Australian conversations: The morning after

This conversation doesn’t have a lot of words – some just don’t need them to tell a story.

It’s Saturday morning and I’m waiting for the train into the city.  A train from the city pulls into the platform opposite, a straggle of passengers disembark, and it pulls away. Standing opposite is a woman about my age, and with a quick glance I catch her eye briefly. She has an expression that I can’t quite put my finger on. Exhausted?

After I moment I look up again and notice she’s not alone   She’s now walked up to a rubbish bin and has her arm around a young woman, who can only be her daughter, who is vomiting violently into the bin. Another young man is standing by, looking helpless. The three of them have come off the train.

The security guard in the office on my side of the platform can now see what’s happening so he comes out and yells across the platform, “Are you okay?”

Mum nods.

At this point, the man sitting a few seats from me stands up and also replies to the security guard.

“It’s okay. We’re taking her to the hospital now.”

The security guard is concerned – concerned in the way you want a security guard at a train station to be – and gesticulates to Dad that he can go up and over the footbridge to the other platform if he wants to.

But Dad is not showing any urgency. I get the impression this might not be the first time.

I can see the girl better now. She’s anywhere between 16 and 20, black hair, black shirt, black shorts, black tights, black boots; face piercings that are taking a pounding from the muscular actions associated with severe spewing. Eventually mother and daughter decide they can make a slow and careful trek across to my side of the station.

While this happens, Dad and the security guard are in polite conversation, but I only hear fragments.

“… but what can you do?”

From the footbridge: from city on the left, to city on the right, security office far centre right. Poor rubbish bin, centre left. (Pic: Wikimedia Commons)

Australian conversations: Toning it down a bit

happyholidays2016.comI was looking for some gift boxes to use for Christmas gifts, and went into one of the chain gift shops at the shopping centre.

The man behind the counter was in his twenties, with a softly handsome face accentuated by some very light powder and a hint of eye makeup. I’d never seen him before in my life.

JB: Do you have any more gift boxes?

Man: Well, only some pink ones left over from Valentine’s Day.

JB: That won’t work, as these are blue and black (canisters), for my sisters-in-law.

Man: Do you get on with them?

JB (taken aback a little): My sisters-in-law? Yes!

Man: I don’t get on so well with mine. We’re okay, but she can be a bit abrasive.
Like, the other day she said, “When [husband] and I have kids, you’re going to have to tone it down a bit.”
So I said, “What do you mean?”
And she said, “You know…”
And I said, “No, I don’t. Say it.”
And she said, “The gay thing.


JB (still taken aback): Oh. That’s tough. Cos you’re you.

Man: I don’t think I’m particularly over the top. I’m the only one in the family who’s held down steady jobs and doesn’t have a substance abuse problem, so hello sweetheart, I’m the best fucking option the kid’s going to have.

JB (still taken aback): Oh.

Man: I think she’s pissed off because I didn’t come to her hen’s morning tea.
She said, “You may as well come because you’re near enough to one of us.
Ahh, no, I’m not. I’d rather go to the buck’s party and see all my stripper friends, haha!

JB (still taken aback): Oh. I’m sorry to hear that. I hope you have a nice Christmas.

And I walked out. If that’s what gay young men are dealing with in Australia in 2015, we’ve got a long way to go.

Australian conversations: The petrol station queue

While waiting in line to pay at the petrol station in Albany, a middle-age woman of somewhat dishevelled appearance walked in from the driveway speaking loudly on her phone:

“Who’s driving my Commodore?

If you don’t get out now, I’m calling the cops.

If you don’t get out now, I’m calling the cops!

Don’t ‘okay’ me … d’ya want me to come home and flog the fucken shit out of ya?”


Ah, beautiful Albany.

[Thanks John Bosich for the pic.]

Australian conversations: Two old salts and lunch

I was walking the dog along the stretch of beach where old local blokes launch and drag in their trusty little tinnies and tubs after an early morning fish in the bay. Two said blokes were pulling in the tub as I walked past them along the water’s edge.

JB: “You catch anything?
Salt 1, smiling: “Enough for lunch.”
JB: “What do you get – herring or whiting?”
Salt 2, conspiratorily, only a metre away: “Crayfish – we’ve got a few pots out there.”
JB, raising her eyebrows: “Very nice! Enjoy”

And I continued on.

Salt 1, yelling out: “They say crayfish tastes better with company?”
JB, yelling back with a smile: “Well, there’s two of you, that’s company isn’t it?”

And I continued on.

Yeah, I still got it.

Australian conversations: Remembrance and remembering

“I’m sorry we keep walking past in front of you,” I say to the old woman sharing the ward, while standing outside the bathroom door right alongside her bed, “but my grandmother takes tablets that make her wee – she’s 98 and doesn’t mean to be rude.”

“Oh that’s okay, I’m 80 … 80 something …. I think. I’m pretty sure I’m in my eighties,” she says with an nervous chuckle. She’s had no visitors since her grandson left two days ago, soon after she’d come in after a fall at home, and I had arrived. She’s been mainly cold, continually disoriented and occasionally anxious since.

“I think all this war stuff with the thing in town last week is what’s got me down. My friend said he’d take me down, you know, to the Forts, because I didn’t have any family. But it was so crowded.

I lost three brothers in the war, you know. One was killed by the Americans. He was on a Japanese POW ship but the Japanese didn’t have the flag up and it was bombed. So he drowned, but we got him back because he was one of those men that could never stay down under the water. So we got Walter back, but we didn’t get Alan and the other one back.

IMG_6327 crop

And then my husband signed up – had his sixteenth birthday on the Queen Mary on the way to the Middle East. We weren’t married then of course. They all thought it was such a game. And he came home silly as a wet weak. He was an idiot by the time he came back. A 16-year-old boy. They had no right.”

“I’m sorry,” I say sheepishly, “but I really have to check on my grandmother.”

“That’s okay,” she smiles, “thank you for listening. You’re a lovely nurse.”

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