One of the household jobs my husband doesn’t mind doing is laundry. In fact I would go so far as to say he enjoys doing it but as I know many of you will understand his way of doing laundry and mine are very different. We have come to an unspoken agreement that he will not wash my clothes unless I ask him to.
Here are some reasons why:
He puts my white underwear in with his black jeans
He doesn’t treat stains
He loses my socks
He uses the same machine setting for everything
He claims not to know which drawers my clothes belong in
For a two person household we seem to do an awful lot of washing. My husband is a big man and he goes through a lot of clothes so he has got into the habit of doing laundry at night. Sometimes he does it in the evening but sometimes if he gets up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet he throws a load of jeans and track suit pants in the machine while he’s up. His reasoning is that it saves electricity to wash at that time and I have no argument with that.
I, on the other hand, like to wash in the morning so that I can do other chores while the machine is running and still get everything washed, dried, ironed and put away in the same day.
Last year, after 35 years of managing without one, we bought a dryer. Winters are wet here in our corner of Tasmania and after ten years here I’d come to the point where the sight of a blue sky made me run to put a load of washing in the machine so as not to waste the sunshine. I still like to hang things on the line but the dryer is a blessing in winter. Naturally Hubby also prefers to run the dryer at night to save electricity. Luckily we can’t hear it from our bedroom.
My only quarrel with all this is having washed the clothes and dried the clothes he loses interest and they stay there in the dryer until he needs something. Then he will go and take out the item he requires and leave the rest hanging half in and half out of the dryer.
I am sure you have all read household hints about how to organise the family wash. Each family member has their own laundry basket and once the clothes are sorted and folded they take the basket and put their clothes away. Well the other day I retrieved Hubby’s laundry from the dryer, folded it all neatly and carried the basket to our bedroom for him to put away. A day later it was still there. He’ll just take the clothes out of the basket to put them on. Half of them are back in the dirty laundry basket now. I haven’t read any hints about how to fix that problem; none that work anyway.
Occasionally when our washing machine has broken down and often before we bought the dryer we would have to resort to using the local laundry. As I don’t drive we would either go together or it would be Hubby’s job to take our clothes to be washed. He would usually come back fuming because of “inconsiderate people who fill the dryers and then go off for hours” and minus at least one article of clothing, usually one of my socks. I was once very embarrassed to pass the laundry and there, hanging in the window waiting to be claimed, was a pair of Hubby’s very large underpants. If I need to use a dryer that is full I will generally take the clothes out and fold them up neatly. If the owners come back they usually don’t mind and often thank me for taking the trouble to fold everything.
I find going to the laundry can be quite a sociable occasion which is lucky because whenever we go on a trip I seem to spend a lot of time washing clothes. When we’ve stayed at caravan parks on holidays the laundry is the place where I’ve often had interesting chats with other travellers. We once had a very enjoyable conversation with a Canadian in a youth hostel laundry in England while waiting for the world’s slowest dryer cycle to finish. By the time it did we had discovered that the two movies we’d been talking about “Flying High” and “Airplane” were one and the same film! So wash days can be fun when you are on the road and at least I can keep track of the socks!
More Washday Blues:
Here are some wash day stories from other bloggers.
As rail fans David and I liked to travel by train when we went on holidays. Australian National employees like David were entitled to a holiday pass which meant that we could travel interstate cheaply, or even free if we didn’t mind sitting up on overnight trains. We travelled on the Overland between Adelaide and Melbourne several times and always enjoyed the journey, travelling either the First Class sitting car and eating breakfast in the First Class Club Car or paying a little extra for a sleeping car berth. David was well known to most of the catering staff and sleeping car conductors and they were always very nice to us. Travelling Economy Class was not as comfortable but I still preferred it to coach travel.
We managed a trip on both the “Spirit of Progress” and the “Daylight Express” between Melbourne and Sydney though sadly never the luxurious “Southern Aurora“. We travelled on the Ghan to Alice Springs as well and even though we had opted for the cheap seats we still enjoyed the journey. The line to Darwin had not been built yet so that trip is still on the bucket list as is the one I would really like to do, the ” Indian Pacific”.
One train I would love to have travelled on in those days but didn’t get to was “The Tea and Sugar”, this was the train that supplied all the railway settlements along the Nullarbor Plain between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie and it always fascinated me. Today those settlements have mostly disappeared and the few that remain are much smaller now as the modern concrete sleepers don’t require as much maintenance.
The Trip Of A Lifetime
Once I started to work for the railways myself we began to save in earnest for a trip overseas. Naturally we planned on getting a lot of rail action and so the idea was born that we would travel to the UK via China and Russia on the Trans Mongolian and Trans Siberian express trains. It would be a once in a lifetime trip.
We left Australia in February 1990 to fly to Hong Kong where, after a few days sightseeing we caught our first train to Guangzhou to begin the long journey to Beijing. I have just been reading that it is now possible to travel between these two cities by High Speed Train and that it takes about 8 hours. I am glad that we took longer. It was a good opportunity to accustom ourselves to China. We had a sleeping berth and ate our meals in the Dining Car where nobody spoke any English. On our first morning for breakfast we were served fried eggs. They were runny which was fine but it was extremely difficult to eat them with chopsticks. I became very cross with my inability to manage them much to the amusement of the man sitting at our table who was politely trying not to laugh.
We found that younger people tended to speak some English and were keen to practice it with us. One of the first people we spoke with was a young man who had seen “Crocodile Dundee” and wanted to know if it was realistic. We told him that it was about as realistic as any other movie.
What we really hoped to see in China apart from The Great Wall and The Forbidden City were steam engines and we were not disappointed. Even though they were being phased out by this time there were still plenty of them about hauling freight trains and sitting in rail yards.
Leaving Beijing we travelled on through northern China into Mongolia and Irkutsk. We were now on the Trans Mongolian Express. On this train we shared a 4 berth sleeping compartment with two young women, one Canadian and one Japanese. Our excitement at seeing so many steam engines must have been infectious as before long Christine, our Canadian seatmate was looking for them too.
It was night when we reached the Mongolian border. We had a lengthy stop while our locomotive was being changed. Mongolian trains run on the Russian gauge of 1520mm while China uses Standard Gauge (1435mm) so all international trains must stop at the border posts for the bogies to be changed from one gauge to the other. There were steam locomotives there as well as diesels and we were fortunate to see one gently steaming in the chilly night air. It was a sight I won’t forget although I didn’t get a photo of it. Before our trip I had read of travellers having their films confiscated and cameras damaged for taking photos in Mongolia so not being the bravest travellers we decided not to risk it. As it happened nobody seemed all that worried and we would probably have been fine. I might add that the border crossings were quite scary. Coming from Australia we not used to seeing armed guards and although as western tourists they treated us very politely it felt intimidating. I remember the Mongolian official whose sole English seemed to be “Passport” and the Russian who looked so smart in a winter uniform. They all carried guns. At each border crossing we had to leave our compartment so that it could be searched. I am not sure what they expected to find, maybe stowaways. I did hear that some Chinese people were evicted from the train. The officials all stared hard at our passport photos. We must have seemed an odd group in our compartment with one Japanese, one Canadian, one British and one Australian passport.
We left the train in Irkutsk to spend a night and make a visit to Lake Baikal. David had never seen any snow before but he saw plenty in Siberia! We continued on the Trans Siberian to Moscow. As it was winter there were not many tourists on the train. Customer service was not a huge deal to them in 1990 although from some recent accounts I’ve read things may not have changed that much. I noticed that every compartment’s windows that were so dirty that you couldn’t see outside but I guess the Russians on the train had seen plenty of trees and snow and didn’t care. We astounded the car conductor by wanting to clean the window of our compartment. She agreed to give Christine and I some cloths so we could do that and although somewhat bemused she helped us at one of our stops. She was also kind enough to point out to us which of the two toilets in our carriage was the cleaner one. One thing I liked immensely was that each carriage had a samovar at one end which was kept boiling and you could go along and get hot water for tea or soup. Most people brought a few supplies of their own to supplement what was, or wasn’t, available in the Dining Car. Hot tea with honey in it was a very good drink after a chilly walk on the platform during a stop. We did get off the train at longer stops but never strayed far away from our carriage. I remembered Paul Theroux’s story in “The Great Railway Bazaar” of a passenger who was left behind on his journey on the Orient Express and I personally did not wish to be “duffilled”.
We met a few people who tried to talk to us but their English was limited. There was a man who kept wanting David to drink vodka with him and a lady who put on a fresh dress to visit our compartment, on top of all her other clothes. David and I had brought along a Polaroid camera thinking that it would be handy for quick snaps on the train and that people would be more willing to have their photos taken if we could give them a copy. Watching the picture develop was something new to them and everyone would turn it over to the other side to see where the image was. Well, Polaroids were kind of like magic to me too. I never really understood how they worked. I don’t remember after all this time what the food was like except that there was no Borscht. I was disappointed about that. I do remember that we tried the beer in each country we passed through. We liked the Chinese Five Star beer but we found the Mongolian beer rather flat and the Russian beer tasted the way I imagine dirty dish water would taste!
In Moscow we made use of the Moscow Metro which we loved. I had been on the London Underground but neither of us had seen anything like the stations in Moscow. They were so deep underground and so ornately decorated, kind of cross between an art gallery and a bomb shelter which was probably the intention. Naturally all the signage was in the Cyrillic alphabet but we had acquired a map with the place names marked in letters we could recognise even if we couldn’t pronounce the them. By using these two maps together we were able to find our way around fairly well. Once we realised that the routes were all colour coded it was much simpler and the fares were so cheap we really didn’t mind if we got lost and had to buy another ticket anyway. Once, when we were studying our maps and trying to work out what platform we wanted a passerby helped us, pointing out the correct one but mostly we managed. We were very proud of finding our way from our hotel to the Museum of Economic Achievement which involved changing trains about three times. We couldn’t understand much about the exhibits when we got there but we did enjoy seeing the one about space exploration.
We also travelled by train from St Petersburg to Moscow which was a lot less scary than flying with Aeroflot. We then continued our journey west across Europe finally arriving at Hoek van Holland to take a ferry to Harwich, England. It was on this final journey that I had what to me was a very alarming experience even though I was probably never at risk. I thought I was really going to be duffilled this time. It was at the last stop before we left Russia and the border officials came aboard as usual. This time we had one that spoke some English and he wanted to know if any of us had any Russian roubles left. Unfortunately I did and he wanted to know why. I explained as best I could that I had no opportunity to change them at the station in Moscow. He then took me into the station to change them while David stayed on the train. After I had done that I had to join a queue to get back on the train. It was a long queue and I seemed to be the only English speaking person. I was really afraid that I would miss the train and be stranded in a strange city without my luggage. I can’t say how long I was there, it seemed like ages but it probably wasn’t. In the end of course it was alright. I was given preferential treatment once they saw my foreign passport and was soon back on the train again.
David was entitled to discount fares in the United Kingdom through a reciprocal agreement that Australian National had with British Rail. I’ve forgotten exactly what the discount was but we found that in many of the places we went the ticket sellers seeing his pass had no idea what to charge us. We stayed in Stirling, in Scotland for a few days and visited Edinburgh three times being charged a different fare each time we travelled. On a train in north Wales the ticket collector looked at the pass and said “I have no idea what to do with this so I’ll charge you the same as a British Rail employee.”
In London we managed to visit most of the big stations, Waterloo and Victoria, Euston, Kings Cross and St Pancras which is by far the most attractive but I have soft spot for Liverpool Street where the trains to Romford and Clacton On Sea depart. Naturally I wanted to recreate those journeys so David could see where I came from. Needless to say we spent a lot of time in our short London visit using the Underground. I think David would have been quite happy to have explored all the Tube lines and not worried about any tourist attractions.
We travelled from London to York, where naturally we visited the National Rail Museum. We also took a trip on the Settle to Carlisle line and visited the Worth Valley Railway at Haworth. We carried on to Newcastle where we spent a few days before continuing on to Edinburgh, Stirling, Glasgow, Fort William and, after a bus trip from there to Kyle of Localsh, to Inverness. Our longest train journey in the UK was from Inverness all the way back to London and then on to Bexhill On Sea in one day.
Wales was another destination. I would have loved to have had the time and money to visit all the little narrow gauge railways in Wales but we saw the two that I really wanted to see. Ffestiniog at Porthmadog and the Tallylyn Railway at Tywyn. The Welsh Highland Railway is also at Porthmadog and we visited that too. Nowadays I believe it is a part of Ffestiniog but it wasn’t at that time and was quite a tiny concern compared to its neighbour. The Tallylyn was a railway that I wanted to visit from the time I read “Railway Adventure” by LTC Rolt in the 1970s. I loved his story of how the railway, the first preserved railway in the world, came into existence. I knew that if I only saw one steam railway in Wales it must be that one. We didn’t have a rental car so to get there we had to take a bus and a train from Bangor where we were staying. It was a weekend and we only expected to have time for a short trip, maybe not even that if our transport was running late. When we arrived at the station we found that a train was about to leave and to our surprise the ticket office staff said that we were welcome to travel on it even though it was a private charter. That just made my day.
Back at home in Tasmania my favourite railway related holiday trip is to the West Coast Wilderness Railway which runs between Strahan and Queenstown. I have more to say about this little railway and the west coast of Tasmania generally so will save that for another post.
All the photographs in this post were taken by me or by my husband David except for the following:
Refreshment Car on the Overland. This was a publicity shot taken for the railways which David acquired when they threw out a lot of old photographs in the 1980s.
The Spirit of Progress70th Anniversary train at Benalla, Victoria – Wikepedia
Indian Pacific Train at Cook, SA – Wikepedia
Irkutsk Station- Wikepedia
The quality of some of our own photographs is not great because most of them were taken through glass or in low light conditions. Most of them were orginally slides. We used Kodachrome 64 and Agfachrome in those days from memory. Our cameras were a Pentax MG and two Zenit EMs , well I think it was an EM. The Russian camera drew a few looks in Moscow. We also had a Polaroid 600 and a vintage Paxette that David liked to carry for back up.
Next week our cat Polly will celebrate her first birthday.
Actually we don’t know when Polly was born. I found her at the church near our home on a boiling hot day in early January. We think that she was about 8 weeks old then so her birthday must be somewhere around now.
The day I found her I was talking to the church Youth Leader outside when we both heard loud meowing. I could tell that it was a kitten and as we couldn’t see where it was I called and after a couple of minutes a bedraggled little creature with one eye shut tight crept out from under the bush where she had taken shelter.
I don’t know how long she had been there. The evening before there had been a barbecue at the church for the men’s group but none of them had seen or heard a kitten. Someone may have dumped her after they left or maybe she strayed there by herself although as there are few houses close by I doubted that.
After giving her some water I called my husband and asked him to come and take her back to our house and feed her. At that stage I wasn’t thinking of keeping her as I knew that Jake, our cat, would not want a strange cat in the house, even a tiny one. I hoped that we would find her a home with one of the church congregation.
I didn’t see what happened when David got home with Polly but he told me about it later. He had brought her in and put her down while he got some cat food out. Our dog Cindy came up to see what he had brought in and immediately gave Polly a thorough wash. From then on Polly was most happy when she was near Cindy and would even curl up between her paws to sleep.
Jake was less impressed as I expected. His first sight of Polly was when he came into the living room and saw her asleep on David’s lap. His expression said it all “What is that thing doing in MY SPOT?” He left the room and for some time would not enter the living room if Polly was there.
Polly had runny eyes and kept sneezing so after a couple of days we decided that rather than wait for someone to adopt her we should take her to the vet. The vet asked us what her name was. We hadn’t given her one as she was meant to be a temporary visitor but they needed a name so David said Polly. We had joked that she ought to be called Polly because at that stage she was always trying to sit on our shoulders like a parrot. Of course once she had a name, and we had a hundred dollar vet bill, we had to keep her.
Over the next few weeks Polly recovered from her cold and put on weight. Putting her eye cream on became more of a battle but she started to look better. I borrowed a cat playpen to keep her in at night and when we were out. Cindy became her best friend and if Polly was in the playpen she would lie down beside it. Jake became more used to Polly and reclaimed his right to sleep in the living room. He went from running away from Polly to ignoring her and occasionally hissing at her. Polly, on the other hand fell in love with Jake from the moment she saw him. She kept trying to make friends with him but he wouldn’t have it.
I decided that Polly was to be an inside cat. I’d tried it with Jake and Josey our previous cat but they always managed to get out when we opened the back door and in the end we gave up and let them out during the day and tried to keep them in at night. I don’t like cats hunting though and I am sure that one day in the not too distant future there will be laws passed in our area making it illegal for owners to let their cats roam. I thought it would be better if Polly didn’t get used to the idea of wandering. As she wouldn’t be going out to hunt we got her toys to play with. A five dollar toy with a jingling ball inside a wheel kept her happy for hours as she tried to work out how to catch it. When Polly was four or five months old we lost Jake. I guess we were meant to have Polly so we would not be without a cat.
Polly is not a cat that wants to be cuddled all the time, she’s affectionate but independent. She likes to have her tummy rubbed and will sit beside us on the couch but not on our laps very often. Loud noises and strangers frighten her. She hated the vacuum cleaner as a kitten and would run for cover every time I turned it on. She’s more accepting of it now but still doesn’t like it. If she hears strange voices she runs to hide behind a cabinet in the living room where she thinks nobody will find her. She has other hidey holes, the favourite one being our linen cupboard which she spends so much time in that David calls it “Polly’s Apartment”. She is still great friends with Cindy although she has learned that Cindy will not tolerate her going near her food bowl. They play a game with each other sometimes which involves Polly trying to bite Cindy on the leg while Cindy tries to nudge her away. Sometimes they wash each other which and that is nice to see. She is still very fond of toys. She doesn’t play with her wheel toy quite as often now but occasionally she will go and give it a few pokes. She prefers knocking over the waste paper basket and wrestling with Cindy’s broken tennis balls. I bought her catnip but like all of our previous cats she doesn’t seem that interested in it. Polly is still very curious too and likes to prowl around the house. When we moved into our spare bedroom for a few weeks while we redecorated she became quite fascinated with that room. Unlike our previous cats she doesn’t sleep on our bed although David, who goes to bed early, says she sometimes comes and stays with him for a while. She does like playing on the bed though, especially when I am trying to make it!
Polly is still an inside cat. I do let her out occasionally if one of us is outside and she potters around near the back door but if anything happens to scare her like a flock of noisy birds flying over or someone banging on the wheelie bin she scuttles back inside as fast as she can. One day I would like to have an enclosure in the back garden so that Polly or any future cats can enjoy some outside time in safety. However in the meantime my cowardly cat seems quite happy in the house and that is fine with me.
After David and I got married we felt that rather than just travelling on steam tours we’d like to give something back so we became volunteer carriage cleaners. David didn’t last long. He worked for the railways and after a while he said that spending his weekends at the rail yards after being there all week was a bit much. However, I stayed for several years and although it was often hard and dirty work I enjoyed it and ultimately it did lead to me getting paid work.
At first the carriages were stored on unused track in the Adelaide rail yards. Sometimes the cleaners who were on duty would come over to see what we were doing. They were bemused by group of young people who would clean railway carriages for fun but as they all knew David they were always helpful if we needed hot water or cleaning rags.
Later we moved out to a new site at Dry Creek where the engines and carriages were stored together. The carriage cleaners job was simply to prepare each consist for a trip and to clean it when it came back again. We had toilets and ashtrays to clean which wasn’t pleasant and the soot on the cream coloured paintwork of our Centenary Cars was very hard to shift. It had to be scrubbed off with detergent and then we would polish the paintwork with car polish. We cleaned the windows and polished the brass handrails, we mopped floors and vaccuumed carpets. We even climbed onto the roof to fill the water tanks. Quite a feat for me as I was and still am scared of falling and find it hard to climb ladders. Our friend Robert decided to cure me, he would climb up to put the hose in the tank and then when it was full yell at me to go up and turn it off. If I didn’t there would be water everywhere. I did it. I wish I could do it now. I can’t get more than two steps up a ladder these days without getting frightened.
While I was a volunteer I helped to prepare a train consist to be used in the film “Gallipolli” directed by Peter Weir and starring Mark Lee and a very young Mel Gibson. We were allowed to go and watch the day’s filming at the Adelaide Station which was fascinating. The scene, our heroes disembarking from the train in Perth WA, probably took less than a minute on screen but it took half a day to film and I was impressed to hear Peter Weir directing the cast of extras who played the passengers as if theirs was the most important scene in the movie. Incidentally, another scene from the movie was also filmed at the railway station. Marble Hall, where David and I had our wedding photos taken, was transformed into the ballroom at the Nile Hotel in Cairo. Marble Hall is now the foyer of the Adelaide Casino.
I didn’t only clean though, sometimes I would help out in the refreshment car, especially on school holiday trips. For one trip we took the Dining Car Adelaide to the Kernewek Lowender and while the passengers enjoyed Devonshire Tea in the morning and a seafood lunch we volunteers worked in the kitchen area plating and serving the food and doing the washing up. For most trips refreshments and souvenirs were sold in a converted baggage car and a brisk trade was done in chocolates, cold drinks and tea and coffee. Even if we were not rostered on as volunteers on a long trip the regulars would always lend a hand if the Bar Car got busy. I also occasionally helped with fund raising, walking through the train selling raffle or Bingo tickets. They were wonderful times for me. I gained a lot of confidence from my years with SteamRanger Tours.
My Railway Career
In August 1987 I joined the railways myself and spent the next twelve years working as a railcar cleaner just a few hundred metres from where I had started off as a volunteer. I enjoyed most of that time and took pride in doing as good a job as I could to keep the city’s fleet of rail cars clean. I arrived as the first 3000 class rail cars were going into service and the first of the old Redhen rail cars were being phased out. I was very happy that smoking was outlawed on trains soon after I arrived. No more dirty ashtrays!
The Redhens were horrible to clean in the yard. In summer they would be like ovens as they had no air-conditioning. The drivers and shunters would sometimes forget to close the doors before taking them through the train wash and they would get flooded or there would be a dust storm and all the seats would be covered in red dust and would have to be washed. We all hated that job so much. The air-conditioned 2000 and 3000 class cars were better, they had sealed windows so the dust didn’t get in as much but if they had been stabled in the yard all day with the motors off they were just as hot and stuffy in summer. On the night shift you had to go out and clean cars in the yard no matter how cold or wet the weather was. I can recall getting soaked on more than one occasion as I struggled to open a battery box or shut down a motor that didn’t want to shut down.
Big events like New Year’s Eve, the Royal Show or Skyshow meant extra work for us. There were more trains and more mess. We had a railcar cleaner working at the station at night and that person could expect to spend most of his or her shift with a mop, a shovel and a bucket of sawdust! Graffiti was a big problem too. Hardly a night went by when we didn’t clean some off the insides or outsides of the rail cars. Sometimes they would come back from traffic covered in huge murals. The hours of scrubbing and the nasty chemicals we had to inhale means that I will never see this sort of thing as art!
Despite how physically hard the work could be I found the Railcar Depot and the station good places to work until the last couple of years.My sister worked there with me for a few years and we found ways to entertain ourselves with guessing games and quizzes if we were doing something monotonous like scrubbing dirty seats. The majority of the people who worked at the Adelaide Depot were men, fitters, electricians, drivers and shunters as well as cleaners and many of the older ones had come from Europe in the 1950s and 60s. On night shift we would often encourage them to talk about their younger days and how they came to Australia. It was fascinating to hear their stories. Of course we talked about many other things too in the quiet times late at night between trains. At least one of our workmates would get a bee in his bonnet over certain subjects and my sister and I took care not to mention Americans, Unions or the State Bank unless one of us was in a mischievous mood!
Eventually I decided to leave because I could see it was a matter of time before the whole cleaning department was outsourced. The depot which had once had about 200 staff had about 50 people left. At night the place was almost deserted. I was a Leading Hand by this time and found the job more stressful than fun. I decided not to wait for the end.
The last time I was in Adelaide we stayed at a hotel not far from where the Railcar Depot was on the corner of North and West Terraces. It isn’t there now. It was demolished to make way for a new hospital and the rail cars were all moved to Dry Creek, not far from the old SteamRanger Depot I believe. SteamRanger have moved too, they are based at Victor Harbour now and only run trains on the branch line from Mount Barker to Victor Harbour. The closure of most of the country lines and the standardisation of others has made it impossible to run trips like the ones we enjoyed so much and Public Liability insurance has become so expensive that Steamranger probably wouldn’t do it even if they could. That makes me sad but I think I was very lucky to do what I did when it was still possible.
No doubt people who read this blog will have noticed a recurring theme of trains.
Railways have played a big part in my life from the time I was a small child being taken on trains in England to today. I think it is a wicked waste that we don’t utilise rail better in Australia and especially here in Tasmania but this is not a rant about what’s wrong with public transport it’s a nostalgic look at my life with trains.
When I was very young I had a memory of looking over a bridge and seeing trains. We used to spend our summer holidays in Clacton On Sea and there was a bridge over the railway line which we occasionally went across. I’d try to look over it and see the trains but I couldn’t, the fencing was too high. Eventually I asked my mother about this. I knew I had seen trains there before. “Your grandfather used to lift you up to see them.” she told me. This was when I stayed with my grandparents when my sister was born. I was two years old. Nothing else about that visit stayed in my memory, just the trains. Obviously this was the beginning of me and trains.
As a small child I would occasionally travel by train from Romford to Clacton and those were my favourite trips. I remember waiting for the train there and worrying a bit when mum put the suitcase, the folding push chair, my sister and me onto the train before boarding herself. “What would happen if the train went without her ?” I wondered. It never happened of course. Once on board it was fun to see the scenery roll by, to spot sheep, cows and horses in the fields and once I’m sure I saw a windmill. For mum, the journey with two little girls was probably quite a lot of work, especially if we had to change trains as sometimes happened. I found railways stations interesting though. We weren’t allowed to run about of course, we sat in the waiting room and sometimes mum might take us to the Refreshment Room. She’d have a cup of tea and get us something to eat or drink while we waited. When we arrived at Clacton Station I would often make a beeline for the vending machine that had chocolate in it. Putting the money in the machine was as much the attraction as the chocolate.
We had a few trips to other places by train too. On two occasions we all went to London for a day out, once to visit Kew Gardens and another time to Hampton Court. I remember wondering if cemeteries were always built next to the railway as I caught glimpses of grave stones towering above red brick walls. I liked looking down into people’s back gardens when the railway was on an embankment. We went on the Underground which was very dark, very crowded and very loud to a seven-year old. I have to admit that I didn’t appreciate it as much at that age as I did as an adult. I missed seeing things out of the windows and there was a peculiar “Underground” smell that I wasn’t sure if I liked.
We had an aunty who lived near a railway line too, in fact the trains went past the bottom of her garden. Our house in Romford was not too far from the railway line either and often when we went into the town to the shops we would take a route past the gasworks and through a tunnel under the line. I recall that I would always run through the tunnel in case a train fell on top of me while I was in there.
The last train I travelled on in England was the boat train to Southampton the day we left to come to Australia and the first train journey I took in Australia was a long one from Melbourne to Adelaide which took more than twelve hours and was my introduction to Australian trains. It was January when we arrived and it was a hot and tiring trip in a train with no air-conditioning. I remember being shocked from the beginning to see people standing in the open doorways of passing trains as we travelled through the Melbourne suburbs. English carriages had, and as far as I know still have, outwardly opening doors so I had never seen people do that before. Our train, which was full of British migrants going to Adelaide, stopped two or three times that day for meals. I don’t know where we stopped but the first time was in the middle of the day, everyone got off the train and we were given a hot lunch in the railway refreshment rooms. Later in the day and again in the early evening we stopped for passengers to buy food and drinks at wayside stations. I still don’t know where but I do know that in those days Serviceton and Tailem Bend both had refreshment rooms. Finally the lights of Adelaide came into view and we arrived in Adelaide late at night. I’d had enough of trains for that day but it didn’t damp my enthusiasm for long distance rail travel one bit.
For the next few years trains did not figure largely in my life. Adelaide had diesel rail cars and I did not view these as “real” trains. We did use them occasionally to visit the city. Many years later I got to know them quite intimately as a cleaner working for the State Transport Authority (later TransAdelaide).
ARHS Tours and How I Met My Husband
When I was twelve or thirteen I saw a sign at the Adelaide Railway Station advertising school holiday steam train trips from Adelaide to Bridgewater in the Adelaide Hills. I persuaded mum to take us and that was the beginning of several years of travelling on ARHS (later Steamranger) tours, volunteering and eventually where I met my husband to be.
After the first trip mum allowed my sister and I to travel on the school holiday specials by ourselves or with our slightly older cousin. I’m sure that would horrify parents now as we were both under fifteen at the time. Our biggest adventure during this period was an overnight trip to Victor Harbour. We slept in a compartment on the train as we didn’t have enough money to stay in a hotel for the night. Most of the other people who camped in this way were men but we never felt anxious and nobody ever bothered us. This was in 1972.
It was still possible to go to quite a lot of country towns by train in those days and over the next few years we visited parts of South Australia that I probably would never have seen otherwise. I have wonderful memories of those times, the mystery trips where you might end up anywhere from the Port Adelaide wharves to rarely used branch lines or places like Hamley Bridge or Riverton. We couldn’t wait to get to the Adelaide Station where each trip began and along with many other rail fans would stand at the very end of the platform straining our eyes to be the first to spot the approaching locomotive as it came around the “Jail Loop” after leaving Mile End Depot.
My favourite trips were the all day trips and once or twice a year there would be a weekend trip. We went to Renmark for the Orange Week Festival, Wallaroo for Kernewek Lowender, the Cornish Festival, Peterborough for the town’s Centenary, Mount Gambier and to Quorn to visit the Pichi Richi Railway. Occasionally there would be evening trips to wineries or dinner trips using the Dining Car Adelaide, now at the National Rail Museum in Port Adelaide.
The Kernewek Lowender (http://www.kernewek.org/) was always a favourite outing whether we went for a day or a weekend. It was held in May and usually fell close to my birthday so several of those trips have been memorable. One of them was life changing. It was 1975, the year I turned eighteen, and we’d gone to the festival on a day trip but things had gone awry, our locomotive had a broken headlamp and nobody was sure what was going to happen so all the passengers were asking each other “Have you heard anything?” Nobody wanted us to have to go home behind a diesel, the ultimate horror for a steam buff. I saw a young man who I had seen on a couple of previous trips that month and we fell into conversation. After that we started to look out for each other and after a couple of months he asked me out. Well he asked me to come on the next steam trip with him but it was a date I guess. Later he asked me out to dinner and that was a date. A year later almost to the day we were on another trip, this time to Mount Gambier for the weekend and that’s when he proposed.
David and I decided that rather than a church or registry office wedding we wanted to incorporate steam trains in some way. This idea met with some opposition at first. Nobody in David’s family had done anything so unconventional. As for my family, mum was fine with it but my some of my aunties in England thought it was just not right not to have a church wedding. However we went ahead with our plans and were married on Platform 8 of the Adelaide Railway Station on the day of the last steam trip of the 1977 season. Our reception was in the Dining Car Adelaide as part of the that train’s consist. Our families loved it in the end and we actually made the news which was a bit embarrassing for us but good publicity for the ARHS which is why we agreed to the media being informed. The upstairs of the Adelaide Station which is now the entrance to the Adelaide Casino is very ornate and that’s where we had some of our wedding photos taken. That same area was also used in the film Gallipoli a few years later for the ballroom scene. But more about that in Part Two.
Whether it’s books or blogs the thing that always gets me to read it is the hope of being entertained. If I see the name of a writer whose work makes me laugh or who tells a good story I will be eager to read what they have written. I enjoy the humourous take on everyday life that I find in some of my favourite blogs.
If I don’t know the writer I’ll look at the subject matter, if it is non fiction is it about a subject I’m interested in? Is it relevant to my specific interests? For example I like cricket so I’ll read biographies of players but I wouldn’t read a book about the laws of cricket or a blog giving an interpretation of the LBW rule unless the writer made it funny because I would get a headache!
Is the title appealing? An intriguing title will at least get me to read the first few paragraphs to find out more. Sometimes it turns out to be not what I thought it would be but sometimes it will turn out to be a good read.
Fiction is a bit trickier to choose than non fiction. When I was at school I often used to enjoy the fiction extracts in my English text books so much that I would search for the books they were from in the library.
I don’t like to read books with excessive violence or bad language, so as well as reading the plot outline, I will usually skim through a book trying to get a feel for it before I settle down to read. There have been many books which promised to be good stories that I’ve walked away from because they were just too graphic for me.
Sometimes I read something because a friend has recommended it or I’ve read a favourable review but only if I think it sounds interesting myself. If I have enjoyed a film that was based on a book I may decide to read it but I won’t read best sellers just because it is trendy to say you have read it.
I was meant to be meeting a friend to go and see the Tall Ships in Hobart. However she contacted me before I left home to say she was unable to come. I was sorry not to catch up with my friend but it did mean that I would have a day out by myself.
I look forward to those times when I can go on an outing on my own. Perhaps it’s the freedom it brings. I can plan the day exactly the way I want. I don’t have to feel guilty for taking too long browsing in the shops. I can look at dolls and clothes and craft supplies. I can eat at my favourite café. I don’t have to worry that my companion is getting bored or tired and sometimes it means I have rewarding conversations with strangers. Yes it may sound selfish to some people but I make no apology for that. The same applies to holidays. I love any kind of travel and I’m happy to have a companion sometimes. I enjoy trips with my husband and my sister and I have had many enjoyable trips together over the years but travelling with another person, even one with very similar interests and habits still involves compromise.
I’ve had holidays on my own twice in my life. The first time I was only nineteen and visiting the United Kingdom. Of course I went on visits to relatives but I spent some of the time travelling around by myself. This was in the days before mobile phones and emails and I felt completely cut off from everyone I knew. I was a very shy teenager and being alone meant that I had to push myself to speak to strangers and do things like booking rooms in hotels if I wanted a roof over my head at night so I think it was a very good experience for me.
Many years later I had a short holiday in Melbourne alone. I stayed with a friend for a couple of days and spent the rest of the time staying at a Youth Hostel in the city. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and was not in the least lonely. Since that time I’ve longed to do it again.
I love reading travel books especially those by solo travellers. I once read a book by a writer who decided to travel the USA on Greyhound buses and I wished that I could do something similar. I like to imagine myself catching the bus to Hobart which passes my house every day and then catching another to Launceston for a week on my own or, if it is a big budget daydream, on to Devonport to catch the ferry to Melbourne. I daydream about visiting other parts of Australia too. One thing that I would really like to do is to travel across Australia on the Indian Pacific. Sometimes I imagine myself winning the lottery and flying off to London and travelling around the United Kingdom and Europe, preferably by train of course.
I know that I’ll never see half the places that I’d like to visit but I’m determined that I will make a solo holiday a reality one day even if it is just a weekend in Launceston.