*A story by Daryl Morrow.
The Silver Train speeds from Diamond Creek and Eltham to the Flinders Street Station at 8.30am carrying part of the human race to many of the days diverse activities. They sit back placing wire leads into their ears as if to charge their batteries for whatever the day’s activities may bestow upon them. Only the oldies talk now it seems.
But we older blokes travelled to attend the COTA (council of the aging) meeting in Elizabeth St.
COTA is the umbrella for OM:NI (Older men new ideas) this is a discussion group for men over 50 years of age who are seeking new friends who respect them after retirement or are disconnected and lonely.
This COTA meeting finished at 12.30pm. After our lunch most of the group dispersed in many directions, some shopping others catching the trains back to their home. But not Ken and myself (Daryl) we teamed up to enjoy walking through the laneways and narrow streets observing the building facades of the 18 and 19 centuries. The bluestone foundations of the high rises the size of the stones and how level they are even today, even the plumbing. Ken being a retired plumber would explain to me about the tunnels under these high rises the various plumbing techniques and materials used, cast iron, copper, plastic and open drains. We found narrow cobblestoned laneways where now people sat eating their lunch and drinking coffee where 60 years ago horses pulled their delivery carts to the back of shops to stock their shelving. We saw arcades with lead light panels and boutique shops that catered to the eccentric. Some with orange hair, loads of beads and the clothing must have come from their grand parents wardrobes, but they are an essential part of the city’s colour and culture, we love them, they treated us with respect.
We met Louise she said standing beside us as we looked skyward I have walked this street for many years and I have never looked up until I saw you two looking up. She is 61 years old and a volunteer and a brighter more loving soul you would never wish to meet she worked as a volunteer in a genealogy shop in the very same street, she is a walking encyclopedia.
Tearing ourselves away from Louise (after taking her photo with Ken), we headed through the arcade of the Nicholas Building we headed down Swanston st onward towards the Flinders St station passing two street beggars asking for help and food but people walked on past almost standing on them as if they did not exist. Close by was a horse and carriage taking visitors for rides around our icons.
Two more volunteers Laurie and Michael dressed in red stood on the corner opposite the historic façade of Flinders St Station. We decided to put them to a test, and they came up A1 with knowledge and mannerisms. They even knew that St Paul’s Cathedral now faces north south the previous church faced east west and previous to that was a weather board shack.
We also meet an Indonesian family here on holidays and we tried to converse with them but had no hope, so more photos were taken as they wanted to show their village what true Aussies look like.
Onwards to Federation Square looking at children’s art especially the bubble wrap art and photography Ken showed me the glass concert room overlooking the Yarra River. We inspected the structure of sandstone tiles and pressed tin that looked like bluestone tiles. In the open air area with its large screen that shows you walking and looking around, a big circular sand pit with rock edging housed an open fire with red gum blocks emitting a welcome spread of warm air.
Back across Swanston St and into Flinders St station, our plastic cards opened the gates and we headed to the moving staircase to our arriving transport, we hurried in hoping to find a seat to rest our weary legs. As happens many times with public transport you have to sit beside a total stranger Ken and I were conversing and our fellow traveller was playing with his smart phone. He was waving his fingers in front of the screen …. he then explained he was waving to his children overseas. He was very open to us telling he was part Aboriginal and part Irish he also offered he was managing two farms up north growing coffee and coco and manufactured chocolate. I immediately recalled the advice and words of our COTA facilitator who said “whatever you do, never underestimate anyone when you first meet them.”
The train seemed to get us back home quickly and as I walked up the hill home I reflected on what was one of my best days on this planet.
Oh yes the roast dinner was equally as good. Thanks Lady Florence.
4th July 2016