To think, this time last week I was in bed asleep, recovering some lost snooze time after having completed a marathon train/bus trip from Brisbane. I can, without hesitation, say that if you pay for the cheap seats, don't expect quality. The seats were hard, and it was bloody hard to get comfy and doze off (though due to the nature of the seats parts of my body managed to do so, which, mindful of past experiences, prompted me to re-position myself on a few occasions). I had even brought a pillow, ear plugs and some Valerian pills to help me nod off, but sleep was hard to come by on the trip up, and even harder on the trip back. In comparison, the bus seats were comfier, and I actually fell asleep without too much effort, but only for an hour or so. There were varying reasons to keep me awake. On the way up, some inconsiderate sod across the aisle, who kept on talking, drinking then snoring into the wee hours of the night. On the way back, having just managed to doze off, another inconsiderate sod who decided to sit on the arm rest, where my hand was, during the wee small hours of the morning, then make himself comfortable for an hour or so at my expense. It wasn't even his seat. An hour after that I gave up trying to get back to sleep, and listened to my MP3 player whilst looking at the shadows outside pass by in the night. (When the train reached Wyong, around the time dawn was breaking, I was quite relieved and got myself ready to get off at Gosford.) Of course, every time the train stopped, every time somebody got aboard (especially an entire family on the trip up, who proceeded to talk amongst themselves at 1am in the morning), every time a crew member walked down the aisle, I was awake, despite the earplugs and the Valerian. If I got any sleep whatsoever, I don't remember it. (What I do remember was crashing on a bed for four hours after I arrived at my uncle's place, and an hour or so after I got back home to Gosford.)
For the trip to Queensland and back, I paid a grand total of $48.49 in fares, and that's including the bus trip to and from Gosford station, and $24.79 of it was for the XPT service to and from Brisbane, though the return journey was broken up into two parts – bus from Brisbane to Casino, then XPT from Casino to Gosford. The pensioner travel vouchers came in very handy indeed, saving me just over $100. Very conveniently, the day that I commenced my travel back, public transport fares in Qld were reduced in price, something I hadn't experienced living in NSW. (There's more, but I'll go into that later.)
But then, I don't/won't fly mainly for reasons psychological, that and there's also an opportunity to see some of this great big island of mine. Sure, a plane's quicker you'd say, but I'd rather see things from the ground, seeing it's rare that I actually get the nerve to venture out from my comfort zone of my suburb and my little monk's cell. Some of it I had seen before, on trips north to see people in Taree and Port Macquarie, but a lot of it I hadn't. The break in the trip on the way back allowed me to have a short stroll in the NSW town of Casino and take a couple of snapshots. (There's no casino in Casino I should add, but in the 300 metre walk from the train station to the nearest fast food joint, I passed five churches and four assisted living facilities for the elderly. The immediate impression that I got of the place was that it was planned.) It was a pity most of the trips were made at night-time, but that was the only way it could've been done, for the sake of connections. I must admit, the countryside between Gloucester and Wingham was beautiful to observe, so green and lush. I recall making a list in my diary of all the bird-life I could see from the carriage – including low-flying birds of prey. Unfortunate that I couldn't take pictures (or video) because of the reflections from the glass, the fading light and, of course, the movement of the train. The bus ride at 7am in the morning from Rosewood station (the end of the electric line from Brisbane) to Gatton was also quite good because it went through a number of smaller townships and a university campus before depositing me at the station. Same again – couldn't take pictures because of the reflections.
Gatton from the train station.
But I took pictures whilst I was there. In and around Gatton, at my uncle's place at Lake Clarendon, and in Brisbane whilst I had time to kill (and there was a bit in-between trains and buses). On my stroll around the Qld capital, and site of the upcoming G20 summit, I discovered quite a few things, the highlight being the botanical gardens which had a lot of fauna in amongst the flora, and not just birds. There were quite a few water dragons, and in one of the ponds, I spotted a turtle. That was another thing – Brisbane was actually quite green. Plenty of trees, little parks here and there, definitely more pleasant to be in than Sydney. Some areas had been targeted by “Yarn Bombers”, or as I like to refer to them as, “Commando Knitters”, which was quite nice, and there were outdoor sculptures as well at various spots. But the police presence, both on the ground and in the air, was noticeable. Uniformed officers walked around in groups of three or four.
A little color didn't hurt this old cannon.
Photography aside, was it worth it? Yes. 28 hours (give or take an hour) on trains and buses to get there and back, to put up with all the inconveniences , was well and truly worth it. I was able to keep my anxiety demons at bay for most of the trip (but nearly lost control thanks to a random charity worker in down-town Brisbane on the Monday morning when I was heading back) and for the most part had a good time. After all, it's not very often someone in my family turns 90, and not very often I'd get a chance to actually get there for the festivities. It's also not very often that I get to see relatives on my mother's side of the family, and there were many there that I had not met before. One even lives just up the road at Doyalson, not far from my sister. A cousin (or was she an aunt – I can't remember), widowed, with two grown-up daughters, one of which owns and runs racehorses and the other in the west of Sydney. There were two female cousins that I hadn't seen in at least ten years. One I didn't recognise initially until people started calling her by name.
So, comparisons between Brisbane and Sydney public transport? Arriving at Roma Street early in the AM on Friday Oct 31, I couldn't get over how clean the place was. Not hospital grade clean, but far cleaner than your average City Rail station. Travelling along the rail line showed that it wasn't just the only station that was kept tidy. Some had murals on their walls, others some greenery. Stations and trains hadn't been hit too bad with graffiti, though the windows on the carriages were scratched to pieces with carvings. Staff were pleasant. The train driver on one service (Ipswich to Rosewood) gave a commentary on what the locations were noted for.
The trains were single layered, unlike the double-decker ones I'm used to. You couldn't eat or drink on them (fines applied – but like people who have a drink tucked inside a brown paper bag on City Rail services it didn't seem to worry them) but they did have quiet carriages (again, some people, especially on the 5am service going to Rosewood, just didn't respect them) and some even had Wi-Fi. A shame that I didn't get a carriage that was prepared in such a fashion.
The biggest thing though – trains ran on time. I'm not used to that at all! Every day one takes a City Rail train they expect to be delayed for one reason or another. If the train is meant to turn up at 5am, it's there. No delays. If you miss it, tough. It made connections far easier, as the buses I caught were on time as well. No excursion ticket for pensioners (well, if there is one, I wasn't aware of it) and the ticket machines weren't that hard to use – touch screens instead of push buttons. (But then, ticketing machines ain't that hard to use in the first place. People just make it out that way.)
Would I go back? Sure. There was a lot of Brisbane I didn't see. Had I turned right instead of left at the exit of the Roma Street transit hub (and there was a food court of sorts upstairs – very convenient that) I would've walked straight down to Suncorp Stadium. I honestly didn't realise it was that close to the CBD until I was on the train coming in. I didn't even get across the river to have a look at South Bank, where the World Expo was in 1988, the last time that I had actually set foot in the city. Come to think of it, the last time that I actually set foot in the state.
There was one thing though I didn't get used to. No daylight savings. I felt for the entire time that I was there my body clock was out of synch. Thankfully the mobile phone updated automatically. I didn't bother changing the time on the laptop.
So, I got back early in the AM on Tuesday Nov 4, and after broadcasting to the world on FB that I was safe and sound back home (and catching up with the news and other things), I promptly fell asleep. When I woke around lunch time, I started to watch all the stuff I had recorded off the TV whilst I was away. Promptly fell asleep again during Alarm for Cobra 11, but was woken back up by the mobile phone. I had forgotten that I had tried to call one of my mates over the weekend. I even managed to get him to come up for the Mariners match on Sunday against Perth, which was quite hard to watch because the home side was not playing too well. In fact, we were quite happy to get out of the stadium once the match was over. Not very often you hear the home side booed off the field here. (A 0-1 defeat, the only goal coming from a superbly taken free-kick. As usual, the home side didn't take their opportunities and were lucky that they weren't beaten by a greater margin.) I didn't even bother about the Melbourne Cup, fell asleep again, then got woken up by another call. The dental clinic at Ourimbah. Can I come in tomorrow at 11.30am? Sure. (I had missed the previous appointment a couple of weeks prior because I dawdled getting out of the house, then realised that I had left the mobile phone behind. It's something that I really hate doing. If I make an appointment like that I feel very inclined to keep them. The fact that I didn't keep the last one made me quite angry with myself and very frustrated.)
So, impromptu dental appointment. Teeth get a thorough cleaning – 90 minutes worth. Then I hopped back on the train, and headed up to Tuggerah to see the guys at the comic book store. They were in a bad mood. They had major problems with a regular who was utilising the workshop area out back to store vending machines. Despite assurances that it was a temporary thing, more started turning up, to the point where one could hardly even move in the workshop let alone work in it, as I found out. (Practically all of them did go on Sunday though, which made the boys quite happy.)
Thursday, Mental Health Support Group meeting. Wasn't a bad one, though I did over indulge on the mini chocolate muffins and the mud cake during the afternoon tea break, which made me feel quilt guilty, seeing I'm trying to cut down on sugar not increase the intake. (The previous weekend didn't help, as I over indulged on sweets, soft drinks and alcohol. But that's another story altogether, seeing it went on late into the night and a lot of things were talked about.) Decided that I'd do my shopping after it, which was a good idea seeing my fridge and cupboard was bare.
Friday, pay day. Everything done online early, including a chat with my American Skype friend. I decided it was a good day to do the laundry, go have lunch, and get some pictures printed up. I also bought DVDs. I shouldn't of, but series two of Vikings and Ripper Street were out and I couldn't resist. I've finished the latter, and up to the last disk of the former.
Saturday turned out to be a day of rest. I sorted pictures in-between sessions of Civ 5. (In fact, I was writing this whilst finishing the game off. I didn't win, as my research had suffered whilst I was at war for the better part of three hundred years.) Most of Sunday was too, until it was time to go to the football. Monday, well, a lunch-time excursion up to The Entrance, but the weather wasn't that good to take too many pictures. Come to think of it, the weather hasn't gotten any better today, nor was it any better last Sunday. It rained some time this afternoon, probably whilst I napped, and it feels more like winter than spring currently. Of course, the poor weather plays havoc with the digital TV reception so I can't listen to the news.
A grey old day at The Entrance.
I came back home to discover (eventually) that the units had indeed sold. I don't know what the owners got for them, but I'm pretty certain it wasn't what they were originally asking for them. (What they were asking for them could've gotten someone a rather nice place further up the coast with four bedrooms and a swimming pool.)
As for the troublesome neighbour in number two, well, he's still here, but he's a lot quieter now. In the week before I went away there was some serious drama, which resulted in the real estate coming around. He had informed everybody that he was going to have a party, with a tent, a pig on a spit, and at least forty people turning up. (Those that know where I live, will no doubt know it's kinda hard to fit ten people anywhere here let alone forty.)
That wasn't the worst of it. A couple of days prior to the scheduled party on Oct 25, he had a few “guests” over. I use the term “guests” lightly, as they sounded and looked like people he had just met at the pub. Two of them, a pair of teenage girls, turned out to be the main source of trouble as it later conspired they were indeed runaways, and they were being looked for by the police. I doubt that they were even sixteen. They made themselves right at home, to the point of coming back the next day, letting themselves into the house (how one can only guess), having a shower and doing their laundry as well. The gent was a little surprised to find them inside the unit when he got home, presumedly from work. (He works for one of the disabled factories around here.) Later that night he informs me, whilst I was enjoying a PC game in my bedroom, that he had been to the police and to call them if they turn back up. I believe it was the police who did turn back up around 10.30pm that night. (That irritated me. My bedroom, it's after 9pm, and he stops by the open window to talk to me like he's a mate? Sheesh.)
So, the day before the scheduled party, the real estate turn up, wanting an explanation, seeing they can't track him down because his phone's been disconnected. (I wonder why? He muses.) So I tell them everything, right up to his little Sunday morning personal conversations on the phone where everybody in that half of the street could've heard him. Needless to say, the party was cancelled. The real estate called his case managers, and that was the end of that.
Since then, no problems. He seems quite docile now, almost pleasant.
Anyway, next thing on the agenda is to pick some pictures for another art competition. Entries are due on Nov 23rd. It's a local competition, with a summer theme, which will be displayed on shop windows throughout Gosford and at a gallery in North Gosford. Can submit up to three entries, but the size of the piece is limited to 20cm by 20cm. There's another one as well, which closes in March next year, which is purely about bird photography, which I really have to enter as well.
Speaking of competitions, no such luck with any of my photographic entries in the competitions. I was actually quite disappointed that my crab shot didn't sell. I guess that people don't like them as much as they like birds and forest scenes. However, a poem that I entered in one competition did get a commendation, and a cheque arrived in the mail. It was enough to cover the XPT train fare to Brisbane and back.
Anything else? No, I think this entry has gone on for long enough. I could offer a paragraph on Australia's woeful test series against Pakistan in the UAE, or the Wanderers historic victory in the Asian club competition, or even how an anti-halal campaign on social media is affecting dairy producers in Australia, but dinner is cooking, and I would really like to post this and watch the rest of Vikings series two. My eyes are also telling me that I have been looking at this screen for way too long today and I really need to turn it off and look at something else.