Thursday, October 30, 2008

wrong side of the tracks

Where I live is bisected by the railway line, the Great Western, that goes all the way to Perth. Some days I see the Indian Pacific pulling through Summer Hill station at about 3 pm - a long silver train that might have a truck or two of new cars or tractors behind the eight or ten passenger carriages. Naturally I always want to jump on it but it doesn't stop here and anyway I don't have a ticket. It's probably cheaper to fly. Certainly faster. My trips are more local. Today was good. I went out in the misty rain at a few minutes after eleven and bought a Croydon return for $3.60. Actually I got off at Ashfield, to return some library books - 4 Asterix, 1 Alexander the Great, 1 Paraguay. I always scan the new books rack for interesting titles but today, nada. As I was going out a woman behind the desk hailed me. That was unusual, librarians usually only do that if you're breaking some rule; but she wanted to talk about my umbrella. It's a 'pard umbrella and she's a 'pard fanatic. Even has 'pard candles. I couldn't really imagine what leopard skin candles are like but there you are: the rich tapestry of the quotidian. I was actually on my way to buy a Bible, which was exciting in itself. The New Testament in the New English Bible version. I'd found it Monday ($9.00) in a 2nd hand shop in Croydon called AB Books but had asked the guy to hang on to it while I investigated the possibility of an Old or a volume that included both. The Old, found on the internet, arrived by courier this morning so naturally I was keen to get the New. It wasn't until I got home that I realised that neither includes the Apocrypha, which I may have to get next in a separate volume, I don't know. I've wanted to own the New English Bible for quite a while now, because that's the version that Colin McCahon used for most of his text paintings from about 1969 onwards. His wife Anne gave him a copy. There's two second hand bookshops down there, just past the Ashfield pool where I swim, and I'm always likely to visit one or both while the endorphins are still percolating through my system. I bought the New off the old English hippie guy, said hello to his wife who might be stroke-impaired, but didn't stop in at the bookbinders ... he is an American but for some reason I always think he's Dutch and last time I was in there he had an assistant wearing a yarmulke so there must be a Jewish connection. He, the American, came out here in the 1960s or perhaps 1970s with a whole collection of contemporary American poetry, some of which is still on his shelves - he was a Charles Olson fan; perhaps he'd lived in Worcester. Anyway I kept on walking up to the shops on the wrong side of the tracks at Croydon which are an enduring fascination. There are all sorts of strange fly-by-night businesses here in the shadow of the Presbyterian Lady's College . . . an art gallery that has exhibitions on the wall but is never open ... some artist's studio across the road with street windows you can look into to see the works in progress ... a school teaching make-up for film and TV ... various disreputable looking lawyers and accountants offices ... an old-fashioned watch-makers that is also never open ... a place painted shocking pink where they make cakes but not for sale to the public ... some kind of Greek hall from 1915 that still operates but as what? This is Edwin Street where an epochal battle took place a little while ago as a brothel at #93 sought legality and was bitterly opposed by local residents and businesses. Far as I know it still operates, without the appurtenances of legality but with the stunning publicity the case gave them. Round the corner is, to my mind, the strangest building of all: a classic old deco brick pub from the 1930s that has been made over as a facility of the aforementioned Presbyterian Lady's College up the road a bit. I always want to blunder in there for a drink until I realise I've never seen a pub this clean ... oh, well, I have a Bible in my bag and a train to catch. I go down onto the station to wait, reading, to pass the time, a bit of Revelations: Behold, he is coming with the clouds! Every eye shall see him, and among them those who pierced him: and all the peoples of the world shall lament in remorse. So it shall be. Amen.