Monday, December 12, 2005

The Anarchist on the Train

I had this brilliant idea for a story once. It came to me as I was travelling to work on the train. There was an anarchist sitting facing me on the other side of the carriage. At first I was just observing him, not really thinking much of it, and then it struck me – an anarchist on a train.

‘The Anarchist on the Train.’

Trains are all about rules and doing what you’re told and penalties if you don’t. They’re about timetables and, hey, railway tracks! I mean it would be a story about a guy who some people would say was “off the rails”, on the rails.

Instead of just staring at the guy outright I started to observe his reflection in my window. He would never catch on.

Well, once I got off the train I forgot about my idea for a while. It wasn’t until a few days later when I was talking to a friend that the thought re-entered my head. I told my friend about my idea. Yeah sure, partly I was trying to sound creative and cool, but he liked my concept.

Over the next few days part of my mind was writing the story. I’d gotten to the bit about the leather jacket and the nose ring when I had a slightly deflating thought. The title, “The Anarchist on the Train”, it had to have been done before.

So I did some research and found I wasn’t the first person to put those words together in a sentence. Okay, so I gave up. But who really wants to hear a story about an Anarchist on a train?

Thursday, December 08, 2005


When I was seven my family moved from a small sunny town to the capital of New Zealand - Wellington city.

Wellington can be moody. Winds fast march from the hills to the harbour. If you walk the hills on such a day you hear nature howl with rage. It was such a day as I walked mile after mile my mind far from the wind that pushed and shoved me. I did not notice the rain that soaked my clothes and froze my body. I walked into grey clouds. I walked alone. As I approached the highest point in those hills I started to run. I ran, I ran to the edge, and I screamed. I screamed in to the wind all my pain all my aloneness all my frustrations.

Wellington can be sullen. Hematite clouds sit low over the city covering the hill tops. The harbour becomes a dark looking glass. Boats make small waves that travel to the waters edge. The sound is a bards prophecy - a tale of leaving but not returning.

You think you’ve given up hope only to awake in a day where everything’s changed. The sun shines, a fresh and gentle breeze strokes your skin, and the harbour twinkles and smiles. All the myriad vibrant colours of houses and hills are accentuated. People walk a little taller and a littler slower.

Maybe you have to be born in a place to truly understand it. I never understood Wellington, but I think it understood me.

Thursday, November 24, 2005


It’s a scorching hot Saturday. The car park is busy. Cars arrive empty and leave laden with hardware supplies - the stuff dreams are made of.

The nice lady at the auto club told me “Someone will be there to help you in 5 to 30 minutes.” 30 minutes would be good because I have some thinking to do.

Did I lock my keys in the boot accidentally purposefully – subconsciously? You see, tonight I fly off to see my brother and his wife - and I’m tense.

In the shade of a building, by a pile of wheelbarrows, I stand, I wait and I think.

I think about packing and about airports. I think about cleaning and washing and how many pairs of socks will it take?

A yellow car pulls into the car park but it’s not the auto club. It is a station wagon though. Very handy for moving stuff.

All my socks. Maybe not the thick ones.

A young couple walk out of the store carrying a huge pile of plastic containers. They're about to get themselves really organised.

Michael, my brother, is making a trial run to Dubai airport, so he can be sure of the route when he comes to pick me up. I’m touched at the effort he is going to. He always was a planner, Michael.

The smell of cooked onions wafts past me. The sausage sizzle is in full swing. A robust chap passes me carrying a belt-sander and a hotdog. He looks pretty chuffed.

Michael’s emails have been fairly laid back but I can tell he already has a busy schedule for us. As I think about his enthusiasm I feel a little bit ashamed. I’ve been so wrapped up in my travel anxiety that I’ve hardly thought about seeing my brother and having a good time with him.

The Auto Club Guy pulls in and I lean through the passenger window of his car “G’day. Yeah - the Falcon over there by the Cruiser.” And as ACG works to free my keys I realise that sometimes, despite our best efforts at sabotage, things work out okay.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


“So, I walk into this bar - right?”

“Oh cool! I love these jokes.”

“This isn’t a joke. This really happened to me.”

“Okay – yeah. Sorry. Keep going.”

“So, I walk into this bar. I’m walking up to the bar feeling a little self-conscious and that’s when I see her.”


“Well, that’s what my story is about.”

“Right. Of course.”

“There’s a live band, and she’s the lead singer.”

“What was the band like?”

“Pretty great actually.”


“So I sit down at the bar and the barman asks me...”

“Why the long face?”

“…what I want to drink.”


“I say ‘I’ll have an overpriced beer thanks mate.’" He pops open a green bottle and places it in front of me.

There are about 20 people in the bar most of them male. There’s a guy sitting at a table next to the stage. He’s drinking a martini. I wonder if he ordered it ‘shaken not stirred’”

“Like James Bond.”

“Yes. “

“Did the martini have olives?”

“This singer - she’s gorgeous. Self confident. Full of life.”

“You mean she was hot?”

“The band starts to play AC/DC - ‘Back in Black’.”


“Yeah that’s what I thought. Even Mr Martini is getting into it. The lead guitarist is going crazy and everyone is having a good time.

And then I realise I’ve seen this singer before.”

“Really? Another pub?”

“No, this was like, my first time in a pub on my own. I’d seen her a couple of hours earlier sitting in this busy place reading a novel. It seemed like a pretty peaceful thing to be able to do. “


“Anyway, then it was over.

She packs up her guitar.

She’s walking up to the bar.

She smiles at me.

I realise I’m staring. So I quickly look away and grunt something inaudible.”

“You were too drunk to talk?”

“Man! No. I’d only had half a beer. You really are missing the point.

So, she puts down her glass and walks away."

“Then what happened?”

“I skulled the rest of my beer and left.”

“Man – that’s not even slightly funny. I have one you’ll love. ‘A horse walks into a bar...'”

Monday, November 21, 2005

Strong Arm

The bloke behind the counter is a good guy - I can tell by his face. I have two questions for him.

1. Are the lanes open?
2. When do the kids leave?

Money changes hands.

I walk towards automatic doors and am transported to the tropics – the public baths.

Public baths. I take off my T-shirt.

I choose a lane with one person - someone I can keep up with and keep out of the way of.

It’s 25 meters from the shallow end to the not so shallow end. Bubbles. Kicking. Gasping. My technique is rubbish. Relax – it’s hard not tense.

Okay – this is going a little better. Not racing. Smoothly and gently. Legs nice and free. Mouthful of water. Choking. Floundering. Keeping moving. And that’s 25 meters.

These goggles make me feel cool. I inhaled half the pool one minute ago but now I’m cool. Ok Mr Cool, time for another lap. Relax. Thumbs in the water first. Arms close to your head on the way around. Much better.

Another 25 - I’m back at the start.

My lane buddy is getting out. Lane Buddy is getting in to his wheelchair. He can’t use his legs. He can’t use his legs and was still keeping up with me. Lane Buddy says “See you later” in a way that makes me hope I do.

More laps. Focusing on keeping it relaxed and easy. Focusing on the breathing and the technique. Focusing on. Man my technique is better than that guys. Hey, who's she? What time is it? Is that a paperclip?


Towel. Shoes. Track pants (wallet still safe in back pocket). T-Shirt. Car keys. Glasses. Googles.

Doors open with a chill. It’s time to leave the public to their baths.