Katie Pollock is a busy bee. At the moment her writing is being performed in ‘Heart Dot Com’ at Tap Gallery and from November 13-24th she’s got her play ‘The Blue Angel Hotel’ performing at The Old Fitzroy Theatre. In between she’s made time to write for us!
Hollering and Carrying On
It’s March 1993. I’m somewhere north of Penang, impossible to say exactly where, as the only thing I’ve seen out the train window since I woke up is miles on miles of rice paddies. By any dictionary definition it’s beautiful, but I’m not enjoying the view. I’m not supposed to be here, I’m supposed to be in Singapore.
I’ve been working as a journalist in Bangkok and my three-month non-working visa has expired, forcing me on the non-resident’s quarterly jaunt, the visa trip: leave the country, get your passport stamped, turn around, get your re-entry stamp and dodge the immigration police for another three months. If you’re smart or worth more than the local wage, you turn the visa trip into a little holiday and escape the fumes and madness that is Bangkok in the early 90s. Apparently I am neither.
Fed up with the hassle that is daily life in the Big Mango, I’ve scraped together enough money to get a flight and a few days in clean and orderly Singapore, but not enough to waste on a taxi to Don Muang Airport. The airport bus takes a full four hours to reach its destination and, despite a last-minute dash of hope through departures, I miss the flight. The next available is two days away, just when I’m due back at work. I spend an hour on the floor gasping and crying, then make my way to the train station and catch the train to Penang for the cheapest visa turnaround trip possible, which leaves me here, looking out the window at the rice paddies and wondering why the train has stopped.
Breakfast was hours ago and the baggies of my favourite train food – fried chicken and sticky rice – are long-since empty. I stick my head out the window to try and find out what’s going on. People are spilling out the train, hollering and carrying on.
There’s a cow on the tracks and it won’t be moved.
Not because it’s dead, but because most of the hollerers are Muslims and none of the non-hollerers on the train have been asked to join the bovine removal activities. So we wait and stare out the window.
Twenty four hours ago I was crying on an airport floor. Now I have my visa, and a freshly made memory of emerald rice paddies that will stay with me for at least another 20 years. Eventually the cow wanders off and the train shudders into gear, pulling me forwards into the frenzy of my daily life.
Just recently, a cow decided to park itself right in the middle of my playwriting tracks. It came as a shock and I spent some time on the floor gasping and crying. I contemplated getting off the train, but that would have left me stranded in a field somewhere north of nowhere. So I hollered and carried on and kicked the beast as hard as I could until eventually, finally, it shifted, allowing me to renew my non-resident writer’s visa for another few months. As part of this trip, I’m checking into The Old Fitzroy in November. I hope you can join me.
The Blue Angel Hotel by Katie Pollock, directed by Aarne Neeme, The Old Fitzroy,
November 13-24. Tickets from www.rocksurfers.org