Came in on the Countrylink Coach last night. Into Tweed Heads. Been away 2 weeks. Yesterday morning I woke up in Kalang. In the little room with the high ceilings and the big double glass doors looking out onto the birds and the valley. Imm was off to work early . Up in Dorrigo. Kate and I slept in and Dreamed dreams.
2 weeks with my Kids and now I am back in Bilambil with the Tweed Heads Blues again. Kate went to work at the IGA Deli in Bellingen at 2pm. Interesting Job with tight fitting black hat, cut hands and burns and BUNDYING ON . “please enter by the front door only ” They say to the Staff. Wot ! She might be absconding with a slice of Devon. Then again we are of Devon stock and the other sides of the family arrived on free transports on various counts of LARCENY and COINAGE so mebbe Mr IGA is wise to be cautious.
We had tossed the accursed Purple People Eating Suitcase in the back of the diesel 4 wheel drive and IMM dropped me down at Urunga Railway Station . THE LITTLE TOWN THAT TIME FORGOT they call it and don’t take that lightly. The station once had a station master. It was wooden and elegant – petit chic – We took our luggage ( back then) to the station master who had a trolley and from that point it was no concern of ours. It travelled in the Baggage Compartment – safe and with others of its own kind. We booked our tickets there as well. And when the Station Master – as well as tending the ‘gardens’ kept his platform of passengers informed as to the progress of the approaching train. Which- when it came had such things as SLEEPING COMPARTMENTS, and DINING CAR, and even – as a dim memory – on the Murwillumbah Train ( RIP) a section which carried peoples cars so they could hop off the other end and drive off to the Gold Coast in their own vehicles.
So, IMM drops me off . RESMED( only $5 from Cobblers two in Brisbane CBD on Roma Street) laptop bag over one shoulder and leading the PURPLE PEOPLE EATER with the other hand – up the ramp to the salubrious blue and white shed we now call STATION. Bulldogs colours – says I . Police Colours – says IMM. Either one fits. You see TheY pulled the little wooden one down when theY decided there was no need for it a couple of decades ago and then theY had to build a new one. This one doesn’t have the station master and it doesnt have the men and womens bathrooms. it has a large stainless steel toilet room which cannot be locked or even closed really. The Loo itself is about 3 metres from the door so theres no arm reaching to hold it shut.
I sat there on the platform which has seen many stages of my life. Right back in 1948 My parents Joyce and Bruce Sanders arrived there for their honeymoon. Station Master , Baggage handlers and all. Many years I have been on that platform. Old and New. Yesterday there was just ME for am hour or more. In my old blundstones. me and some litter under the benches. Going North where mostly I have gone South. Leaving my Kids . Coming back to a Lover. Kind of. Sat there – took a couple of fotos with the self-timer since there was no family to take them. I last saw my mother there – other than on life support. She dropped me there in the Charade which I now drive.
Yesterday , the Bladerunner loudspeaker kept me informed in a honey female voice that the XPT was running 15 minutes late. In she came and on I hopped. Well not quite hopped. There were only 2 passengers getting on. One healthy young lad from NZ who arrived in an ambulance with a very fit looking young female ambo ( as they call them ) .
And ME. 58 years old and lugging more luggage ( Aha thats the connection between the words) Lugging the Purple. That didn’t mean the extremely strong looking young Countrylink Attendant was about to help me hoist it on board. THUMBS DOWN TO YOU YOUNG LADY. That was the 3.28pm XPT from Sydney to Casino. Didnt get her foto unfrotunately. So I hoisted it and found the baggage rack at the end of Car D. Pretty easy . Never do like leaving the Purple People Eater all alone and unsupervised but thats how it is nowadays and somehows nothing has ever gone astray for me. Seems like as organisation breaks down and crumbles like a rotting tooth – individual people become more decent. They are to me .
PUBLIC TRANSPORT. I LUV IT !!!!!
Sat down right in the middle of a Grafton Group of Young mothers and one disgruntled teenager being removed from Sydney to Live on the Clarence and one toothless little girl with a very big mouth. Hectic . One gentleman was stuck right in the middle of conversations more personal than I have with my own loved ones. I had the window seat thanks to ARMIDALE Station master. They still have a Station master there. They only have ONE train a day. But They have the Station master and he made sure I had the window seat. Thumbs up on that one. Pretty good trip it was . 3 hours. Urunga to Casino. That meant I was on board for DINNER. I dimly recall the Dining Car era. That was classy. We used to walk down to the Dining carriage , order dinner and eat at table. Sometimes we sat in the Dining car and played board games or did crosswords.
I am however long into the routines of the XPT. One woman once told me she called it A PEOPLE CARRIER. The attendant “passed through the carriages” with tickets for dinner. I went for the green one this time. Only $9. The Sydney to Grafton Crew hand out the tickets and the Grafton to Casino crew hand out the meals at 5.30pm. That meant dinner was in peace after the Grafton Horde were gone. I wanted to reach out to the depressed teenage girl and tell her to run. RUN girl. You are going to hate this one. But instead I sat quietly as one does at 58 and waited for DINNER. I didn’t have the REUSABLE CARDBOARD TRAY – because I had to that point only eaten CARROT CAKE WITH FORK and a can of lemonade. So they handed me a new REUSABLE CARDBOARD TRAY and I handed them my GREEN TICKET. I had a hope. A small flicker of hope – connected to the USE BY DATE. And that hope was richly fulfilled. BEST EATEN BY 2/2009. Yes !!!! The Railway has not let me down. A meal which I could still eat ONE YEAR FROM NOW. All I need is an 18 month old apple from Woolworths and all my nutritional needs can easily be met.
I am near professional on these journeys – but I could see the fear and trepidation in some of my travelling companions. I caught a hint of American Accent and a frequent checking of ticket details. Wise move because just ahead was the ARRIVAL AT CASINO. Having been compelled to rebuild Urunga Railway Station – TheY finally entered the 21st century by leaving the stations intact and closing the ENTIRE LINE from Casino to Murwillumbah. Little ghosts of better times stand beside the unused tracks and large , airconditioned coaches with videos and toilets AND seatbelts hurtle along the backroads to various destinations.
Wise of you to be alert American Woman. As we approach Casino – the Voice begins to explain the transfer from Train to Coach. each labelled with a capital letter. I have done this before. I KNOW what to do. The Purple People Eater is in the front baggage racks waiting. I have the ticket open and i KNOW that the letter M which designates MY coach to Tweed Heads has NO relevance to ANYTHING AT ALL. The coaches are NOT parked in alphabetical order. The M coach does NOT stop at ANY town with the letter M anywhere in it ( other than LisMore ) . It is in fact at the front of the lineup of flash airconditioned coaches with toilets and seatbelts.
Even with my hardened experience I wasn’t quite prepared for this one. 5 passengers on the 48 seat coach. Robert the coach driver was a gentleman and hoisted the Purple People Eater happily. Then he put the Garfield Movie on for us. That kept us all pretty happy as we hurtled along the narrow backroads between Casino and Tweed Heads. Through the otherwise sleepy villages. Where once a train wove its way with the siren call of the train horn. Didnt mind Garfield and then Robert wrapped it up with a sing along of Neil Diamond – opening with Sweet Caroline and wrapping up with RED RED WINE as we pulled into the ‘TWEED HEADS COACH STOP”.
Something is sadly amiss with me because I actually ENJOY this. I even enjoy the tweed heads coach stop. This is the GATEWAY to the Gold Coast. No Loos. No Lights. One bench. No Fones. Just Joanne Pascoe and Thea waiting for me. and a deserted Bay Street. No Taxis. This is it. Welcome to Paradise.
Into the Futura and out through the night to The Cottage. Lynne is back in Bilambil.