7/2/89

 “The Night of Madness”

At about 4:30 on Tuesday afternoon it began to rain. And what a rain it was. It absolutely pissed down. In about 45 minutes, nearly an inch of rain fell on parts of Melbourne along with a massive display of thunder and lightening. By about 5:30 it had stopped and I walked up to the station to find that the Sandringham train wasn’t running due to flooding. I caught a packed tram down to Swanson¹ and joined the hundreds of thousands of people trying to get home. The trams were jam packed with people and were caught up in snarled traffic which stretched from Swanson right to Balaclava². I joined the throngs of people who were legging it home, splashing through puddles and listening to On the Beach³ while thousands of pissed off commuters sat in their stalled or jammed cars. It took about 2 hours to walk home and I got there to find Russ† & Linda there with stories of their own to tell. Russ had walked all the way from Fitzroy and still had 2 hours walking left. Linda had been on the last Sandringham train and it had gotten bogged in 2 feet of water and slips coming down from the embankment. They had waited for an hour while the thunder roared and the lightning crashed overhead and then had been evacuated from the train via a plank & up the embankment & she had walked home from Pharham in the pouring rain.  The radio called it the “Night of Madness” & it goes to show what chaos a big city can be thrown into when something like a big storm happens. As Jethro Tull put it in the song Dun Ringill:

LINES JOIN IN FAINT DISCORD
AND THE STORMWATCH BREWS
A CONCERT OF KINGS
AS THE WHITE SEA SNAPS
AT THE HEELS OF A SOFT PRAYER
WHISPERED.

¹ Swanson Street railway station
² The suburb where we lived
³ A Chris Rea album I had on tape.
†Our friend from cherry-picking

6/2/89

– this is a poem that was on a billboard at South Yarra station.

        “THE CRANES”

STAR GUIDED, BEATING ALONG THE SOUTHERN TRAIL
THIS YEAR AGAIN THE FLIGHT OF CRANES.¹
HIGH IN THE MIDNIGHT SKY I DO NOT KNOW FROM
WENCE, OR HOW TO LIGHT THE MOON.
HOLDING THE BEDPOSTS TIGHT I MEASURE
THE PULSE OF YOUR BREATHING
IN THE DARK, AND I SEE YOUR STREAMING HAIR
AND YOUR FACE WEDGED IN THE WIND.

¹ Thirty years later I would still use the phrase “the flight of cranes” to caption occasional photographs.

 

5/2/89

Lacking something to do today we caught the 12:24 train from Flinders Street to Williamstown. The trip out was quite interesting as we passed through the Spencer St¹ shunting yard with their hundreds of overhead wires looking like spiders webs and row upon row of goods carriages sitting on the sidings waiting their turn to be shunted.

The train took us out past Moonee Valley race-course and under the approach to the Westgate bridge, past some of the factories and we are houses in Footscray.

We changed trains at Newport and it took us to Williamstown which is the end of the line. We wandered up a street looking for the main street and as we were passing the warehouse the lovely smell of wool came to us. I looked in the broken window in the place was full of bales of wool and the stuff that woolsheds contain, wool packs, scales piles of wool here & there and other bits & pieces

We wandered up the main street and sussed out which one of the quaint little places we would have lunche in. In the end we had it at the Customs House which is a really nice place. I had kidneys and bacon (YUM!!) and Linda had roast lamb.

After lunch we went across to the harbour & sat at the end of the wharf where the St. Kilda ferry comes in. The mass of the moored yachts were all rocking backwards & forwards in time with the waves coming in and the wind made a high pitch screeching in the rigging of yachts & the mesh fences.

Across the other side of the harbour a huge container ship with “Toyota” written on the side of it was being eased away from the wharf by two tug boats.

We watched the ferry come and go then walked up to a little teashop for a Devonshire tea.

Back at the station we caught the train back to Flinders Street then the Sandringham train which we stayed on to Sandringham and back.

¹ Spencer Street is one of Melbourne’s main railway stations.

4/2/89

        – from THE AGE¹ 

“STANDARD HAY BALES”

Not the newies with their silly van Gogh swirls but the standard block of desiccated perfumes. A fifty acre paddock gridlocked with them, each one is green and slow bunched is a caterpillar, the lasered space as chocked as a trailbike’s tread. Only once there’s one diving on its either end where the stron- armed bailer baled dissent (a digit raised against the uniformity on show) while the rest is passive in its even traffic jam which from above becomes a repetitious Pianola roll then in 3D is more like mid lines of tidy droppings.  A lane is kept aside on each mowed stretch and well before the outside windrows are pressed the carters start to gather there like formalists.
                                              – Philip Hodgins.

¹ This poem was printed in The Age, Melbourne’s main daily newspaper.

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01/02/89

The first day of a new month on the first page of a new diary. Linda and I have settled into a routine here in Melbourne with both of us now working. I am working as a kitchen hand-come-builders labourer at the Saint Andrews Hotel in Fitzroy. Linda started yesterday in the laundry of the Southern Cross hotel in the city.

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We live in a little one room flat at 24 Princess Street, Balaclava, which is the Jewish area of town so there are a lot of shops selling Kosher this and Rabbi that around!

The other day we went into the British Consulate and got our visas for England. The visas pose no problem at all, but the woman told us in her cute Pommy accent that we would need to be able to prove that we had a minimum of Australian $5000 each before and we would be allowed into the UK. So, I rang Joe and he’s going to put as much money as you can get hold of into my check account and get a statement showing the balance and send it to us. Then he will take the money out again. In addition to that statement, we will have our actual cash and my Visa account which is worth $1,500.

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On Saturday night we went along to a fireworks display at Albert Park Lake. It was brilliant! Sponsored by Fox FM, the idea was that everyone took along an FM radio and tuned in to Fox. There were hundreds of thousands of people there and the music completely surrounded us while the sky was lit by three tons of fireworks. The bursts of the fireworks were brilliantly choreograph to the music which included great songs like “Waterfront” by Simple Minds, “What a Wonderful World” by Lewis Armstrong, “Thus Spake Zarathrustra” by Strauss and, best of all, “Man of Colours” by Icehouse. The performance lasted about 40 minutes and also included huge spotlights and lasers.

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14/01/89

And so, we settled into our life in Melbourne. My diary goes on hiatus now until February 1st. Once you rejoin us we will be having some more adventures in the Australian state of Victoria and then, in March, we will jet off to England. Once we are there we will spend a few days exploring London then spend the summer working at The Woodman, a country pub in Hertfordshire.

And then, in August, we will go to Africa…

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Bumba, Zaire, September 1989.