Monday, February 11, 2013

From St Kilda to Kings Cross

‘From St Kilda to Kings Cross is thirteen hours on a bus
I pressed my face against the glass and watched the white lines rushing past
And all around me felt like all inside me
And my body left me and my soul went running…’
                        Paul Kelly, ‘From St Kilda to Kings Cross’.

I’m currently on a train to Melbourne, at about the halfway point, so I’m actually doing the reverse of the trip in this post’s title. More Strathfield Station to Southern Cross. It is also, coincidentally, pissing down rain like in the song and Sydney was in the grips of a fierce thunderstorm as I left. It felt appropriate. There is nothing like the sheer, redemptive power of a thunderstorm to shake the city from its miserable, sweaty, heat induced torpor.  The storm always seems to induce a collective sigh from the city, and everyone wakes up a little. I watched the lightning crack over Sydney while I waited for my (very late) train and somehow managed to restrain myself from joining in with the little boy, dressed in his pyjamas, who was  jumping up and down a small stretch of the platform shouting: ‘Melbourne! Melbourne!’ Even though this is a train I have caught hundreds of time before, I‘ve never gone further than Albury, which we’re due to hit in a few hours.

This probably sounds supremely stupid, not just because I’m 29, but also because it’s unheard for someone with my education level, background and interests to have never even gotten around to going to Melbourne. (It sounds especially silly and insignificant given that my sister just got back from a tour of the UK and a little of Europe.) My family didn’t travel at all, growing up, and then I was too busy working or I was ill. I like the idea that I will know exactly when I cross over into unchartered territory, it’s significant, and one of the reasons I like travelling by train is the very strong sense that you’re going somewhere. You’re earthbound, but on the fast interstate trains you fly through parts of the world that most people never get around to visiting. The trip feels so familiar, and yet so very different. Because it’s bigger and better than what I’ve done before. I have deep ties to many of the communities my train is flashing through, but this time it’s not about what I’ve done, it’s about what I have to do. I am going somewhere new.

When my supervisor first suggested this conference as something I might like to consider I was immediately taken with it.  I knew in just a few minutes that it something I wanted, badly. A big part of wanting to do it, however, was because back in September I thought I could surely transform my life between then and now, that I could lose some weight, be better, not hear voices and that I would be perfect. Of course it’s crazy that I expected that. The short version is that my summer has been horrendous; I have hidden the worst of it from you all, even those of you with whom I speak on an almost daily basis, and I have spent the equivalent of weeks in hospital, trying to stay alive. This conference has been my life raft during an unbearable time, and now that it’s here I’m going to try and get everything out of it I possibly can. I will hate myself if I don’t. The version of myself that will arrive in Melbourne in a few hours is desperately trying to believe that it gets better, and that I have a future within my grasp. I have to believe that I won’t always feel this way.

This week is about my future, and for now I will try and enjoy it as it comes. I can only hope that, by the time the train gets to Melbourne, I am ready. 


  1. I'm older than you and haven't been to Sydney, so you've trumped me! (although I've been to Newcastle many times).

    I think seeing, doing, experiencing new places and things propel us into better futures. When things are samey the future will look just like the past.

    Here's to better times ahead!

  2. If you find Melbourne anything like I find it, it will fill you with calm, a sense of adventure, a feeling of being at home, and everything will be right with the world. I love Melbourne so much and I really hope you enjoy it. I can't believe this time is here already!

  3. I can't believe your conference week is here! I'm sorry things have been more difficult than I knew. Your travel by train sounds beautiful and searing and portentous -- I hope this is significant start to a significant trip.

  4. I hope the conference is going well and you're enjoying Melbourne! I find conferences incredibly enlightening but also incredibly draining. I hope you're hanging in there and getting everything you wanted from the experience.

    I'm so sorry to hear how difficult this time has been. I'm thinking about you.

  5. I'm sorry to hear about your struggle, hope Melbourne is a blast, take care and enjoy the city, woman!



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