Broken Bay Writers – Stories of NSW Central Coast and beyond

Scribbles on life, the universe and everything… Woy Woy, Ettalong, Umina and teh Central Coast that is!

Tag Archives: woy woy

I Hear That Train a Comin!

Australia has an amazing system of public transport, trains! Which means, for the first time in my life I have been reliant on trains, therfore I have had to learn how to read train schedules, as well as bus schedules (go ahead, call me a small town girl), that connect with the correct trains. It has been a steep learning curve, but fun.

Just finding out which exit will suit you best when at Central Station is difficult, but trying to find the next train is even more difficult, especially when you are not sure if it’s the Eastern Suburbs, a city circle or maybe even a country train. I have learned to go to the big electronic boards, look for my destination, figure out which train system it’s on and then stress about where the platform might be as Central has three levels of platforms!

Speaking of trains, did you know that here in Australia there is a carriage called the guards carriage? This is where you will find the guard in case you have problems or it is late at night and you don’t feel comfortable traveling on the train alone.

How do you know which one is the guards carriage? There is a blue light on the exterior of the carriage. Apparently everyone knows this means there is a guard in that carriage. I wonder if tourists know that, because I sure didn’t?

Speaking of which, I always wonder how the tourists know where to buy their tickets, which tickets to buy and the most important thing…hang onto the ticket because you are going to need it to exit the train station on the other end! Maybe it’s just me, but this is all stuff I have had to learn being a “newbie” at train travel.

I have grown to enjoy train travel as long as I get a seat. If I have to stand, I of course, don’t enjoy that. I actually don’t mind so much as long as people are not taking up seats with luggage, purses or other paraphernalia that they think will keep the seat free for their use. I feel that when city rail personnel come through the train to check tickets, they should charge people that are using more than one seat if they don’t have an extra ticket for the extra seat. This would quickly stop the rude people that take up more than one seat!

For the most part, I am liking the train. It is inexpensive, a great place to people watch, enjoy the scenery or immerse yourself in what can end up being a very quirky conversation with fellow train travellers!

Save the strain, take the train!

Monday morning, 6:30 am:

Prowling through an alien environment full of strange folk. I am feeling apprehensive, there is an intense quiet. There appears to be rules, a well understood order of things. The only seat left is next to a middle aged woman. Her shoulder bag is on the seat next to her and she seems to be asleep.

I stop and clear my throat. She does not flinch. I feel, somewhat strangely, she is aware of my presence. I say “excuse me”, my voice timid, not really wanting to wake a sleeping person. No reaction. I stand awkwardly as the train departs. It is over an hour to my destination and I really don’t want to stand all the way. Another passenger is sitting on the stairs at one end, perhaps I should sit on the stairs at the other end.

Suddenly a sense of injustice rises in me and I speak louder “EXCUSE ME”. She glares straight at me! Her reaction was not what I expected for someone wrenched from sleep. “I wonder if might move your bag so I can have the last seat in the carriage”. She snatches her bag and wraps her arms around it on her lap. Welcome to the world of commuters!

On the three main arterial train lines into Sydney, people travel up to two and a half hours, each way, every work day. When you think about it, up to five hours of their 16 waking hour day is spent in that seat. More than 30% of their day, 62.5% of the amount of time they will work that day (71.4% if they work in a 35 hour week job). We are not talking about a seat on a train for these curios creatures, this is a world that is not home and not work. This is the Twilight Zone!

The commuter is a creature of habit. They catch the same train, in the same carriage and the same seat every day. Occasionally their daily routine is busted by some ignorant interloper that has blundered unwittingly into the Twilight Zone. The routine starts from the time they leave home. They park in the same place or catch the same bus to the station. Commuters line the platform, standing on the same mark every morning.

The tricky part for the new commuter or innocent day tripper is to understand the rules of the Twilight Zone. Once encapsulated in that time machine, thrusting towards the city at speed, the game is on. Space and noise dictate the rules.

The foibles of commuters to reserve their “patch” would be considered rude in any other community situation. The space conscious commuter uses several ruses to maintain an empty seat next to them. All techniques use a common tool, the “death stare”. This is the commuter’s form of intimidation.

The “Aisle sitter”. They sit in the aisle seat. Most people will look for the easy line so they avoid having to ask to step over the aisle sitter. Typically an aisle sitter will move to the coveted window seat when it is obvious someone is gunning for “their” empty seat.

There is the “bag people”. They leave their bag on the spare seat, thus requiring the day tripper to ask them to move the bag. Some bag people use the environmental shopping bags with spare cardigans etc just to make it look harder to relocate their stuff. Variations on the theme include the use of coats and notebook computers.

The advanced commuter couples these techniques with the appearance of being asleep. We are all conditioned to be careful of waking a sleeping person. It may be that they are asleep as many commuters catch up on “shut eye” on the train. This makes the ruse more effective as they may really be asleep. You can usually tell when you wake them. The look on their face is much more akin to the look on your partner’s face when you wake them in the night. When you disturb the commuter who is “faking it”, they seem very alert and usually accompany their next few movements with liberal amounts of “hurrrumpppp” noises.

Noise is a major issue for commuters. Snoring, electronics and conversations will bring the wrath of the commuters down on you like a ton of bricks!

Occasionally, a group of people who do not regularly commute will have a loud conversation. This will be met with severe disdain, and stares that will bore holes in the back of the perpetrator’s heads. Commuters know that they really cannot stop these people so intimidation is used with mild effect. Sometimes the invader gets the hint but typically these people chat and laugh with impunity for the entire journey. This will send the average commuter to work with a headache and a very grumpy mood. You will notice that seasoned commuters rarely chat, if so it is very brief and very quiet.

Noisy electronics is an misdemeanor that will bring on the full wrath of the commuter. There are two distinct situations; the tinny “tish, tish tish” of “ear bud” earphones and noisy mobile phones. Commuters will make their displeasure known in no uncertain terms. This reaction often amazes of the uninitiated perpetrator of the noise crime.

The snorer presents a curious circumstance to the commuter. Snorers may be regular commuters. Thus, one of them. A seasoned commuter would never break the noise rules of chatting or electronic gadgets. However, being a snorer is usually something you just can’t change. If they are infrequent or quiet snorers, they will be a bit of a joke but accepted. The loud snorer will not be tolerated. I have experience in this exact matter.

I was traveling from Blackheath to Sydney as a commuter years ago. I have sleep apnea and snore very loudly. It was early in the morning and I was exhausted. I could not stay awake. I was awoken by something lightly hitting my chest. I awoke to find a paper airplane on my lap. I looked about the carriage, the commuters were all staring straight ahead, books and papers held up. Nobody was making eye contact. It was obvious everyone in the carriage was aware of the airplane landing on my lap. The note said” Please stay awake, you snore like a chainsaw”… I was somewhat surprised by the politeness of this missive.

Perhaps commuting requires some creative thinking by the railways people.I have often though that a Gym carriage would be a good thing. With at least 1 hour each way used sitting on the train, a workout could be good use of time. I do wonder about the habitual nature of the commuter, how would the line ups for equipment go? At least there would be no snoring going on in that carriage.

Sleeper bunks could also be useful. Perhaps carriages could have a cone of silence for talkative travelers. An afternoon bar seems to be a useful idea for the weary commuter. I remember many years ago when the “smokers” carriage was a part of the commuting scene. A cell, thick with an acrid London fog was the party place on the train. A non-smoker had to choose between the prudish non-smoking carriage, or choke to death in a carcinogenic atmosphere where the hedonistic “fun crowd” hung out. I don’t understand why there were no “fun crowds” in the non-smoking carriages, albeit without the dreaded smoke.

Shuffling up the exit ramp of Woy Woy station of an evening, I look at the hundreds of people around me, drawn to the exit barriers like cows to the milking shed. I am now one of them. I understand the rules and play by them. My mind wanders across the beautiful waters and wooded foreshore of Woy Woy Bay and wonder if it can possibly be different. Walking to my home, the light is fading over Broken Bay. Once again, I have returned from the Twilight Zone.

The Sentinel’s Mate!

The Sentinel of Ettalong Beach

My partner and I strolled on the white sands of Ettalong Beach. Droplets plinked on our rain jacket hoods negating conversation. Lights from across Broken Bay shimmered in the subtle gloom of the rainy night. My partner and I were consumed in silent reverie.
Peering across the water a ghostly apparition floated mysteriously. It may have been a buoy marking a mooring, or simply a floating grocery bag. A few minutes observation revealed the apparition was heading on a steady course, moving with some purpose. It came close to shore, revealing the outline of a large bird.

This rather stately pelican roams the sandy inlet, investigating breaches of “bait and catch” security by fisher folk. This large pre-historic looking bird also samples the picnic trappings of naive or distracted swimmers. The pelican is the Sentinel of Ettalong Beach.

Pelicans look like inanimate floating objects as they swim along. You cannot see its web feet churning under the water. As they glide along, they seem wooden, like a floating toy bird. This creates an artificial appearance, like a decoy duck.

The Sentinel lunges forward, proving it is in fact a living organism. The ungainly beak spears into the dark waters. Just as suddenly, its head jerks back, flipping a small fish into its beak to the back of his throat, already looking for its next prey. The Sentinel gazes at us for a moment, a large eye that appears painted on a wooden head, and then continues fishing for dinner.

Pelicans are rarely solitary. Typically they live in small to very large flocks. Pelicans are known to work together, cooperating to “pen” the fish before plunging their beaks into the water to catch their prey.

The Sentinel has not read that book, or so it seems. Recently  Ettalong Beach is being  patrolled by a very odd couple.

The Sentinel’s mate is a diminutive diver duck, dwarfed by the pelican. They spend considerable time together on patrol, sharing “the catch”. The duck seems to dive for fish and share with the Sentinel. It is a charming symbiosis that I would have though rare between different bird species.

Pelicans have been known to eat ducks and seagulls when food supplies are scarce. Perhaps the diver duck is unaware of the risk it takes on days of poor fishing.

The Sentinel patrols its patch in all conditions, as though it is the ghostly incarnation of an old salt, destined to watch over the sea for eternity. This silent sentinel now has a sentient being to while away the hours of the watch.

Let us hope The Sentinel does not decide to have a friend for dinner!!!