This is an Every-Second -Friday project. My daughter and I train to Melbourne and we like to sit in the seats that face other seats. I take a sneaky (  sometimes permitted) photo of whoever sits opposite and she does a sneaky portrait in my note book. Sometimes we interview, but usually we keep quiet.

This one I had to request a photo because I wanted a picture of the diary which is about the only thing you can’t see in this picture.  The girls were speaking in strange and tantalising Finnish tones. I have never before met a Finnish person and as if to prove their Finnishness, one was actually making notes in a Moomintroll diary.  The fact and life of Moomintoll is the only Finnish thing I know, which is why  I asked the Finnish girl to show the book for the camera, ( such Finnishness all at once) but the light makes it impossible to see. Nevertheless I vouch for it. The other one wore sandals that I also sneakily photographed because it struck me that they were truly the sandals of a viking woman. Her toe nail polish was metallic blue. Both girls emanated strength and ate peanuts.

For now I’ve lost the notebook with Mannie’s portrait.

This is a young couple. They were very him and her. They also had blue things. I think of them as The slightly- sullen- bower- bird couple.

He accidentally tripped me up. I transformed my fall into a ridiculous performance. It was the first time they smiled, which made me feel both relieved and triumphant. They had nice smiles and I stopped seeing them as sullen after all.

Here is Mannie’s picture of him.

And of her. I think this portrait captures her slightly recalcitrant aspect.

This man offered me some Old Gold Chocolate. I declined. Then I explained I’m not allowed to eat chocolate. Then I thought that might sound like I was on a diet, when I’m really just sadly allergic to sugar, so I hastened to add that I do eat chocolate but only dark chocolate. He probably thought I was implying that Old Gold chocolate is second rate, ( which it is a bit) but it wasn’t what I meant to imply as actually I was touched he even offered it to me, yet I had made such a mess of the whole conversation and I doubted it was worth explaining why, that I turned back to my book and he to his. His book appeared to be a medieval story involving knights on horses.

This Lady is seen through her butterfly print luggage which she was reluctant to move over. On interviewing her I discovered she belonged to the contingent who wanted poker machines in Castlemaine and resented the lack of progress in town. Since I had belonged to the other contingent I realised that we had been vague sort of enemies, though enemy is probably too strong a word. I didn’t tell her that we were of opposing opinion camps though she  may have suspected it, but the war, as far as the pokies went, was over and we were politely sharing the seats on the train, although I am sneaky and she is respectable.

 Yo Yo No More.  As far as I could make out, the article  this woman was reading is about celebrity who had finally stopped having weight gains and losses. I yo yo alot emotionally speaking and at least it’s never dull. And if the celebrity now really does stay the same size there might be nothing more to say about her in magazines and she will become a plain old somebody like the rest of us. Better to look like a whale and then a grass hopper, there’s great drama in that.  I could also got a sneak peek of the mysterious beginning of the headline; Her husband lost his….   Most likely it was his job or his luggage, but neither were salacious enough. His eyebrows? His memory? His get up and go? His dressing gown? Maybe his dressing gown was frilly and gave away a private life? The other subtitle I glimpsed was The PURRfect escape..   No doubt it was on the back of a lion!

Mannie’s drawing has come out sideways.

This is Glen Parker who hails for NZ . Glen caught me taking my sneaky pic, ( I forgot to turn the sound off) so I had to explain the project. He was very understanding.

I now know lots about him (his little boy likes the zoo book best) and also about the girl sitting next to me who was dragged into the conversation (and whose fiancé is obsessed with whales and whaling and is doing his PHD on Melville).  She showed me a photo of her wedding dress which I thought was lovely. She will be a knock out and her whale man will be bedazzled. Probably her mum will weep. If I was there I would weep as I always weep at weddings, even when I am just the waitress. Love is very touching.

This lady was all black and white with touches of colour like a toucan. She had purple rimmed glasses, a pink phone and a turquoise green drink bottle. She nibbled on pecans that you can see lurking in a plastic box in her bag.  She had  handsome, athletic legs and wore very becoming silver sandals . I began to wonder…Was she was once a runner like I was? Did she run the hundred too? Did she break my record?

She was reading a book which had the word “Christ” in the title. It was a book about happiness and Christ and the connection between them.  Sandals and Christ are also connected in a Roman way. And if you add the touches of brilliant colour and pecans too, it certainly makes for personality. Humans are endlessly varied.

Here is a sleepy Nonna from the isle of Mesina. ( I asked her) She has two tone hair, ( red with a blonde fringe) a leopard skin bag, a tee shirt with gold sequins and two diamond-ish earrings in each ear.  So she glittered. Her watch seemed too tight for her arm. I felt her arm’s pain. Even though she shone, she seemed uncomfortable in her body ( what are these bodies that bloom and wither around our souls?)  and kept looking one way and then the other, tugging at the loose part on her neck and sighing. At one point she held her own hand and rested it on her stomach.   I stole the feeling from her. I thought, “hand of mine, hold me too.”  I befriended myself and then I befriended the sleepy Nonna too, though she may not have felt this. Since I was in the midst of  a personal crisis,  I had on my lap, my well- thumbed- book -to- reach- for -when -in- a- crisis, When things fall apart, and because of it, I had lately been practising wishing people well, silently, while meditating. So I was in the mood for joining up. Becoming human instead of bird. Or marsupial. Or bee.

This young couple both had autumnal hair, all in shades of copper, strawberry, pale apricot etc… And it was Autumn. Either they augmented the season or the season augmented them. How the sun shines in over his face.   Her hair is a waterfall. She holds his hand on her lap as if it belongs there and across her collar bones is tatooed, “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.”  She seemed too insouciant to have ever known life when it’s deathly hard, but maybe it was just life really had made her stronger.  Hats off, I thought, because I still nearly die every time and you can always tell. And then there is Spring. Having hair as resplendent as that must help…

Mannie made the hair like a river. And noted the love that was in the air….

What I liked was how she stopped everything on her ipad to look out the window as we went past  the fields, in the early morning, when the light was low and golden on those coffee coloured cows.

He had a mighty nose. I thought of him as hobbit man. In his shirt pocket were two pens whose lids were hooked onto the edge of the pocket. I have never thought of shirt pockets as being useful before, nor had I realised pen lids had this potential. The hobbit man brimmed with determination and resolve. If you went camping with him, he would not forget the essentials. I would though. Last time I went camping I forgot to take water.  I’m not good at tents either. Or origami.

Here is an Indian woman taking a nap behind her cardigan. Ingenious and crafty way of finding privacy especially when seated opposite me. I took a sneaky pic of her feet as they had also taken a sort of break from their job of being inside shoes. I wished I could also hide behind a cardigan and have the world slip away for a moment. And then when it returns,  it could be changed, in a beautiful, hardly perceptible way, which I would perceive and therefore feel special.

The escaping feet.

This is someone I know. Her name is Bec. She was in my tap dancing class once. But she was more experienced than me at tapping and changed classes. She showed us a picture of her three year old daughter Ava, from whom she was having her second night away. She didn’t read Richard Flanagan for long. She took out her scarf and made it like a pillow and fell asleep.

 Dressed entirely in black and white. Not even a moment of colour. They wore matching black sneakers and had matching jagged haircuts with shorn patches. They were so matching I felt like shouting snap. Possibly they belonged to a Japanese boy band as they way too snazzy in the fashion department to be local lads and after a moment, they both looked as if they had had a big night the night before.

The friendly arrangement of sneakers

And then, as if drawn to her fellow black and whiters, or perhaps in an unconscious desire for camouflage, a woman got on and sat next to them, also dressed entirely in black and white. Was she drawn to a shared sense of minimal in style? Or totalitarianism. They were the unlikely black and white family. But possible none of them even realised.

We passed the golden poplars. I was wearing a black skirt that I had brought at a garage sale, but since I had grey shoes, I would never have fitted in. I’m used to this.

He is reading a Keith Richards biography while listening to music through headphones. There is about him, the invincibility of youth. If you dropped him off a cliff, he would bounce. He is shiny and solid and safe as a tonka truck. I’m envious. I would like to walk down the street at night in his body instead of mine, just to see how it feels.

Pink girls with pigtails. They turned the train into a play ground.

And opposite me was a pink man. Incognito.

He was taking a sneaky look at me while I was taking a sneaky pic of him. Which I only discovered when I saw the photo up close. I came across as alarming. You can tell by this look in his eyes.

I have never seen someone watch the passing landscape as intently as this man. He paused only to drink from a bottle of coke. There was something lost and wistful about him.

He adjusted the curtain so that the sun didn’t hit my eyes.


Bag doubling as pillow. Quite crafty. While the gentleman reads…

Then she adds a hood for darkness. He drifts off with her. Together they sleep, the girl and the gentleman. Last night I dreamed I had a tree to plant but nowhere to plant it. I was carrying it with me. It was cumbersome. I don’t think this relates to the sleeping strangers.


The boy and I kept smiling at each other. I wasn’t sure what we were smiling at and who started it. After a bag of chips and an apple he got out a pad and began drawing a shield. At first I wondered if he was shielding himself from me. But his whole pad of paper was full of similar brightly coloured drawings of shield shapes. I liked how his pillow says Honk. I imagine he can sleep through any sort of honking, whereas I wake at the sound of a breath.

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