Thursday, May 29, 2008

A rail journey at night

from w

I wrote this quickly as a response to our experience going up to Melbourne and back by train on Thursday night. An edited and hopefully improved version has just now (Saturday) been posted on our babasiga blog site. The first version here was posted Friday.

A man with no name

‘You will be detrained,’ said the female conductor in a moderate voice that not everyone heard.

I had never heard that word before. Others like it ‘the train will terminate at Southern Cross station’ – well I’ve heard that a few times.

The off-peak train trip to Melbourne and back seemed like a good idea at the time. Only about $5 each and no worries about finding an expensive car park in the city. The 12.35 from North Geelong station where we left the car was on time and we reached the Uniting Church offices by 2.5 for the workshop on cross-cultural ministry and how migrant congregations are going. Only representing Fijian and Indonesian groups for this day. The meeting room was claustrophobic as the ground floor is like a rabbit warren and we were given electronic tags to open a door. I just held my peace except to say, ‘Don’t you trust God to look after you,’ and I breathed deeply. It was a small group but the conversations were lively, sometimes theoretical, but as practical and down to earth as we could make it. At 5.40 we had a delicious dinner together then Peceli and I caught the Collins Street tram in time for the 6.28 p.m. Warrnambool train which should stop at North Geelong about 45 minutes later.

Well, that’s what we thought. There were six carriages, crowded, and the front carriage for Geelong commuters without reserved seats was totally packed. My feet were sore and I really wanted to get home quickly to take my tight shoes off. Our seats were face to face so there were six of us who would get to know one another quite well a bit later, but at the beginning of the journey we just nuzzled into our books and magazines without speaking. I had a Marama magazine from Fiji to read. That is the default situation – like a computer goes back to Times Roman point 12 perhaps. A journey ‘alone’, without reference to people whose thighs touch yours and knees sometimes bump.

Ten minutes later, after North Melbourne the train stopped. Through the window I could see graffiti on walls so we were in a narrow section of the tracks.

We waited and after about ten minutes the V-line conductor, a young woman, announced, 'We would have to stay put for a while as a trespasser was on the railway line and they had to change drivers.'

What did that mean? The middle-aged woman with bright blonde hair rang her mobile. Her ex was a policeman. Shortly after, she said to us that something must have happened. The driver might be in shock for some reason. She was seated in between two young guys and I was between Peceli and a young woman engrossed in a novel.

Another period of time elapsed and the conductor walked up the aisle and now said calmly, ‘ A person is deceased and we will have to wait for the police and the coroner as this is a crime scene. The train is not allowed to move. We might have to stay inside for three hours before being detrained.’ I think she perhaps realized she had told us too much.

My panic buttons set off then and I wanted to breathe clean air, step outside but we were not near a platform but between North Melbourne and South Kensington stations. All the trains would be diverted away from this area, they told us.

This changed the situation of each person in their own world of reading or sleeping. The three opposite us started talking, (they knew one another) particularly the guy holding a magazine of glamour women. He was a Deakin student in Public Relations and Journalism and the blonde woman was his mother, down from Queensland to catch up with family. She had only come on the train to talk with his son. The other young man, 21 he said later, was a Journalism student at Deakin also, and on workplace assignment with the Age. He had a cutting from today’s paper with his byline, the positive article with a lovely picture of two Aboriginal girls I had noticed earlier at breakfast time.

‘Good for Reconciliation Week,’ I said.

About a school at Healesville re-opening. There was much talk about editing, taking photos, and I asked about copyright and pinching photos on the internet.

The photo guy said,’ I have my named embedded in the photo – not that anyone can see it, but Google can and I ask them to delete any of my pictures used without authorisation.’

Peceli started drawing the scene inside the train with a pen, using my sketchbook, and then it was passed around and there were comments of my sketch of the bridge over Yarra St.

The guy said, ‘I did the PR writeup for the development.’

So of course I said, ‘I was one of the protesters against Westfield bridge. I can’t stand huge super size developments.’

None of us were talking about the ‘thing’ on our mind. What had really happened? Who was killed and did he or she jump, or just wander onto the tracks? Or was a graffiti artist talking risks? We were just guessing.

Announcements came over the speaker periodically and the conductor kept informing us, minimally, about how long to wait. ‘If you want to move back into another carriage because of the smoke, do so.’

Peceli said, ‘I thought smoking is banned on trains.’

Apparently it was a compromise this time because some people were starting to panic without their nicotine fixes. The conductor said, ‘There is free coffee from the snack bar which is now open.

‘Where is it?’

‘Back four carriages.’

Lucky Peceli had bought that bottle of water in Collins Street as we had been drinking from that. My claustrophobia was kicking in and we talked about moving to a carriage where there might be a bit of space, but the three people in front of us were entertaining us with their chatter, the guy talkative and telling hilarious anecdotes. The girl beside me was onto her last forty pages of her book.

Peceli and I wanted coffee so traipsed through the carriages, past people sitting quietly without panic but a few were sitting on the floor in the in-between carriages areas. The smokers had been sent right to the front of the train in the front of our carriage. (Some were on pot, a guy told us.) We met a couple of people we knew. The V-line coffee was sweet and hot. There was not the usual stumble along the aisle on a moving train with your coffee as this train was stationary, very much so.

Through the window I could just see the scribbles and scrawls of graffiti on a cement wall. We were all ignoring the reality of what had happened at the front of the engine - police officers and forensic people with a body. Instead we chatted with people, observed others with their various books – Anatomy of a Dog was one of them. Many city workers had their laptops open, and some academics were grading papers. Not everyone had shifted like us into talking ten-to-the-dozen with strangers. Many were still ‘alone’ with their books. Two women had their knitting out and bundles of wool were flung on their laps.

The young woman next to me closed her final page and sighed. I had not interrupted her at all, but now we started a conversation. She was a tertiary student of myochem.. something to do with bones and muscles. She said she was originally from Canada so that elicited travel stories from the blonde. I was thinking about the way people manage a situation where they cannot control the outcome. Oh, eventually we would be moved out of the carriages but for now, there were 350 people trapped for two hours or more. Most people seemed to manage okay but several older men were getting noisily drunk down at the end of the carriage.

After two hours a voice came over saying, ‘The train will go to Footscray and there will be buses waiting.’

We certainly sighed with relief. The train moved and soon we reached the next main suburban station. But there were no buses. we would have to wait for maybe 45 minutes. Remember many of the travellers still have a journey of three or four hours to their destination at Warrnambool in the western district.. The smokers leapt out onto the platform, Peceli and I after them, to get cold fresh air. We talked with strangers, asked questions, gave answers. One V-line staff there told us that the train should have stayed put for five hours but V-line had argued with the police that you just can’t maintain order with 350 people locked into a claustrophobic situation.

A bus arrived and an announcement rose in the frosty air. 'A bus is ready. Geelong Express. Go straight away if you want that bus.’

We went into cave-man default this time, rushing, running, pushing, shoving, ignoring the young, ignoring the elderly, to reach the door. Although we wanted to get to North Geelong, this was near enough for Peceli and me. A $10 taxi ride would get us back to North station and our parked car. We got seats together and it was a luxury bus, the kind for long tours. We left three hundred people behind, still waiting.

Near Werribee the driver announced that we would be taken to Werribee station to catch the train to Geelong! What? We were on the freeway going home!

Some travellers were loudly talking into their mobiles, one guy abusing someone the other end. Another, a young woman was discussing her mixed up marriage and bashings. We were in a different space now from the orderly discussions we had had in the front carriage. A talkative young woman who wouldn’t let up about there being three dead at the ‘incident’ as she had heard the police talking, she said. Now this gave me a really bad feeling of despair for the lives of people who see no other way but suicide. Was there one person or three? Our minds raced and speculated. However a young man across the aisle from me said something about it all being a tragedy. He was right. We had mostly been just thinking of our inconvenience.

Was a train really waiting there? This might mean another wait though. The bus driver changed his mind ten minutes later and took us straight down the highway and we would be home at last. Several people on the bus actually wanted to exit at North and the driver drove into the side lane and dropped about eight of us at the traffic alight opposite North Geelong station. We really thanked the driver.

We had forgotten to thank that female conductor who had looked after us for those awful two hours on the stationary train though I did pat her on the shoulder as a gesture of thanks'

Our car was still there with only two other vehicles left. Ws I glad to see the old car with the mismatched bumper and the broken tail-light.

What a relief it was to get home by 11 p.m. five hours after leaving Southern Cross Station in Melbourne. I listened to the Geelong radio news and the ABC news but there were no stories about the train accident or the death of a man.

Next morning I bought the Advertiser and read a small column headed ‘Rail commuters angry at delay‘ or words to that effect. Actually I don’t recall many people our end of the train shouting and abusing V-line staff, but someone said it happened._ There was mention in the paper of a man who had jumped in front of the train. No name was given.

Was there a phone call last night or a knock on a door by a police officer to inform relatives, his mother, father, sibling of the death? We will not know.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Geelong streets in a mess this week

from w
They are digging up holes everywhere and putting up barriers to block off traffic and buses are running late. And as usual the bridge over the Yarra Street is still under construction. I did a pencil sketch of the Westfield development (?) from inside a bus. The other sketch was at the Virginia Todd Centre of the garden. I used Peceli's pen to fiddle with the details. I'm not good at drawing straight lines and the trees with the interesting white and black trunks should have been more upright.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Whittington Church is 150 years old

from w
Now 150 years is not long for a church to people in places like Britain and France, but here it is a long time. The suburb next to us is Whittington, once called St Albans and the old name is being used again for the extended area of Whittington to give it a classier name. This little Uniting Church had a party and worship for their celebration and the Uniting Church Moderator of Victoria came down. He's a Tongan, Rev. Jason Kioa. In the photo (courtesy of 'Crosslight')Jason is standing next to Ross Pearce who is the imterim pastor. St Albans and St Andrews were part of our Geelong East Parish for a while but alas the vote went to separate us from the other two congregations a year or so ago. Anyway, the St Albans/Whittington church folk are getting a new minister next February who is a Samoan, Rev Sani Vaeluaga. Way to go - with more Pacific Islanders coming into Geelong. Hope he and his family like to drink kava!

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A garden in Geelong

fron w
I should take a break from those psychedelic kind of pictures I've been posting lately before more than one person thinks I'm on a good or bad trip! Here's a sketch of part of a front garden in Myers Street, East Geelong.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

lookin' at modern art

from w
They say that laughter is good for health and that visiting art galleries is therefore very good medicine. Why? Because many people laugh at abstract art just as they laugh at embarrassing situations. So I've put two lanky sculptures next to my watching woman and perhaps they are laughing. Here's some variations too. I started this with a pencil sketch of a woman viewing an art work. I usually start from something observed then take off as if in a dream. So is that modern art? Certainly my little pictures are not selling for $3 million or more though. Laugh at modern art or cry about the obscenities surrounding the sale of work that may be no more than 'The Emperor's New Clothes' perhaps!

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A teenager's obsession with ink, paint and paper

from w
When tidying up I came across some ancient yellowed papers from the days when a teenager had never heard of computers or even felt pens. Drawing was with a pen and Indian ink! Perhaps she was fifteen when these were made. Probably the castle was copied from some English book - there was a certain Anglophile bias in books and magazines for Australian kids then. This was the early 50s.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

More colouring in

from w
Two versions - printed dark and light using Picasa - of the woman wearing gloves sewing. The gloves started off as white then got messed up. I haven't used a sewing machine for a while - you can probably tell - I forgot to thread the woman's machine!
(later: I tried to give her whiter gloves and threaded her machine, though it's not exactly right!)


Colouring in like a five-year-old

from w
Not satisfied today, just mucking around filling in with paint in between the lines.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Scribbling with pencil and pen

from w
Some scribbles in a small A5 booklet: two while waiting for a bus - in East Geelong of a tumble-down house which I have sketched twice before and now there is only one tin left on the roof, in Highton of a grassy rise which looks like a loaf of bread, a woman sewing, and a watcher of artwork. Not satisfied that I am too timid or lazy or distracted to get to do paint on canvas. the drawings were on white paper which I altered using Picasa.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

The city

from w
We received an interesting email about an event cancelled.

Voices in the City: Urban Ministry Forum
Thursday 29 May - Sunday 1 June 2008

This event has been cancelled.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Drawing portraits

from Peceli
I've been having a go at drawing faces lately, with pencil, pen, pastels. Here are a few which have been altered a little bit using Picasa.


Sending goods to Vanua Levu

from w
This morning the container going to Vanua Levu at the initiative of Joy, was finally filled and locked ready to be transported to Melbourne then Lautoka then onto Dreketi in Vanua Levu. It was filled with computers, furniture, books, medical supplies, women's bras (!) etc. etc. and my assortment of boxes for women's needlework and crafts I had collected from various women's groups in Geelong. The locals here are very generous in giving new and old items. This afternoon more boxes arrived at my doorstep from a sister of a dear friend Nancy who passed away a couple of years ago so I did a doubletake when I saw her resemblance. Her donated goods included lengths of cloth for sewing and also little craft items and samples of what to do with them. They will go to women's groups and high school needlework students in another container later in the year. Geelong Donation in Kind depot sends about 15 containers a year to South Pacific islands and to South East Asia.
(some photos added later; thanks Joy.)

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Geelong singing cobbler

from w
Peter has resumed his old trade of repairing shoes after a rise to fame as an excellent opera singer, but that limelight just wasn't for him. His shop in Little Malop Street surely will resound occasionally with a tenor voice as he taps and nails and glues bits of leather on shoes. We have met him on birthday and other occasions at parties in a house in Wallington and I was amazed at his lovely voice.

Peter Brocklehurst is back cobbling songs together
04Feb08 Geelong Advertiser The photo is from another article about Peter in today's Addie.

THINGS might have come full circle for the singing cobbler Peter Brocklehurst, who has shunned the spotlight to return to his shoe repair business. But as the overnight sensation burst into song at the opening of his new Geelong store yesterday, the crowds flocked around in recognition of his flawless tenor voice.
Brocklehurst, who was thrust into the limelight as an opera singer in his 40s, has given it all up to open a shoe repair shop in Little Malop St. It was while working as a shoe repairer, and singing while he did so, that Brocklehurst was discovered as a tenor with an extraordinary voice.

That led to instant fame _ but not instant happiness. In between number one CDs, sellout shows on stages such as at the Sydney Opera House and interest from Oprah Winfrey and David Letterman, Brocklehurst's world crashed around him.

Love broke his heart, alcohol ruined his health and depression just about burnt his soul. The music inside him died. Then he fell in love again and by last year was on stage at Her Majesty's Theatre in Melbourne, starring in a musical about his tumultuous life, Brave Men Run in Our Family.

And now, in a new dramatic twist, Brocklehurst has quit it all. His reasoning: fixing shoes makes him happy. And singing didn't make him any money, despite the notoriety.

His new shop, to be known as The Singing Cobbler, has also been given a new lease of life, having been in the hands of the same owners for about 32 years. He said the best thing of all was he would be able to fix shoes and sing, minus the pressure and hopefully with a profit.
One of many stories about Peter online is this one.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Watched The Painted Veil tonight

from w
Okay, I'm a sucker for romantic, dramatic films set in exotic locations even if set in colonial times. The Painted Veil was our time out (and Maccas afterwards) for Mothers Day which is actually tomorrow. Peceli liked it too. It was believable as far as Somerset Maughamn writes. Remember he stayed at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva at times and I guess wrote from those colonial corridors. Beautiful scenery. Interesting characters and plot. There are lots of reviews on-line.

Many years ago I read a lot of Somerset Maugham's short stories and books such as The Moon and Sixpence about a character like Gauguin in Tahiti. I guess I often read books about exotic locations and for a while I read books about India such as Bhowani Junction. Eventually I found books written by people other than Europeans and got into the novels of Naipaul and Ben Okri.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Butchers, bakers, candestick makers

from w
The National Wool Museum in Geelong currently is running a photograph exhibition of local shopkeepers and craftsmen and their business ventures. This is a far cry from the super-size supermarket mania that I do not like. Well, one picture is of our Boundary Rd butcher, Ken Phemister who has been in his shop for 36 years. Our nearby little shopping strip has a fish and chip guy from Lebanon where I buy the papers and milk and talk politics, then Ken's shop where he always gives me twice the meat I pay for and good yarns, then a fishing gear shop, and then a scuba diving shop, so it's a strangely fishy group of shops.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The auction of Miharo

from w
One of the prettiest houses in Geelong that I've wanted to explore is up for auction. I wasn't able to look through it as I was busy when they opened it for the public. This is the house on my wish list - though I wouldn't know how to keep it tidy of course. It's like a beautiful iced wedding cake. Address - 145 Noble Street Newtown. I noticed it first when I was researching a family who lived next door (related to the Loch Ard shipwreck story). The elaborate facade was added in 1890 to an earlier building by architests Beswike and Coote, and more renovations were made in the 1990s. There is a beautiful conservatory. It's not all old-fashioned beauty though - there's a multi-car garage for 12 cars! The auction is next Saturday, 10th May at noon. I wonder how many million it will bring! The name, Miharo, is perhaps a Maori name so I wonder about the connection.
(Later, Miharo was sold on Saturday afternoon for over $1.9 million.)

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Still life drawing

from w
Yesterday I did two sketches at a house while the guys drank kava. One of three ball-like objects on a plate, the other based on a photo a little girl showed me of her grandfather who is a security officer. I used pencil, then today mucked about with the scanned pictures by using Photo-edit.

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