with The Shrieking Violets, my book club

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The novelty has worn off a tad now it’s winter but mostly I love commuting. They do a nice sunrise over the ocean around 7.03 am. If I leave the house then I can stroll down the hill to catch the 7.13 (or if it’s 7.06 it’s a quick sprint) - portable coffee cup in hand and a slice of sourdough toast with Marg’s yummy tangelo marmalade…to join the happy band of commuters clutching their briefcase, art folio or backpack, papers tucked underarm, breath steaming, ready and waiting on the platform for the ride to Central. I quite like being part of the throng of people with ‘busyness’ – places to go, people to meet, work to be done. There’s something quite tribal about sharing the space. Mostly you get a seat to yourself but you don’t get two; you have to jostle your bags and your affairs and your laptop when the train stops at the next station, make way for people with leg braces or on crutches (we got chatting, the latter two and I, and I ended up with a new babysitter - the woman with the leg brace’s daughter - out of the transaction), make sure your earphones don’t get caught in between the seat (or the legs of your travel companion), make sure you don’t speak too loudly on your mobile phone when you have to ring home to remind them to put out the rubbish or the cat. It’s a bit of a squash sometimes as we approach Sydney, and you find yourself listening in to the tinny sound of several mp3 players all playing different tunes at once, or overhearing conversations that you’d perhaps rather not. One time it was “oh, not her, she was on the morning train in the same spot”. Hint: take the next carriage. But actually, it’s great for characters for your next novel: an excited bustle of women of a certain age all travelling to Fox Studios to be the audience for some cooking show; that was more fun. Returning one night on the 5.03 Pt Kembla express I overheard the entire conversation between an ex-gaol bird and an idealistic young woman working in aged care. I could tell he was hitting on her from the start, though he raved on about his new partner (who had asked him to marry her); I wondered when the young woman was going to wake up to it. I heard all about the local hotspots, trouble with the Police, where to live or not to live and why, all the good stuff. They had no idea I was snooping – I had my earphones in and my novel open and propped up on my bag and - to all and sundry I was not in the least bit curious.

I guess commuting can be a bit inconvenient if you have extra baggage. Fitting overnight bags if you have to catch a plane after work, as you do now and then, is a bit of a trial on the older trains – no real overhead space and you will get lots of glares if you try and take up an extra seat with your stuff. I catch the UNSW bus from Redfern – there we are greeted in the morning by a friendly young pierced guy in one of those yellow safety vests and a beanie, whose job it seems is to write down the numbers of the users of the buses to UNSW. He seems to know us all almost by name, and it’s really quite nice to arrive, slightly out of breath from your run from the station and be greeted for your morning trip across to Randwick. He tells you that you should have brought your gloves this morning or that you just have time to zip to the ATM or get a coffee. The bus drivers are also especially friendly. This morning we had the luxury coach and we were treated to Sarah Brightman in Las Vegas. “I’ll go around the block if you want to finish the show” he says. “It’s my favourite.” One time I had a few things I needed to deliver to Seb at UNSW. Some op shop clothes for his latest fancy dress social, and some posters in tubes. My cousin who’d babysat our house had also left the metal rod from his ute, so I thought I may as well make a meal of it and take them all at once. Manipulating the metal rod was interesting on the train and especially at Redfern, but I didn’t get arrested. It called for a few comments from the friendly pierced fellow and the bus driver. The latter kindly let me drop it off to Seb on my way to my stop, so I wouldn’t have to take it all the way to work (up the very steep hill from UNSW). The bus pulled in at the first UNSW stop where I spotted Seb waiting as instructed, we quickly made the handover (op shop clothes, shoes, poster tube and metal rod), then I jumped back on the bus. Who says it can’t be done? It saved a whole wasteful trip in the car, all those greenhouse gases, parking hassles and petrol. I love commuting!

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