We caught this special train at 9.20 am from Bowral. Bowral is a bit more than a hundred kilometres from Sydney. The seats had been pre-booked Online. An experience on its own. How people can ever get on a train without owning a computer is now in question. A good friend told me it is a normal thing to do. “Lots of normal people book online now,” she said, adding, “if I can do it so can you.” She seems to regard me normal, which is reassuring.
I reckon many people don’t have computer skills nor want to book online. Many ‘normal’ people might well expect a train ticket to be sold at train stations. Apparently, we were punished for booking online and charged normal fare while entitled to a ‘senior’ fare. We are not normal fare payers. We are seniors. But let’s not be chagrined over such little details. After we found our seat numbers synchronising with our booked tickets we leant back luxuriating in soft adjustable seats with arm rests. With some fiddling we also managed to find foot-rests elevating our feet from the floor. The train had toilets. Always handy for seniors. You know how it is?
The whole journey was a great experience and well worth the extra expense. Every ten minutes the train-driver would give some information about the buffet car serving coffee, tea and food together with expected time arrivals at Sydney. After arrival I retrieved my luggage trolley with the books that were booked into the State Library for two literary awards, a $ 25 000. Memoir/Biography award, and one $10.000. Humour writing award.
We decided to walk, knowing we would be in for a challenge. At 11am, it was already a scorcher. What the heck. We carried water, books and wore good shoes. What more could you want for a trans- city walk? Helvi, did not want to catch buses. “Why not take it easy, we have all day. The return train is booked leaving 18.12. Let’s make it a holiday,” she said. I wasn’t against this. Suggestions are generally not contested. Helvi has a knack of making friendly suggestions that are unrefusable. So, off we went. My trolley with the hopeful books had wheels and I had my RM William boots ( see previous article photo).
The first couple of hundred metres took us along a large park fence. It is a well known park which extends towards the beginning of the rows and rows of Sydney’s high-rise buildings, mixture of offices and apartments with shops underneath. We were surprised that along this park fence were stretched out so many tarpaulins, tents and rickety constructions, housing homeless people. Even at Central Station we noticed the dishevelled homeless stretched out on the marble tiled floor, heads on shopping bags covered by rags. There were always some, but now…so many. Not just young men but also elderly folk and women. I expect with this fanatic cut back on welfare and pensions by our government, this sad army will only grow bigger. I wonder how many of those sleeping rough are displaced train conductors having become superfluous, replaced by steel Opal Posts?
I am not sure, was it the rising heat or the sight of so much homeless despair or the combination, but I was feeling nauseous and told Helvi. I confessed that I needed to see a nice toilet. “Oh dear, she said, I knew it! That’s the trouble with you. I can’t go anywhere with you without you looking and needing a toilet. You should not have had those two strong coffees.”
I do confess suffering from intestinal hurry. A condition that calls for those familiar with it to always keep a close watch on the availability of toilets. The closer the better! I have an American friend who is the same. He has gained an intimate and formidable knowledge of all public toilets within twenty kilometres of Central Sydney. He is thinking of writing a guide book on the subject. He might well end up winning a literature award. Those sort of odd books are much liked.
After scanning the road ahead I noticed a pub. I asked Helvi if she would like a beer. “Why, she said? Can’t you just go to use the pub’s toilet without feeling obliged to order something? Just go in there and be brave. Many normal people use toilets, just go in there with your little suitcase-trolley. I’ll come and look after it.” She has a point! I do tend to be over obliging, crawling perhaps.
On my return I told Helvi that the taps were very unique. “They start running without touching them. Amazing technology, I enthused. “I am not interested in your toilet taps talk, Gerard. Let’s go.” We continued at a far more relaxed pace now that the toilet issue had been dealt with. I fancied people might well take me and my trolley for a barrister with a large volume of Court Applicants’ Affidavits and Responses, on my way to the Family Court, dealing with a very litigious contentious but lucrative divorce case.
I did wonder if we would meet other literary award hopefuls? Half way, we took a rest. I ordered a vegetarian sandwich for Helvi while I had a salmon bagel. Both were nice including two latte coffees.. We asked a woman directions to the Library. She surprised us by saying, she too was on her way to the Library. However, she did not have a trolley. That cut her out as a competitor! With rather steep application fees plus the cost of providing five hard copies of the book plus ISBN numbers might put restriction on some writers. Many an aspiring author often ends up in despair or poverty. Worse, one could imagine it a distinct possibility to end up in a tent in the park as well. A yellowing tearstained manuscript blowing in hot wind.
This is now getting a bit long. But, no worries.
It will be continued.