My Busy Weekend

Well, it’s been a while since I last made an entry. This isn’t because anything particularly exciting has been going on in my life, I’ve just been busy with mundane matters such as work and washing up and watching far too much TV. Well I’m here now, writing while I listen to Bossanova by the Pixies (I’ve also been wasting money on more Pixies albums, just to continue the ‘w’ theme).

That said, I’ve actually had a fairly active few days. I’ll go backwards and start with today. Well actually I have to start with yesterday in order to explain today. Right, OK, yesterday my digital camera died. It died while I was trying to take a photograph of the Round House in Fremantle. Happily it was just that the battery ran out rather than anything going seriously wrong, but obviously I had to get another one. So I decided to go to the Dick Smith’s in town today (I could have stopped into town on the way home from Fremantle, but I didn’t have the necessary cash on me and my ATM card has decided to stop working).

So, I headed into town nice and early, arriving at the central train station at 10:00 am. It was not long afterwards, while walking past closed and locked-up shop after closed and locked-up shop, that I remembered that the stores in town don’t open until 12:00 on Sundays.

Say it with me folks… D’OH!!!

So, I had the choice of turning around and going home then returning after 12:00, or wandering around the city for two hours. Given that the trains run so infrequently on Sundays that by the time I got home I’d immediately have to turn around and come back, I decided to plumb for the second option. Luckily I had a Bill Bryson book with me, so I just sat around on a convenient bench in Forest Place and read, pausing now and then to watch pigeons washing themselves in the fountain and listen to German tourists repeatedly sing “Happy Birthday” to their friend Helga at the coffee bistro next to the escalators.

Eventually a bunch of rather aggressive looking street sweepers turned up and started walking along the benches towards me, sweeping under them as they came and flashing rather stern glares at my legs and backpack. I decided not to risk their wrath and instead went for a walk through the malls. A few discount bookstores were open, so I checked them out too, but didn’t find anything work buying (although I was tempted by a Whitley Striber/Art Bell collaboration predicting a gigantic snowstorm will engulf the northern hemisphere and kill everyone unfortunate enough to be in it’s path some time in the next few years).

After that I found a Sanity that was open, and had a look around on the off chance that they might have a copy of Rough Dreams. They didn’t, but they did have a copy of I Oughta Give You a Shot in the Head for Making Me Live in this Dump – which was of no personal use at all since I have a copy, but at least improved my opinion of them (which had been seriously eroded by the deafening tones of Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Barenaked blasting out of the sound system loud enough to stun a small horse).

After all of this it was 12:00, so I headed down to Dick Smith’s and bought the battery with little trouble (once one of the staff deigned to acknowledge my existence, which required a fair bit of coughing and loud drumming of fingers on the counter).

So that was what I did today.

Yesterday I headed down to Fremantle to see the Spooked exhibition. My brother is the curator and it was originally set up in the old mill up at Greenough, now they’ve bought it down to the Moores Building. It’s got some great stuff by the way, including a giant locust with a human head made out of cardboard strips woven together like wickerwork. Go see it if you can (plug plug). Anyway after that I decided to have a wander around the city since it was a wonderful day and it’s probably been a good two years since I’ve been down there. I usually can’t stand the beach, but I was also in an oddly thalassophillic mood, which had started on the train journey down when I kept catching glimpses of the sun glinting off the deep blue sea between the hills in a remarkably charming manner (I also wanted to have a closer look at the new Maritime museum that looms over the port like a crashed alien spacecraft).

So I headed down to the Esplanade, which was full of people wandering around enjoying the sunshine. Children playing, couples coupling, elderly types asleep and slowly dehydrating in their wheelchairs – all that kind of thing. The picturesque tranquillity of the scene was only ruined by the deafening screeches of a flock of white cockatoos tearing into the pine cones on the trees. I took some photos of them in an attempt to make them shut up. It didn’t work.

I was feeling slightly peckish at this point so wandered across the rail lines to Fishing Boat Harbour. The fish and chip stores were packed full of noisy tourists, so in the end I settled for an ice cream and bottle of apple juice, which I consumed sitting on a limestone wall watching the sun glinting and sparkling off the waves at Bather’s Beach. Not even the incoherent shrieks of a drunk vagrant fighting off an imaginary giant lobster (or something I suppose he could have just been screeching because he was happy) at the other end of the beach could disturb my tranquillity.

That done I decided to head over to the Round House and have a look at the restored Whaler’s Tunnel, which was still undergoing repairs the last time I was in the area. I ascended the excitingly contoured and highly treacherous stairs at the south end of complex, once again reflecting what a gigantic eyesore the maritime museum is as it’s gigantic half-dome loomed up over the horizon like some kind of mutant fungus in a post-apocalyptic B-Movie.

On arrival at the top I was somewhat put out to find some kind of function going on under a large awning. As I got nearer it was clear that it was a wedding. Rather nicely they hadn’t closed off the complex for it or anything, apparently the happy couple were quite prepared to exchange vows surrounded by busloads of Japanese and German tourists, which was just as well because there were quite a few busloads there at the time. I skirted around the edge of the wedding party, and wandered out to the very tip of the promontory, where after a few minutes gazing out over the sea I was rather surprised to notice a historical plaque half concealed in the bushes on the other side of the wall. Apparently it commemorates the hundredth anniversary of the first methodist service held in the state or something, but why it should be perched out on the edge of a precipitous cliff is completely beyond me. Unless they held the service out there.

The wedding was now breaking up, so I went around to the front of the building to grab some photos. It was at this point, while a rather overweight woman was explaining what was going on to a bewildered looking ancient in a wheelchair very loudly (“BERNICE!! YOUR GRANDDAUGHTER!! BERNICE!! SHE GOT MARRIED!! BERNICE!!“) that the camera started flashing all sorts of red lights at me, then whired accusingly and shut itself down.

I wasn’t happy. Some fumbling around and poking at buttons didn’t seem to get a response, so I headed down to the whaler’s tunnel where it would presumably be dark. Exactly how I thought this would help is something I can’t quite explain. No doubt it’s a hang-over from using film cameras all my life.

The tunnel proved not to be particularly dark (they’ve installed lighting) and I was completely unable to get a response from the camera. I contended myself with wandering through and reading the historical plaques, including the one about the old jetty which has its bottom paragraph almost completely concealed by various bits of the old jetty that they’ve seen fit to pile in front of it. I emerged onto the beach just as an officious looking man came along and started closing the gates, which seemed odd since it was only about one in the afternoon. An American couple who’d just walked up from the opposite end of the beach and obviously wanted to go inside glared at him, but he just ignored them and slammed the gates shut in their faces. They then decided to glare at me instead, as if I was behind it all. They continued to glare at me as I read a historic plaque about whaling, as if by reading it I was making myself party to the entire global whaling industry of the last three centuries. Then they came over and stood next to me as they read it themselves (still shooting glares at me sideways out of their faces, which is harder that it sounds).

Unable to get back through the tunnel and wanting to get away from these freaks as quickly as possible I decided to check out a nice bit of lawn with some impressive limestone monoliths on it that I’d spotted from the promontory. This proved to be nothing but a nice bit of lawn with the said monoliths sticking out of it with nothing to explain their mysterious presence whatsoever. Even more mysterious was a rusted metal pyramid adorned with valves, vents and other strange mechanical elaborations at the other end of the lawn. I gave this obvious piece of Goa’uld technology a wide berth, and on a whim decided to go and have a look at the HMAS Ovens.

The Ovens is a decommissioned RAN submarine that the Federal Government donated to the state as a seed attraction for the maritime museum (it was superseded by the new Collins Class subs, which is odd because the Collins Class are generally agreed to be about as reliable as the Ford Edsel, and twice as noisy). It’s up on scaffolding outside the museum, and although you have to pay eight dollars to go inside you can wander up and gawk at it for free. Which I did. I would have taken photos if the camera was working. It’s pretty impressive really, a big black thing just sitting there. Submarines look deceptively small when in the water, only about the top quarter actually pokes up above the waves. You only really get an idea of the massive scale of them when you see them out of the water.

So, I Came, I Saw, I Gawked. Then I Left. With nothing else really to see, and a non-functional camera I decided to head for home. I did divert briefly to have a look at the STS Leeuwin which was in port, but there’s only so much you can say about a sail training ship full of people in red shirts being taught to sing “Sink the Bismark” while hauling ropes. I also cut through the E-Shed markets, but they weren’t anything to write home about. I walked back to the station and caught the first train home.

So that was Saturday.

On Friday I went to dinner with Dad over at my Aunts Faye and Beverly’s place. It wasn’t too bad all things considered, and after eating they produced for inspection a whole mess of old coins they’d brought as a job lot (this would seem like weird after dinner behavior only to anyone who doesn’t know Faye and Bev). There were some pretty impressive ones in there once we sorted them out, including a number of tiny British ones from the 1860’s (with a young Queen Victoria on them), and a black, iron, Deutchriech Pfennig from 1940 (complete with eagle grasping a swastika). The most amusing was from some central African republic. It was decorated with rather cartoony palm trees and weighed so little that you’d swear it was made out of plastic if it wasn’t for the fact it had started to rust. Any economy based on currency like that is surely heading for problems! 🙂

Finally Thursday. Thursday was livened up by an incident on the train home where a tall lanky individual getting off at Perth stumbled into a perfectly innocuous passenger getting on. This lanky gentleman apparently took offense at the passenger so inconsiderately placing himself where he could be stumbled into and proceeded to hang in the doorway and hurl insults at him, including calling him a “m*****f****** Irish c****”, despite the fact that there was nothing demonstrably Irish about him. Getting bored with this, he then labeled him a “Gutless Hero”, and then, apparently incensed by the passenger’s attempts to ignore him, stormed down the carriage like a bull rhinoceros and started, if you’ll pardon my French, beating the living crap out of him.

A good number of passengers decided that discretion was the better part of valour and evacuated the carriage at high speed on witnessing this. One girl very impressively lept up onto a window sill, ran along the wall, lept over the combatants and flew out the door all like she was in The Matrix. A bunch of male passengers attempted to pacify the situation, but on finding their attempts to firmly pull the lanky gent off of his victim only resulted in him turning his fury upon them as well, threw any attempt at “sufficient force” out the window and hurled themselves on top of him as if they were playing rugby. They finally wrestled him down onto a seat, but not before one of them (an employee of the Kings Park Botanical Gardens according to his shirt) received a savage cut to his forehead. It took four of them to pin the aggressor down, and that with difficulty. At this point the passengers outside succeeded in getting the attention of a transit guard. He jogged across to the train, no doubt expecting something relatively innocuous such as a bunch of glue sniffers swearing at passengers (pretty much a daily occurance on Perth’s trains), but his eyes bugged out of his head in a most amusing manner when he actually saw what was going on. He grabbed his radio and shouted “Alpha one! Alpha one!” into it in a high pitched voice before barging in and trying to pull the four men off the lanky guy.

The true nature of the situation quickly became apparent, both from the explanations of the other passengers, the explanations of the men holding lanky-psycho-man down and the reaction of lanky-man himself. He was still wriggling around and making a number of detailed threats in a very loud voice about what he was going to do to various parts of his captors’ anatomies when they let him go. Interspersed with these he was also announcing his intention to sue each and every one of them for hurting his back and tearing his shirt, as if he expected a lawyer to immediately appear in a small puff of smoke.

A number of other transit guards soon arrived, and between them managed to transfer the idiot from the passengers to themselves without letting him get so much as an arm free. This was no easy task, his spirit was far from broken and he was still demonstrating a very admirable (if ultimately futile) determination to escape. They eventually got him out onto the platform, and pinned him to the ground while reading him his rights.

The scene in the carriage settled down. The passengers who’d evacuated filed back in, and the ones who’d intervened started assessing their injuries as the adrenaline wore off. A new passenger, who’d missed the whole incident, stepped on and asked “What’d he do?”, gesturing at the furiously struggling man being sat upon by three guards. Another answered “Started breathing mate, just started breathing” then caught sight of the Kings Park Botanical Gardens employee who was dabbing ineffectively at his head with a handkerchief while a stream of bright red dribbled down his face and all over his shirt. Quite impressively this joker immediately switched mental gears from left wing “stick it to the man!” mode to right wing “lock them all up!” mode and started muttering things like “too much coke, not enough brains”. Which was probably a fair assessment.

The guards came back in shortly afterwards and helped the bleeding man out, along with the others who’d taken part in the fracas. The train then departed, running a good five minutes late. The new passenger kept repeating “too much coke, not enough brains” to anyone who’d listen until I got out.

So, that’s been my week. Action, adventure, fights, electronic equipment failure, what more could one ask for? What indeed.

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