I did not sleep well. I forewent my regular porridge with mango and ate some wheat biscuits; placed my bags under the car port; dropped in a letter to my friendly, next-door tenant, Lucy, asking her to empty my mail box; hid my keys where I might remember them; phoned a taxi; and was off to the railway station. The huge woman driver was talkative. She loved her job because: "I meet such interesting people." Who!-Me? Her previous job was monitoring the local radio stations using a video tape and transcribing relevant bits for the Premier's Department. I did not know that they did that! And I thought that I was the only one who used my stereo VHS for recording audio. So much better than compact cassettes and up to ten hours play time for a couple of dollars. All my old vynils on tape! She was a vegetarian and had bags of nuts on the seat between us. She was 55 yr. with a grown family; and antifeminist. I approved these virtues She liked men to lead and thought Clark Gable, Errol Flynn and Robert Taylor were good examples. "Most men today are SNAGs and wimps." I remembered that Joan Crawford liked Clark Gable: "He had balls!"
The train was at the platform and it was cold inside. Luckily, it was Tuesday. That's the day when "The Australian" newspaper publishes its computer supplements so a lot of light reading for Clivey to add to my May's PC magazine. I had the 3 berth sleeper to myself so I lay down and froze as the train rumbled along. This air conditioning was ideal for our tropical summers; but there was no need today, in winter. So I got out at the first stop and retrieved my case from the baggage car to slip on long pants and a couple of extra shirts. I never thought to take a jumper. Even then I had to use a blanket to stop the shivers. At the next stop I found a porter and asked for the air conditioning to be turned down or off. I think it did become warmer. I ate my roasted peanuts and drank a pint of skim milk. We stopped for a half hour at Rockhampton where we ate from the station cafe - a turkey/salad sandwich. I sinned by eating a Mars Bar and felt rather guilty. My new, lined, track pants for travelling had a hole in the pocket and the change fell to the bottom of the lining. So I jangled back on board and went to bed. Up at 5.30 am. for a shower, I alighted at 6.20 am. in Brisbane.
There was no flight that day; so I had booked at the Balmoral, an economical, clean and central backpackers where I had stayed before and knew the owners. I liked having the day out in Brisbane after taking occupation my room. I bought the sterilising tablets here in a camping shop. Then, at a variety store, I bought a little stuffed koala bear grasping an Aussie flag for my pen pal and a Queensland T shirt that was actually "Made in Australia". That's almost unique. After buying some lithium batteries for my camera I had to hunt the Myers department store for a little sewing kit to sew up the hole in my new pants' pocket. I had quite a swag of silver around my ankle now and, though it was annoying listing to the right, I quite enjoyed the jangling. Rather like walking up Main Street at High Noon in spurs, with hand hovering over my trusty six-shooter.
Beneath the department store was a five theatre cinema complex and, delightfully, there was a Woody Allen movie showing that evening. In front of the box office was a group of four rather attractive late teenage girls. I immediately detected they were fellow Lancastrians. I greeted my compatriots and we had a laughing chat as they related their journey round the world. In October they were to start at Manchester University 12,000 miles away and one was actually taking my joint honours degree in Politics and Modern History (PMH). What a coincidence! So I told her to remember me to Roger. (Professor Roger Williams). Small world!
There was some time to kill before the movie. So I returned to the Balmoral and had some coffee and black rye bread while I chatted to a trio of middle-aged Singaporean siblings. One had come from London where she lived and the others from Singapore.They were reuniting for a holiday in Brisbane. They were asking about a visit to the Gold Coast for the day after. I told them it was a Mecca for all that was crass and crude; but worth a visit - lovely surfing beaches. I advised them to visit O'Reilly's guest house in the Lamington National Park first and then drop down to the Gold Coast. They asked Kevin, son in law of the owners, about this tour. I wonder if they made it. Then I sat out in the yard talking to two newly qualified RNs from England. I told them I was an English RN too and had been a nurse educator at the large Brisbane hospital just down the road, The Princess Alexander. Mischievously, I told them that I was going to Asia to buy myself a young bride and they were very suitably indignant.
Then back to the Queen Street Mall for a walk prior to the movie. It was dark and a young couple snuggling up in a shop doorway tried to touch me for some cash. After that a 17 yr. old girl approached me for "The fare back home." Her nose was streaming and she had the shakes. Obviously suffering from withdrawal, I smugly diagnosed. I refused the money; but offered to escort her to the Salvation Army for help and a feed. She refused and, I think, in her confused way, she was offering me something for a couple of dollars. Could that be my own lovely daughter in a couple of years?
She wandered off and accosted another man in the distance. Pathetic! I inwardly thanked God that my daughters were talented and stable.
Then to the box office and a chat to the French Creole ticket lady from South Africa. I asked if she were considered a Cape Coloured and her bristled reply was that she was a human being like me. (I've been called other things!). I calmed her ruffled feathers by telling her that I was to marry an Asian. She then said that she had observed me chatting to the young girls earlier on and she wondered how these young people could afford to travel round the world when she and her husband worked full time but could hardly afford a local holiday. I did not want to get into that one so went in to meet with up with fidgety Woody in "Deconstructing Harry". The film was rather obscure and I hardly understood it. The first film of his that I had not thoroughly enjoyed. Train lag perhaps?
Back to Balmoral to bed.
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Copyright © Clive Halliday 2001.