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.

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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