The Train to Blackheath

Continuing my travails in public here is my account of another sortie on Sydney public transport.

Having cause to visit Blackheath in the upper Blue Mountains on the occasion of Henry’s 6th birthday I decided to once more attempt the journey by train.

My only experience of this in recent times had me swear off public transport for life; which is unfortunate, as I have been a lifelong supporter of public transport. Good, well funded public transport, that is.

On this previous occasion I had courageously scooted to Strathfield hoping to shorten the journey and get straight on the direct line to Blackheath without having to change trains as I would if I came from Sydenham station. What I hadn’t known about was that the transport tzars had helpfully reduced this service to a 4 car train. The reason for this remains unfathomable. By Strathfield it was packed and I couldn’t get a seat. With backpack firmly attached and my age making itself known through the pain in my lower back I optimistically stood in the isle of the upper carriage cheerfully assuming that by Penrith it would start to clear. How wrong I was. It just proceeded to get fuller. Eventually, after standing for over an hour I couldn’t take the pain any more and forced myself into a small gap at the top of the stairs. There were two people in the stairs below me. In this world of absurd legislation for minor safety risks (I have previously had to fill in a risk assessment to use a hammer and a ladder whilst building a theatre set) how is an overcrowded train with no clear access ways perfectly acceptable? It was an awful trip and led to my having a physio treatment to try and free up my back pain.

So on this fresh occasion, Henry’s aforementioned 6th birthday, I decided to try again and this time do it differently. Being on the train had the distinct advantage that I could do some writing and therefore be more productive with my time so my new approach was to go right into Central and catch the train at origin: I was going to get a seat!

To that end I walked briskly to the station to get there reasonably early. It can’t be that bad I impined. Having never impined before I did it with some enthusiasm.

To my amazement it was already fairly full and all the good seats, as defined by being on the bottom level on the shady side and hence cooler, were all taken. My mood blackened somewhat but I did manage to get a single seat on the upper level on the sunny side so one out of three was not too bad and definitely beats none out of three.

The single seat was key, I was determined to avoid the people around me, and I was in a quiet carriage which I though would at least be quiet. That follows, doesn’t it?

I will return to the “quiet” carriage a bit later, and first look around me at my fellow passengers.

In a carriage awash with signs saying “no feet on the seats”, “no eating” and “be considerate and don’t spread your stuff around” I discovered that the words “no” and “don’t” are actually Australian exhortations to in fact do everything that follows them. This will obviously go some way to improving how I behave as an assimilated Australian. I have been doing it wrong all these years.

We’ll, we’ve made it to Penrith and other than the odd outburst of talking, phonecalls, and parents unable to oppress their children’s game of volleyball with an empty and very rustley plastic bag I still have a seat, the heat, and the protruding feet of my nearest neighbour. Glass third full view of the world I guess…

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