Wednesday, January 24, 2007

money to burn?

Sunday I set off with my kids to take them back to the Central Coast. It was hot, 39 degrees, so we went to Strathfield Station by way of the Ashfield pool, for a swim. Trains on that line are reliably air-conditioned so that was OK. We played I Spy until Hornsby, when the train, unaccountably, stopped. A bush fire at Kuringai. We waited through several announcements, until told the train would not be proceeding at that time, but returning to Sydney. A burgeoning plume of dirty grey smoke about a kilometre north. Jesse, my older boy, was convinced it had been deliberately lit; turns out he may have been right. Couldn't contact the kids' mother by mobile phone, so we wandered off into a vast shopping mall to look for something to eat. Turned out the F3 was either closed or so jammed up it would have taken hours to effect the handover by car, so me and the kids took a later train back to Strathfield. Next day their mum came down, again by train, & collected them. Got a call about midday, Liamh, my younger boy, saying they only got as far as Hornsby & had again been stopped. They were waiting it out in the Hornsby RSL. I went off to work. Texted them about 4.30, learned they were on a very slow train, just past Berowra. They would have got home at maybe 5.30 or 6.00 that evening. Around that time, after a desultory couple of hours, was hailed by two people in Macquarie Street. Going, they said, to the ferry at Palm Beach. Trying to get back to the Central Coast. They lived at Kilcare but commuted to the City to work. Couldn't figure out what kind of thing they did. Well, we set off on what is one of the longest rides in the Metropolitan Area. You can't go any further north than Palm Beach & still be in Sydney. They were calling all sorts of people on their mobiles, making arrangements. At Dee Why, a friend who'd gone ahead to Palm Beach called in: Don't come near here, she said, there's forty bus-loads of people waiting, a three or four hour turn around. A brief confab, then they asked me to turn around. Booked themselves in to the Swissotel in Market Street. Then the question of fresh clothes for work tomorrow came up. They'd have to buy them. Myers in the city closed at 6.00, it was way past that now; but the one at Bondi Junction stayed open to 7.00. Okay, Bondi Junction it was. The ED was jammed up as far back as the Harbour Tunnel so we crawled all the way to Moore Park. I let them off outside Westfield Plaza at the Junction. There was $107.00 on the meter, which they paid up without a murmur. Sorry I didn't really take you anywhere, I offered. That's okay, she said. Thanks for the ride. He'd worn dark glasses the whole time. Perhaps they worked in the entertainment industry.