A long walk around Sydney on a hot Day with my Books.

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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.

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28 Responses to “A long walk around Sydney on a hot Day with my Books.”

  1. Yvonne Says:

    You always seem to take us on a journey that is somehow familiar. I thank you for that.

    Like

  2. shoreacres Says:

    It’s well-known among travelers along America’s highways and byways that McDonald’s is the place to stop for (1) decent, cheap coffee, and (2) restrooms. Even if you’re not inclined toward burgers and fries, the traffic through those restaurants is so heavy that someone just stopping by to visit the facilities never is noticed.

    I’m looking forward to the continuation.

    Liked by 4 people

    • auntyuta Says:

      I am looking forward to it, too! I think McDonald’s here in Australia is also always good for a coffee and a toilet break.

      Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      According to statistics Australia has the highest density of McDonalds per capita in the world. Some say there is a correlation between that and Australians being the second most obese.
      I have used their restroom facilities as well. In my next instalment of this literary adventure I will talk on how on that very day we met up with a toilet for females that was still called , a ‘Lady’s Powder Room.’

      Like

  3. Curt Mekemson Says:

    Like you, Gerard, I always note where the restrooms are. And, like you, I don’t like using a restroom without buying something. Linda is right about the ever-present McDs. One of the nice things about traveling in our small RV is that it comes equipped with a toilet. Just pull off the road anywhere, and there you are. 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      It is strange how common the issue of restrooms is, Curt. Our first camping trips when our children were small we always used to dig our own. Later on, the camp manager used to put in more substantial structures with a kind of metal toilet suspended over a very deep and dark uninviting hole. At one stage a colony of bees decided to make in their home. One can never underestimate nature trying to resist mankind in damaging the environment. I won’t commend on the outcome of any honey.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Curt Mekemson Says:

        In backpacking, you play cat, Gerard, digging a hole, doing your business, and burying the results. As for the bees, I would have been much more worried about them targeting my posterior. What a target. 🙂 –Curt

        Like

  4. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    It has been a habit of mine to check out the whereabouts of the toilets immediately when I go into a restaurant. Yes, Mickey D’s is always a good stop along the way

    Liked by 1 person

  5. auntyuta Says:

    Hi Gerard, have you read this book:
    “Matthew Flinders’ Cat is a 2002 novel by Bryce Courtenay (ISBN 0670910619), published by Viking Press. It records the relationship between a homeless former lawyer and alcoholic, and a young skateboard riding boy with a troubled background, who slowly bond over tales of Matthew Flinders and “Trim”, a cat who travelled with him on his voyage to explore Australia.”
    As I recall, the State Library and all its surroundings is mentioned in this book as well as a lot of homeless people, telling about their lives and how they had to ‘disappear’ before the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Uta. Bryce Courtnay was quite a writer with an enormous output. I remember reading ‘The power of one’, a huge book, both in words and content. I suppose, any library is a home away from home. Often they are very quiet places. People whisper a bit or rustle amongst pages. One can read newspapers and…they all have toilets. The one in Goulburn used to have a coffee machine that for a dollar made real coffee from real coffee beans. It was a glorious library with an art gallery above it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • auntyuta Says:

        I find it great, Gerard, that libraries do still exist. They are also a good place to cool down on a very hot day, or warm up on a very cold day!
        This homeless former lawyer, in the novel I was referring to, is a very interesting character. Courtnay shows how someone who’s been a successful court lawyer can become a homeless and we would say ‘desperate’ person. The fascinating thing about this novel is how Courtnay makes him into a person who ‘chooses’ to live the life of a homeless person. The question is: Will he ever be able to live a different life again?
        It is an eye opener how people generally do survive or not survive a life like this.
        This boy in the story with a ‘troubled’ background becomes very interested in the stories about Matthew Flinders’ Cat. Great education for him! And development of a friendship with this homeless person. I found this very moving.

        Liked by 1 person

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Yes, I am sure some people choose to live on the streets. In literature that is sometimes being romanticised. In France, especially in Paris, they are called Clochards ( limpers) .
        We were surprised to see so many in Sydney compared with a couple of years ago when we were last walking near Central Station.
        Peter Carey is another writer who too, like Courtnay, had a background in advertising and is now living in New York. I never took to his books. He used to live in Balmain.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. auntyuta Says:

    http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/sydneys-growing-homeless-now-withing-reach-of-premiers-offices-20170112-gtqlqh.html

    Gerard, I just noticed this article about homeless people in Sydney.

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Uta. We noticed many on the steps of Martin Place. Someone had set up a kitchen and a couple of volunteers were busy cooking food for the hungry. There were scores of people squatting near this kitchen.
      I wonder with over a million Australian living permanently overseas that some homeless and hungry would be better off applying for asylum in countries more compassionate than here. I also noticed next to the Martin Place kitchen a few bookshelves filled with books for use by the homeless. Next time I go there I will donate some of my books.

      Liked by 2 people

      • auntyuta Says:

        Gerard,you say, volunteers were busy cooking food for the hungry, bookshelves were there for use by the homeless –
        All this is showing some kind of compassion, is it not? The question is, how many are homeless more or less because they choose to be and how many just cannot pay for accommodation? Is more cheap housing the solution or what are the basic problems?
        Why do so many people struggle with addictions, for instance.-
        If the homeless are on the increase, maybe it has mainly to do with shortages of affordable housing and or not enough job opportunities with the right kind of pay, or people are worn out and sick and tired of the so called rat race. Who knows?
        What do you think our politicians should do about it?
        I think all these Australians that live overseas have some means of supporting themselves. They would be on the whole healthy, enterprising, hard working people. I guess, most of these homeless people for some reason or another probably would not be very welcome in other countries.
        It is a sad story, if so many people in our country fall between the rails, so to speak, not being able to make a descent living and being unable to find adequate accommodation.
        Sorry, that I go on and on about it.
        Yes, I know about the Clochards being romanticized. I do not know whether in Paris they too become a social problem these days.

        Like

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        I suspect the politicians are the problem, Uta. I noticed that the travel expense rorting is done by politicians sneaking into real estate auctions, or horse jumping events, even doomed weddings and big swaggering parties on the Gold Coast. When does one hear politicians rorting the system going to a Book Launch or an Opera or sneaking into an Art show?

        The whole idea of our present economic system is based on one thing only, and that is Terminal Materialism. A dead end.

        It shows in their faces. They walk around town, clenched jaws and worried frowning. All keenly running somewhere, trying to escape from this dreary economy which is based on sacking and dis-employing people. The less people employed the better the business and the more money concentrated in less people.

        You are right the cooking at Martin Place for the homeless shows compassion. Some countries are trying out an income system for everybody irrespective of working or not. The robots and computers are replacing people,

        I am just rambling on, Uta. I find it difficult but I do know that Australia has had some bad examples given by our politicians. The treatment of refugees is appalling and so is the present treatment of the disabled, the unemployed and now the pensioner. When do you ever hear a politician saying kind things about refugees or boat people? The plight of the homeless?

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Christine Says:

    This is so funny – a treat, indeed.
    I know a few wonderful people who feel exactly the way you do, Gerard.

    Like

  8. Big M Says:

    Gerard,,we have noticed an exponential rise in the number of homeless in capital cities. Sydney is dreadful, Melbourne is much worse. Many quietly bunk down in a sheltered shop door, gone well before opening. Others squat there all day. Some beg in a fairly aggressive manner, others are aurprised if a few bob appears in front of them. I’ve read that some are retirees who go into town to beg to supplement their incomes. Who knows? I’ve been known to give them a few bucks so they will bugger off. No doubt there will be many more.

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Helvi and I could not believe it. Years ago, we would have phoned for an ambulance if someone was lying on the foot path. Now, we just step over them. There are so many. Some had a notice to explain their situation.
      Cutting the pension and other entitlements will make it worse. What about the children?

      Like

      • Big M Says:

        Thankfully most charities are geared towards looking after mothers and children. I suspect some blokes just walk out, knowing this. That was the origin of the swagman, men who walked out during the depression, knowing that their absence qualified the family for some help. Regardless, it’s all bloody sad!

        Like

  9. Big M Says:

    Gerard, there’s this: https://toiletmap.gov.au/

    Like

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      That’s so great, Big M. Trust you to come up with help for the incontinently. I’ll take down this link and save it on my mobile. When next in Towns and at the slightest intestinal rumble, I will log on and make a run for the nearest toilet.
      Thank you, big M.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. rod Says:

    This is very interesting, Gerard. I hope you get somewhere with these awards – preferably the one with the bigger prize!

    Like

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