My I Spy: something beginning with ‘I’

Imagine being here already! It has been great to feel more present as I keep an eye out for objects and images each week. I have come across some interesting things that I probably would have missed in my usual distracted and daydreaming state. This is what I’ve spied beginning with I.

cropped-img_1684.jpgImagine

This is a recycled photo, originally used as a writing prompt for a blog post a couple of months back. I happened upon this on a Sunday afternoon meander down to Mona Vale on the northern beaches. There is a bookshop there which I had passed by and was keen to explore further – Berkelouw Books – and this was across the road and up a flight of stairs. I couldn’t resist as it is one of my favourite starting points for daydreams and writing prompts. And it reminds me of Scrabble. Imagine if …

Indian Pacific

Indian Pacific, Central Station

Indian Pacific

I was lucky enough to travel from Sydney to Adelaide earlier this year on the Indian Pacific. The weekly service from Sydney travels all the way to Perth and back, and it took roughly a day to wend its way from Central Station in Sydney through to Adelaide. I really loved the dawn stop in Broken Hill, and the second photo is taken from the mining museum which overlooks the town. In the foreground the silver streak is the train.

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View of Broken Hill with Indian Pacific in the foreground

On my trip there were 27 carriages with two locomotives pulling the 230 tonnes of rolling stock stretching over 640 metres. There were 28 crew members taking care of 165 passengers with another 50 or so being collected at Broken Hill.

It was a great trip and it took a little while once I arrived in Adelaide to get my land legs back. Some Wednesdays I pass the train snaking its way through the upper mountains and I give it a cheery salute and smile. It just makes me happy to see it.

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Inspiration

A broad term, it’s true, but when I came across the collection of miniature paintings in Lithgow I was struck how each of them had the potential for the starting point for a story or musing. The paintings are a display in Secret Lane and they celebrate the creativity of new and established local artists. I love coming across visual treats like this.

Have you come across anything this week that has inspired your imagination?

Earlier alphabet blogs can be found here: A, B, C, D, E, F, G & H. You can find lots of great I Spy posts on Autumn’s blog, and I was originally inspired to start this through one of Pip Lincolne’s posts. Happy spying!

Splendid Synchronicity

I have been thinking lately about synchronicity, those surprising instances when something that is on your peripheral comes into sharper focus through a multitude of moments.

This was started when I met up with a friend a month or two ago and we were comparing recent travel stories. Whilst talking of a recent cruise along the coast of Western Australia, Kelly mentioned seeing stromatolites. I nodded politely, not really knowing what they were. She explained how they are one of the oldest forms of life on earth, with three known locations, two of which are in Australia. She had discovered this while reading Down Under by Bill Bryson. I had this book on a shelf at home but hadn’t read it.

Kelly mentioned that Bryson had travelled on the Indian Pacific across the country, and I thought it would be of interest to read of his experience. When I got home I pulled out the book, read the opening pages and was hooked. It was a genuine delight to spend the next month or so reading a little of this book most nights before sleep claimed me. I wanted to savour the chapters and this was enjoyable on several levels. Seeing what is familiar through someone else’s viewpoint, including many of the little quirks that come with being Australian from a different perspective, was pleasurable. There were lots of laugh out loud moments, along with reminiscing about places that I had visited years ago, such as the tall trees in the south of Western Australia.

Whilst reading the book, I was listening to podcasts on my longer drives and this included an episode on books on Let It Be. This podcast, by the incredibly organised and motivated Kelly Exeter and Brooke McAlary, ended with a round-up of their favourite comfort reads. For Kelly, this was Down Under by Bill Bryson. Snap! I could see why it would appeal in this way, and how it was one of those books which probably gives a little more with each read.

Then today I was noodling through my Twitter feed when I should have been doing something else, and came across a link to footage taken by a drone of Uluru. The way Bryson writes about Uluru makes me want to travel to the Northern Territory as soon as possible to see it for myself. As this is logistically not possible in the short-term, it was one of those joyous moments of synchronicity to come across this beautiful footage.

Have you had any moments of synchronicity lately?

[Photo: servants bells in Elizabeth Farm at Parramatta]

Journal Jottings

One of the many benefits to keeping a journal, regardless of frequency, is the option to revisit times past and impressions as at a certain point in time. Not everything is recorded, of course, but there is a delight in coming across scribblings which capture a particular moment.

A few months back I travelled to Central Station in Sydney before heading off on the Indian Pacific to Adelaide. I arrived at Central early to book in luggage, and as I waited I wrote the following.

Central Station; Cafe Du Nord. Cafe with French vibe, jazz music, copies of French Impressionists on the wall.

Wizened little old lady on the way to Kyogle via Brisbane. Train passes through on way, around 3 am, too early to stop or get someone to collect her. So she travels through to Brisbane then doubles back.

She has been on the Indian Pacific from Broken Hill to Sydney; was tacked into a carriage which was latched onto the end to carry the overflow of passengers. She is planning to take the Ghan later this year as the only capital cities she’s missed visiting are Adelaide and Darwin. She spoke of her trip to Broken Hill with her husband before he left (she didn’t know he was going); they took advantage of fortnight travel holiday packages where you could travel anywhere in the state on the railway. They went to Broken Hill, down to Albury, swept back up the north coast. Accommodation was included in the package so it was an economical and enjoyable way to travel.

Surprised at the absence of shops and cafes at the station, just a couple downstairs in Eddy Avenue. In my memory the place was bristling with shops selling food, umbrellas, flowers, tours. The only constant is change.

Passing through the inner suburbs towards Central, glimpses of backyards, flashes of kingfisher blue pools, the houses have the rattle of the railway embedded into their fabric. The disarray and dishevelment of the railway workshops, once a thriving, bustling locus of activity.

The awkwardness of some travellers, the jostling of luggage, flying missiles of drink bottles, thumping against other people as they make their way with a singular focus.

The heady joy of eavesdropping. Railway staff speaking of station inspections and audits. I’d given no thought to it but of course there would be protocols around this. The easy ebb and flow of conversation between two older ladies, travelling together, comfortable in silences as well as idle crumbs of chatter. No juicy gossip here, just vignettes of thoughts, perceptions, observations.

It is the time of year for the tang of mandarins. Such a distinct fizz on the air as the skin is broken, carved up by a thumbnail.

Do you jot down thoughts as you travel?

[Photo: part of the magnificent old railway station at Temora, NSW]

A Different Track

The journey from Sydney to the Blue Mountains by rail is a well-travelled one, particularly for the people who commute each work day to the city. Depending on where you start and finish, it can be quite a lengthy journey through the mountains and the ever-extending suburbs of Sydney.

On a Wednesday afternoon, I embarked from Central Station on the Indian Pacific. The Indian Pacific leaves every Wednesday, heading to Perth via Broken Hill and Adelaide. My journey took me to Adelaide in 24 hours.

I could quite easily rave about the train and the trip as it was extraordinary in many ways. Once I got over the excitement of getting onboard, patiently waiting whilst the two sections of the train were coupled together (it is too long for a single platform with 2 locomotives and 27 carriages on my trip), I settled back to watch the Sydney suburbs slip by before we began the slow climb up the mountains.

The gradual ascent was felt physically through the train – you could feel the engines at work, and I sat by the window entranced as it curved around the bends. There were sandstone segments as we approached Lapstone, moments of darkness through tunnels before bursting out amongst an ocean of trees. At Warrimoo there were houses tucked into gullies. Then a glimpse of a sandstone cottage built in 1867 near Springwood. Passing by the Corridor of Oaks at Faulconbridge, then scorched tree trunks came into view. There were vistas towards Sydney or acres of wilderness, depending on the turn of the track.

It was interesting to see what was familiar from a different angle, a higher viewpoint. I spotted some lovely character cottages near Hazelbrook, then we were running alongside the Great Western Highway and the shops and pub at Lawson sped into view. Little ferns poking out of stone walls, a kid practising discus near Wentworth Falls. As we approached Leura I saw the last lingering remnants of autumn colour and the beautiful sandstone cliffs in the distance. Then Katoomba, the soft glowing lights of guest houses, welcoming weary travellers. Tree branches slapping the side of the train, then the Hydro Majestic, lit up amongst the darkening shadows. Towards Blackheath, the depths and folds of the valleys in the last light, through Mount Victoria, last light over the Hartley valley.

Have you taken a different track on a well-travelled road?

[Photo taken near Emu Plains before the climb up the mountains]