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  • Dougie

Here we go again

Updated: Nov 11, 2023

The train was busier than we've known before. "Every seat taken," the announcer proclaimed over the station Tannoy system at Canberra station (which is located -- like almost everything in the capital -- in a leafy suburb).

I was last to board, contrary to common sense. By the time Spike got me up the ramp and into the carriage my wheelchair space was full ... someone else's wheeled walking frame and two suitcases and the moveable passenger table on the floor, resting against the wall. Spike sorted things out ... cos that's what Spike's good at. Not long after, we departed.

It's a pleasant trip on a sunny late-spring day. The creaky old train rattles and shakes and rumbles its way north through an Australia that's just off the beaten track. Small, quiet towns, ruined old buildings with their tin roofs collapsed, a million and more sheep, grazing cattle, one donkey and horses. Regional, rural Australia. Settler Australia. A land that time forgot.

We arrived in Sydney more or less on time which means, for the Canberra train, 15 minutes late. We've known worse.

Some things have changed. At Redfern station -- the second largest on the city network -- there are now lifts from each platform (of which there are many) to ground level. I recall that we campaigned for access improvements of this type during the run up to the Sydney Olympics (almost 24 years ago). We argued -- as many had argued in previous years -- that this place (heartland of the city's First,Peoples, adjacent to the city's premier university, a stone's through from the iconic Rabbito's rugby ground) should at least have access for all. And now it does.

And the work to open up Central station is also complete. There are vast caverns of underground concourses, high ceilings, bright light and lifts with clean glass. I remember when I first accessed the underground concourse (off Eddy Avenue) its dirty tiled walls and low ceilings. The place reminded me of a seedy men's lavatory in a Graham Greene novel of England's decline.

So, progress of sorts.

We're at the airport hotel now. We dined on mediocre pizza (for Spike) and sweet potato fries (for me). It will be early to bed soon and an early start. We check in at 7:00 a.m. for the first leg of our long haul to London: 9 hours 40 minutes with Japan Airlines to Tokyo.

I'm looking forward to that. Genuinely.

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