Goodbye AVFMW!

We would love to thank all of those who contributed to the A View From Moving Windows blog. We really appreciate the time and effort you put into writing such beautiful stories and memories.

Thanks to all of those who contributed to the blog:

Jessica Bellamy, Pollyanna Kasia Nowicki, Wayne Tunks, Patrick Lenton, Nick Parsons, Noelle Janaczewska, Erica J Brennan, Emrys Quin, Marnya Roth, John AD Fraser, Marcelle Schmitz, Sarah Carradine, Gavin Roach, Luke Carson, Jessica Chapnik Kahn and Nadav Kahn, Katie Pollock, Jodi McAlister, Melita Rowston, Miles Merrill, Teik Kim Pok, Sam Atom Stewart, Pip Smith, Melissa Werry, Alison Rooke, Ildiko Susany, Bronte Kelso-Marsh, Shauntelle Benjamin, Helen O’Leary, Eileen McIlwain and Lib Campbell.

And lastly, we’d like to thank Augusta for the opportunity to do help out with the ‘A View From Moving Windows’ and to the whole Crew, Cast and Writers for being so incredibly welcoming and wonderful. Below is a second longer tribute to the A View From Moving Windows process.

The video was created by Felicity Pickering and the song used is ‘Precious’ by the amazing Appleonia (Jessica Chapnik Kahn).

 

Lib Campbell

Lib Campell has written a blog post for us! Lib is a TV Presenter, actor, choccy lover and a human. 

Photo Credit: Felicity Pickering

I catch at least 2 trains a day. Bear in mind that a mild 2-train-day is as rare as me having a boyfriend. On my average trackin’ day the Fat Controller surrenders his top hat and gives me a massage of commuter commiseration. Though sometimes it’s just a reiki sesh – cause’ that’s more consistent with his image…
Naturally I could fill a hippo with the horror. Hours of boob bouncing bus rides have made my scones doughy and my eyelashes brittle. I fear the next delay I see shall see me split in two just like it did Gollum. Poor Gollum –he’s had it up to HERE with track work. Do you really think he CHOSE to WALK to Mordor?
ANYWAY… I shall now share the most radiant thing I’ve witnessed on a train recently.

Setting the scene…

7:06am train - Its effing freezing and my Tinkerbelle earrings keep getting caught on my scarf.
City via Airport Line. – Every carriage is crammed with
A) Starchy suits scrolling ipad spreadsheets with tangible contempt.
B) Click-clacking pencil skirts with platinum foils as thick as Darrell Lea soft eating liquorice. (RIP Darrell)
C) Douche bags on their way to Helsinki or Buenos Ares or wherever, with their dumb suitcases and chubby dumb duffel bags.

(This is what I turn into when I’m cold and irritated. Not even clever mean, just, ‘get out of my way, you’re dumb’mean)

I burrow my way to one of those seats near the door, the ones like park benches where you spend 40 minutes making snap judgments about the #parkbenchpplopposite. Amid this heavy mist of negative morning minutiae, a lady with a mauve scrunchie marches brazenly on to our carriage carrying a dirty great BIKE. Our yolky eyes pop and sizzle as she pushes herself and the bike in to our twisted mess of limbs and luggage. The #parkbenchpplopposite look just as goaded as my bench.

BUT THEN…with whimsical dexterity Mauve Scrunchie bends and buckles and seriously folds that bike so that it is no bigger in size and consequence than an obedient beagle. It’s a freaking collapsible bike! The #parkbenchpplopposite gape in shock. But none more so than an anceint little lady who is clearly Little Red Riding Hoods grandma-ma. I dub her Hood Ma-ma. In response to the bike wizardry before her Hood Ma-ma lets out an audible gasp – not dissimilar from the one she would have made when she saw the big bad wolf. She continues to stare and shake her head until she spills some words right into Mauve Scrunchie’s lap.
“I never learnt to ride”. 
“Sorry?” replies Mauve Scrunchie.
“My mother couldn’t afford to buy me a bike, so now I love to walk. But I never did learn”.
Mauve Scrunchie puts away her phone and turns to Hood Ma-ma; staring her straight in the bonnet. Mauve Scrunchie then goes on to establish where Hood Ma-ma lives (Holsworthy), where she is going (the doctor) and which day will best suit for Mauve Scrunchie to drive over and teach her to ride. (Wednesday). By the time we are at Wolli Creek the two are deep in conversation, planning their upcoming joy ride.

It was perfect. Perfect and overwhelming. I suck at bike riding – if I was a better person I would have piped up and joined them the following Wednesday. But I didn’t. I just thought wow - it’s really not that hard to look after one another.

Eileen McILwain

Why should the train fun stop? We’ve got some more blog posts we’d love to share with you! Here is a story from writer Eileen ILwain.

Photo Credit: Felicity Pickering

I hate trains. I can’t think of anything worse than being stuck in a big metal box with the sort of people you’d avoid on the street. But when you’re sixteen and your boyfriend lives in Parramatta you don’t have much choice. So here I am. On a train.

It’s a scorching summer’s day, the kind that saps all your energy as soon as you step outside. I’m dressed to kill in a black mini skirt and midriff top. Lolita, eat your heart out. Heads turn as I totter down the aisle in my skyscraper heels. I can see the judgement in their eyes –slut, bitch, trash – but

I ignore them, finding an empty seat at the back of the carriage. A middle-aged woman in a hideous green hat glares at me like I am solely responsible for the moral decline of today’s youth. Whatever. I bet she hasn’t been laid in over a year.

The train reeks of BO and vomit, with a hint of stale piss. There’s a round smudge on the window where someone with greasy hair must’ve fallen asleep against the glass. The humidity is stifling. Within seconds my legs are stuck the blue vinyl seat. As I squirm around I catch a man who’s old enough to be my father trying to peer up my skirt. Gross. I briefly wonder what his wife would think before deciding he probably doesn’t have one. Who’d marry a pervert like that? Definitely not the woman in the ugly hat judging by look of disgust she’s aiming at him.

At the next stop a few more people shuffle onto the train, like so many cattle at the sale yards. Everyone looks cranky and hot. I know how they feel. The only thing keeping me sane is the thought of my gorgeous Brazilian boyfriend waiting for me at the other end. His name’s Carlos and we’ve been together for three blissful weeks. I’m pretty sure he’s ‘The One.’ I can’t wait until I get my P’s so I can drive to his house instead of catching the train. Carlos doesn’t have a license, but he’s so sexy I don’t care.

My phone vibrates, making me jump. I rummage around in my little silver bag. Shit, where is it? I finally find my phone at the bottom of my bag and glance at the name flashing on the screen. It’s him! I swear it’s like he knows when I’m thinking about him.

I’m grinning like an idiot as I press the answer button. “Hey babe, what’s up?”
An unfamiliar female voice crackles in my ear. “Is that Michelle?”
“Yes,” I bristle. “Who the fuck is this?”
“This is Bianca, Carlos’s new girlfriend. Carlos asked me to tell you that he doesn’t want to see you anymore.”
“Excuse me?”
“I said Carlos doesn’t want to see you anymore. Got that?” she snaps.
Now I’m really pissed off. “Listen, I don’t care who the you are, I want to speak to Carlos. Right now.”
I hear her mutter “She says she wants to talk to you.” A few seconds later Carlos comes on the “Hello?” he purrs in his smooth Brazilian accent.
“What the hell, Carlos? Who was that girl? Is she your girlfriend?”
“Look, I’m sorry, baby. This isn’t working for me anymore.”
“But why?” I wail, hating how desperate I sound.
“I never get to see you. You live too far away.”
“But I’m getting my license next month!” I’m hysterical now and people are starting to stare. I wish they’d all go away. I wish I’d never gotten on this train.

Carlos sighs. “Don’t get upset, baby. We can still be friends.”
“Friends? You want to be friends? As if I’d want to be friends with a guy who gets his new girlfriend to dump me. Stuff you, Carlos. I hope she gives you herpes!”

I mash the call button with my thumb and shove my phone back in my bag. Unbelievable. What a prick! I can’t believe he broke up with me like that. He could’ve at least had the courtesy to dump me before I got on the train.

This is the worst day of my entire life. To make matters worse, my mascara is running and I don’t have a single tissue to my name. Just when I’m about to start blubbing everywhere someone hands me a pristine white handkerchief. It’s the woman in the awful green hat.

“Here. You look like you could use this,” she says with a sympathetic smile.
“Um, thanks.” I take the hanky, dabbing at my eyes.
“Better?” I nod, too stunned to do anything else.
This seems to satisfy her. “Good. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop but I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation. Was that your boyfriend on the phone?”

“Yes,” I reply, feeling wretched. “At least, he was.”

She tsks and shakes her head. “Well, it sounds like you’re better off without him if you don’t mind me saying. My son would never dream of treating a girl that way. He’s a good boy, my Matthew. You’d be about the same age. He’s meeting me at the train station and then we’re going to see a movie. Would you like to come?”

I teeter on the brink of saying no, only to change my mind at the last second. I’ve got nothing better to do with my afternoon and I’m not looking forward to the long train ride home.

“Sure,” I grin. “What the hell?”
“Watch your language, dear,” she says, but her eyes are crinkled with amusement. “Come on then. I’m getting off at the next stop.”

I follow after her as she weaves through the crowd towards a guy in a light blue t-shirt. No way. That’s her son? He’s to die for!
“Hi Mum,” he says, giving the woman a peck on the cheek. “Who’s this you’ve got with you?”

She beams at him and it’s obvious how much she loves her son. “Matthew, I’d like you to meet this lovely young lady. I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”
“It’s Michelle,” I mumble, staring at my feet.
“Michelle,” she repeats. “What a pretty name. I invited her to come see the movie with us. You don’t mind, do you Matthew?”

Matthew looks at me and I feel my cheeks grow hot. He has the most adorable puppy-dog eyes. I’ve ever seen and a cute little dimple near the corner of his mouth. “I don’t mind,” he says with a shy smile.

And despite everything that’s happened to me today, I find myself thinking… maybe trains aren’t so bad after all.

Bronte Kelso-Marsh

Bronte Kelso-Marsh has ever so kindly written a blog post for A View From Moving Windows. Bronte Kelso-Marsh is a journalist, photo journalist and writer of Bronte Roams.

Photo Credit: Bronte Kelso-Marsh

It is generally not socially acceptable to press your body against that of a perfect stranger. But on a train these social values are not usually upheld. People step onto the busy carriage and push their way against the bustle of busy people, all in a hurry, going places. Like a gladiator, the people entering the carriage battle their way through the throng of people, only to find their back pressed against the train door, begging silently that they won’t open up behind them, throwing them out again.

When the train takes off with an almighty whoosh, the inhabitants are thrown forward, suddenly falling, proof of Newton’s laws and gravity. Help is sought by grabbing the shoulder of whoever stands next to them, suddenly rendering the stranger an accidental hero, a Good Samaritan, a saviour from a world of embarrassment. And suddenly they’re bonded, comrades in the battle against the throng of people, all battling to get to work, dear friends if only for a minute.

The carriage is a plethora of smells. The lady in the lacy dress smells of flowers, on her way to man the expensive stores in the city. Young girls in tight clothes still smell of vodka and cigarettes, the evidence of the habits of the youth. Women with young children on their hips still smell of coffee and sleep, milk stains still visible on their shirt collars from a morning spent making lunches and managing households. The minutes taken to get to the station are their only respite in the day.

The teenage couple in the aisle kiss, unabashed despite their large audience. Their intertwined bodies are cumbersome to the aisles and the people around them. But their kisses soon break, if only for the young Romeo to offer his Juliette the lone train seat that has become available.

As the train zooms by the world quickly becomes a moving blur. Young children stare out the windows in wonder as their concrete world becomes a moving kaleidoscope of colour. Their knees are balanced carefully on the coloured seats; their mother’s begging them to just sit down properly. But their pleas fall deaf on the ears of a delighted child who stares at wonder at the world which passes them by.

Melissa Werry

Today’s blog post is from Melissa Werry. Melissa is writing all the way from Paris where she is trying to turn herself French, one stripy shirt at a time. Read more about it on her blog: Turn Me French.

Mind The Gap

Melissa Werry on a train in Florence.

Australians like to think of ourselves as a patriotic country. We enjoy our own national holiday, we boast our own breakfast spread in the colour and consistency of tar, and many of our citizens sport large Southern Cross tattoos in places that the nationals of other countries would describe as obnoxious or more simply, unattractive.

But compared with its European aunts and uncles, Australia is still in swaddling clothes. With its relatively brief lifespan, modern Australian society has not developed a sense of national identity as strong as those who trail ancient histories. To define “Australian” is a difficult thing to do, because we do not have the benefit of the tens of centuries that some other countries have to develop our understanding of self.

Some would argue – though probably not the residents of Villawoood – that this youthfulness and ultimate lack of defining culture allows us to spread our arms wide to accept change and difference in a way that those with more deeply entrenched national identities cannot. But with all my depth of experience after one week in France, I am beginning to think that the reality is quite the inverse: perhaps the stronger a national identity, the more shock absorbent it will be. Perhaps an older nation will experience less identity insecurity, and engage more authentically with others.

How did I reach this conclusion? By catching the train every day. In the carriages of the RER from Thorigny to Paris L’Est I see Arabic women with glittering hair veils smiling at little white babies in the seats opposite them. And old ladies in pink tweed who offer handkerchiefs to young black men in basketball caps and chains who worked up a sweat to make it through the automatic doors just as they were closing. And African men in suits who leave their cards with young white students in search of a job. And teenaged girls sporting leopard print pants and bright pink hair who allow gray haired women to laugh at them as they overhear their phone calls to their mothers asking them to turn on the washing machine.

I won’t pretend I haven’t seen the pictures in newspapers of young Maghrébins setting cars alight in the street, or heard the debates on the laws against the burqa or the future survival of the French language. But that is not the France I have seen first hand. The French I see in the carriages of the RER are not scared of the gap. They don’t mind the gap. In fact they seem not to notice it.

Pip Smith

The amazing Pip Smith, founder of Penguin Plays Rough, has written us a blog entry!

Photo Credit: Felicity Pickering

About three hours ago I was on the train coming back from the airport. At central, this guy in a suit sat next to me and started talking just as I was punching out a text. He said, “I have just realised my job doesn’t make me happy.” His eyes were slightly yellow, and i wondered if he had been drinking. I said, “what do you do?” “I look at discrepancies between shipping lists. Logistics. I work for a Korean company. I want to work for an Australian company. In Korea we have it all wrong. In Australia the emphasis is on being happy and relaxing. In Korea the emphasis is on being strong.” I said, “I’m not sure you got that right – about Australia.” At Wynyard, an elderly businessman sat next to us, so we had to squeeze right up against the window. I asked the Korean man, “When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?” He leaned in towards me and whispered, “a monk”, I said “sorry, what?” he said “a monk.” He lifted up his wrist and showed me the bracelet he was wearing. “I’m Buddhist. When I was younger, I visited a temple and saw Buddha’s face. It made me so calm. His face – it wasn’t warm or cold.” “It was neutral?” “Yes. Are you a Buddhist?” I said, “No. I’ve never really understood the whole ‘letting go of desire’ thing. It’s always struck me that desire can sometimes be a beautiful thing. Desire can motivate you. And attachment. Attachment to your children, surely that’s a good thing.” He said, “I see what you mean, but I think you’re confusing desire and compassion. Love and attachment. You can watch your friend die and you feel a great amount of distress. You watch a beggar die and…” He shrugged “maybe you feel bad only for a little while. You think your friend belongs to you, but he doesn’t.” I was stunned. How did he know Tim had just died? “So, what’s your major?” He asked “I’m sorry?” “What do you study?” “How did you know I’m a student?” “I can just tell.” The businessman sitting next to us shifted his newspaper, pretending to read it, but he hadn’t turned the page in some time. After a pause I asked, “Well, can you quit when you go back to Korea? Can you become a monk?” He said, “No. My family.” “Ah, I see.” “My family cause me distress.” “Distress??” “They want me to have babies. But I don’t want to marry.” I said, “Oh yes! I know about that.” And we sat in silence. At North Sydney the aisle of people re-configured itself with muted apologies. As we passed the next stations, he told me about the moon, that at the full moon you can attend tea ceremonies in temples in Japan – and that when you drain a cup, you clear your mind. He told me he’d studied martial arts in Hong Kong because he loved Bruce Lee and that he’d visited India and learned that they came up with the number 0. He told me that a mango grows the way it grows by a chance meeting of sun and rain and other things, and that it also starts from zero. That everything is a product of its context. We were standing by the pond at St Leonards station for about 5 minutes while he started telling me that we are cheated by the world because we can’t see the stars during the day, even though they are there the whole time. I’m not sure what he meant by this, but he was so illuminated by what he was saying I decided to walk with him in the direction of the place he was staying. Turns out he was also staying in Greenwich. He told me that heaven is right here, and that you shouldn’t turn the past into a cliche, and that our minds are full of the future so we miss out on the present. He turned and asked me, ‘do you believe in platonic love?’ And I said, ‘yes.’ And he laughed and said, “Ah! You understand!” When we reached the intersection of Greenwich Rd and the Pacific Hwy I had to leave him. We shook hands. He asked me my name, I said “Pip” He said, “I am Rocky. Rocky Mountain,” and he walked down Greenwich Road.

Rocky Mountain, thanks for the excellent conversation.

Sam Atom Stewart

Sam Atom Stewart has written us a blog post on this special of special days! Sam is a writer who currently living in the south west suburbs, and keeping a daily commute that stretches to Bankstown & the city, Sam is a well established train commuter and has loved watching ‘A View From Moving Windows’ develop, bringing poetry to to the often mundane experience of rail travel. 

Trains are impassive. They don’t wait and they’ll take their time if they need to.
They are a number of adjoining boxes with rules that deliver you places. Sometimes when they promised they would.

I don’t drive a car. And I have a lot of places to be that expect things of me. So I live on trains.

Almost every day I embark, quickly sniff out my territory, and dutifully wrap my bubble tight around me. My smart phone, bag and parcel, blank face bubble which shields the primal part of my brain that hates this. All the closeness to other strange animals I don’t know and can’t truly predict. And then I am mostly switched to another channel for the majority of the journey. However, intermittently, I do notice something worth seeing. Someone’s sparkle peeks through to touch me. Stimulate my curiosity. I think it’s easy to fall in love with people on trains. Momentarily. Get taken by a certain angle of them.
The carriage is a strange place. A war zone at times. Of egos. Of social acceptances.  What is acceptable to you? Will you eat? Drink? Conduct your mobile conversation? Clip your finger nails? What’s your limit for PDAs? If you’re both quiet… how far will you go? Would you have the gall to light up?

It is a shell of a place. You fill it with yourself. All your moods and thoughts and dramas. And everyone else’s’. But, stand or sit next to the right person and something interesting might happen.

I had a day like that. A  moment. Just this year. A journey with someone special.
So. There we were. Standing. Facing each other in the crowded space. And we stood. And we shook with the vibrations of the carriage. Then one smiled and the other stepped closer, their bubbles merging.

Hands lightly resting on hips and wrists. Forehead on forehead. And… lips, just so damn gently, on lips.

My eyes lock on your eyes. Then close. Catching the moment just as it is. Breathing into it. Opening it up. Growing a tentative landscape around it. Delicate. Soft. Unfolding and building.

And I can feel it. Deep and wide and tender. All the love my heart thinks it’s capable of. What is this? Is this the train? Is this you? Is this us?

My mind wandered to our cell mates. Their scandalised looks? The clack of the train on the tracks. But then I let them fall away. Our world is better.

We are the pulsating core of this moment. We become everything. This moment is made of cinema. Breath and touch and time ebbing away by inches.

We have stations only. Stanmore… ”(breathe in…) ”Newtown… ”(breathe out…)”Macdonaldtown ”(breathe in…) ”Redfern… ”(breathe out…) ”And then it’s over. You pull away. You disembark.

I dreamily survey the terrain. Gauge the atmosphere. All seems fine. Unaffected. How bizarre.

The train continues on to Central, still seemingly impassive. The people too, seemingly apathetic. And I, seemingly calm and quiet. But I’m not. I’m sparkling.

Miles Merrill

Miles Merrill is the creative director of the literary arts organisation, Word Travels. He is also a writer, performer, facilitator and event co-ordinator who combines poetry with theatre, experimental audio, hip-hop beats, stand-up and, occasionally, political confrontation. This is an extract from a three part group poem that was performed at The Riverside Theatre as part of a Sydney Festival show in 2005.

Train Wars

Photo Credit: Felicity Pickering

Part I

(Imagine us all crushed together on a train moving through the crowd as a clump, leaning when we turn.)

Every morning we form a multi-screen sightseeing machine.

From Home – (All repeating the following line together to a crescendo until Miles turns an imaginary nob) 

To Bossland- where the grey pigs play, living another man’s dream.  (All chanting like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory oohowee oh oooh oh)

In between is a network of clogged veins with a CBD heart.

I am a cell living in a vessel. Pump through the circulatory city on a peak hour vein.

My name stuck in the tracks

Written in the cracks

Rolling in the gap

Sea to city

Wombarra to Bondi

Parramatta to Kuring-gai

past Blue Mountains

I bust from a finger

a spray of blood into the bush. 

(Miles runs from the group as they spread in straight lines throughout the crowd.)

Every morning you ride a serpent

over the bones of buried people

their foreign words float in your ear

Wombarra-Wombarra-WomBombaderry-Nowra

Next Stop.

Ghosts haunt you through familiar suburbs

(Chanting) Baramada Baramada Next Stop.

Don’t these trains chanting place names

mock you?

If sorry is your only reply, guilt is implied.

Every morning a new trial to sleep through.

And here come the grey pigs (I sit and close my eyes)

Want more? Go to Follow That Sound next Friday ( if you can’t come to A View From Moving Windows opening night). Follow That Sound is a tour through the wild lanes and ancient gutters of The Rocks. Spoken-wordsmiths perform and magic happens! 

 

Melita Rowston

Melita Rowston is a playwright, writer and a director. She used to be a painter in Melbourne. She is about to catch a variety of trains through New York, Paris, Budapest and her most anticipated journey – from Dublin to Galway, to haunt a hundred year old stone hut on the Aran Islands and write a play about ships and love. She plans to make a website about herself when she gets back. Melita recently had her play Crushed on as part of New Theatre’s Spare Room Season.

The Experiment

He jerks me into his wet chest, slides his face across mine and kisses me. There’s the smell of his raw leather jacket, weed, beer and the taste of something chemical. Through the tangle of his hair, I can see the red headlights of the traffic on repeat as they plunge down Flinders Street. He pushes me away. The traffic revs its collective engine impatient for the lights to go green. He’s staggering like a rock star, the intersection his stage, but there’s nothing impressive about this performance. I glance at the station clock – nearly midnight.

‘We’re going to miss the last train!’

The chains of his biker boots jangle on the bitumen as he struts before the beast that is the restless traffic. The driver nearest us flashes his headlights. We could be at a disco. He lunges at the windscreen. The driver sticks his head out the window, his face an angry shadow under his baseball cap. Then the lights go green. And that’s when it really starts to get messy.

I try to drag him across the road. He pulls me back into him and growls into my neck, ‘Let’s get knocked up by the traffic. Let’s end it all now in a blaze of glory!’

The try-hard Goths watch us from the shadows of the Burke and Wills statue while Burke studies the map that failed him. The hands of the station clock hit midnight.

The experiment is failing.

We met on the last train to Frankston, as it hurtled past a string of stations from which girls my age had recently been abducted. I was cradling my dog-eared copy of The Female Eunuch and becoming appropriately angry at The Patriarchy. He was slugging bourbon from a Smurfs thermos and staring at the boobs on the front cover. We were both ignoring the guy behind us vomiting into a box of BBQ Shapes. Our knees rubbed against each other as the carriage took the difficult turns. When the train plunged into the darkness of a depression era tunnel, he put his hand on my thigh and said,

‘What’s a eunuch?’

I laughed. Because I thought he was being ironic.

I have a rule about trains. If someone talks to me, I pretend I can’t hear. I don’t talk back. I do everything I can to dissuade a chat. Trust me. On trains, the talking thing always ends badly.

He rolled up the sleeve of my flannel and traced his phone number along my arm until I knew it by heart. Surprisingly, I let him. When we came to his stop, I walked him to the door. He stood on the platform and stared right into me. As the train tried to leave, he held the doors open, looking like Axl Rose – but with Slash’s hair. Over the beeping and the shouts from passengers, he pushed a wet five dollar note into my stomach,

‘Here’s your winnings. ‘Cos I bet you won’t call me.’ Large eyes like storm water drains.

As the train pulled out of the station, I watched him walk into a cyclone fence and search for a handle as if it were a door.

A few days later I called him.

It was an experiment, see. I usually spend summer with the blinds drawn. Emerging at dusk when the garage door becomes cool to touch, I paint til dawn or when the Nescafe shakes set in. But the night heat was turning my oils to shit. So I’d taken to the trains on the air-conditioned lines, circling passages of The Female Eunuch with my red pen. ‘Women have very little idea how much men hate them,’ it swam in bleeding ink as he put his hand on my thigh. Yet there was something about those quietly desperate eyes…

I hate Top 10 Summer Anthems. I hate empty summer streets. I hate the way my dark clothes absorb the heat. I hate beach towels slung over balconies and front yards full of cars. I hate waking up on someone’s rumpus room floor listening to heated fumbling from Matt and Sarah or David and Kate. I hate this city in summer. Summer is when psychopaths get restless. I should know, I’ve ended up in the middle of Flinders Street with one.

‘You promised me a beer and a bit of Def Metal, not eternal damnation!’ I scream in his ear. So he collar ties me. And as the yellow clocks tick twelve ‘o’ five, the last train to Frankston pulls out of the station and the police arrive. I wonder if we’ll make the news.

Sometimes when a guy bellows ‘Boobies!’ at The Female Eunuch, I think of him and his dance of death in the disco that was the traffic. He’s there to remind me that I’m no scientist. And I should never ever experiment with talking to boys on trains again.

Jodi McAlister

Jodi McAlister explains how trains influenced the play she wrote at age 10: ‘The Six Wives of King Henry VIII: The Musical’. Jodi McAlister is an all-of-the-time academic type, a-lot-of-the-time theatre critic, and occasional playwright. You can find her in many a theatre foyer and on many a Sydney-Wollongong train. This is her post for the ‘A View From Moving Windows’ blog… 

Photo Credit: Jodi McAlister

I’m one of those people who writes on trains. This has turned out to be quite a useful habit: I live in Wollongong but most of my actual life is in Sydney, so I spend huge amounts of time on the train, tapping away at my computer. A lot of the time, what I’m writing is about theatre – nearly all of my reviews are drafted late at night on the long post-show schlep back to the Gong. But trains and writing and theatre have been linked together for me for way longer than that.

When I was ten and my family and I were in England, my parents took my sister and I on the train to London to see Starlight Express. The train journey took about an hour, during which time I was completely unsociable. I didn’t want to hear about the show we were going to see, because, you see, I was writing a play of my own. We’d been to Hampton Court a few days earlier and I’d been terribly impressed by the story of King Henry VIII and his six wives. I determined on the spot that this story was Meant For The Stage and started writing it (on the train) that same afternoon. This was Day 3, this train journey representing a solid block of writing time. I furiously scribbled in my notebook as the train clacked through Chelmsford, Stratford, Brentwood. I was pretty annoyed when we got to London and I’d only just killed off Anne Boleyn.

The Apollo Victoria theatre is huge, cavernous when you’re ten and (then as now) small for your age. Tracks soared through the air, above the audience, impossibly high. Everything was glittering.

“What’s this show about?” I asked my mother.

“A train race,” she replied. “Put your notebook away.”

I was hooked the second the first actors-on-roller-skates sped onto the stage. Starlight Express blew my freaking mind.

But Starlight Express also posed a problem for me: a major one that I had to begin to rectify on the train journey home, tearing pages out of my notebook willy-nilly. “No one ever told me plays had to have songs in them!” I told my parents angrily.

I was annoyed when they laughed at me. While I know a lot more about theatre now, I’m also glad they didn’t correct me. I still have The Six Wives of King Henry VIII: The Musical, by Jodi age 10, written almost totally on train journeys around England, sitting in a cupboard somewhere, and the ten year old in me is still devastatingly proud of her first play.

I still know all the words to Starlight Express, and even though it’s not exactly hip to be into Andrew Lloyd Webber, it’s still my favourite musical ever. And whenever it comes up on my iPod on one of those long train journeys home – particularly when I’m reviewing a show (whether or not it had songs in it) – it reminds me of everything I love about theatre.

 For more of Jodi’s writing check out her blog Theatre From The Back Seat.