Saturday, 19 August 2017

I'm on a train!

I’ve had a great day. It started at half past five when I got up and got dressed and rode my bike to Southern Cross station where I got onto a train to Warrnambool. That whole part wasn’t actually so much fun, it was raining and dark at 6 o’clock and about four degrees and I got so so so cold and because there was such a lot of water on the streets I went very slowly and only arrived at the train just in time, so I had to get on still in my wet things which I’d intended to change, and because I was short of time I also had to skip the very important step of getting a coffee, and therefore my outward journey was conducted in frozen coldness and I had to drink train coffee too. I forced it down with an egg and cheese roll that was the most hilariously unfoodlike substance I have eaten in years. The egg had had something incredible done to it and the roll was like…I want to say it was like a sponge but it was spongy without any recovery whatsoever. It had the quality of an edible object that has been grown in a vat or in a jar by adding water like a packet of sea monkeys. I needed to have the coffee, but the roll I only ate as an adventure, look, I am 44 and I’ve been on a lot of country trains. I knew it was going to be gross. It didn't matter because I also knew I would be going straight to Day Kitty as soon as I got to Warrnambool, of which more anon. 

The pair in the two seats in front of me (I am travelling in first class, did I mention that? la-di-dah. Ladidah!) were on their own transcendental culinary adventure - they methodically ate their way through one each of every kind of food you could get from the snack bar, and oh, the looks of concern on their faces when, just after Terang, the conductor came on the radio and said the snack bar would be closing soon! Anyway the train was pretty great, because even though it is obviously a point of pride with V-Line to never clean the windows of their trains, I could look out the window, and oh boy did I see a lot of cool things outside there. Heaps of animals, mainly. So many cows you would not believe it. I saw one very big hare running really fast across a field for absolutely no reason, I saw two foxes sitting in a small crater, heaps of rabbits that were having a great day, some alpacas, a camel, lots of horses. It was just like going in a train across a gigantic farm for hours and hours and I won’t lie, I fucking loved it. And I saw lots of towns too and railways stations. 

When I was a girl and used to go to Melbourne on the train very frequently, there were not as many railway stations as there are now. The canonical stations were these: Warrnambool, Terang, Camperdown, Colac, Birregurra, Geelong, Footscray, Spencer St. No others. Well, the train passed through many suburban stations but didn’t stop at any except Footscray. Now there appear to be about ten more stops, the new ones with poorly chosen names like Marshal, Sherwood Park, etc.  The other things I did on the train were piss in the toilet, which I don’t recommend if you can hold on because train toilets are the absolute worst, and sleep for a while curled up on my first-class seat and the one next to it, and I wrote the abstract for a conference I am going to go to in an effort to start rebuilding a connection with academia. I need to find people who I can talk with about the work I’m doing and who understand why it matters to make space for talking and exploring ideas, and that it’s ok to argue and debate as part of that exploration. I love my work and I like my colleagues but that sort of dialogue isn’t something we do and I miss it and need it back.

Well, 700+ words and I haven’t even got up to the part of the story where I get off the train yet. So I got to Warrnambool, went to Day Kitty which I do not know if I have mentioned on here before, but it is a cafe in Warrnambool which serves what I feel absolutely confident in saying is the most delicious, nourishing, good food in Australia and possibly the whole world. It occupies a shop, next to the cinema, which used to be Flaherty’s Chocolates, and there is a poetry to this which I won’t bother trying to unpack because everyone who reads this blog is well capable of unpacking it for themselves. Just go to Warrnambool and eat at Day Kitty then tell me what you had. What I would really like to do is to go there with you and watch your face when you take your first bite. That would make a good film, perhaps I can get some funding to make it happen, what do you think? Today I stood at the counter like a child in a sweetshop and read the menu several times until I was ready to commit. I had the okonomiyaki with a fried egg on top and a very good coffee and I read the paper and looked out the window at the sunshine drifting across Kepler St and savoured every heavenly mouthful.

After that I rode my bike around Warrnambool for a while which was great, I had vague thoughts of doing some op-shopping but instead I went and looked at some of the houses I’d lived in and hung a few laps past Kermond’s hamburgers because I do like the smell, how have they managed to make sure it never changes? How do they distribute it into the air so effectively? And then I went to the Warrnambool Art Gallery where my friend has a show and was giving a floor talk. Her work comes out of her recent experience of cancer, and it was powerful and beautiful. After her talk she and I had lunch and talked (not at Day Kitty because it isn’t open on Saturday afternoons) and walked along the beach until it was time for me to get back onto the train which is where I am now. Although I have gone on and on and on about the train it wasn’t actually the high point of the day and nor was being fed delicious vegetarian soul food, it was seeing my dear, dear oldest friend doing something so brave and amazing and spending a few lovely hours with her.