Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Transitions - musings on Chalmers Street

Each working day for the last few years I have caught the 343 bus to Central station.

This morning, standing outside the station in the cold early morning  light, I lit a cigarette. It was very early, well before seven. I wanted to be at Parramatta as close to seven as I could manage (the lifts open then) before people arrived. I wanted to clear things out, visiting the office for the last time. I didn't want to talk to anybody.

Standing there, I thought of just how many times I had stood at that spot over the years. Just across the road up Chalmers Street is the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists. We moved into the new building while I was CEO. I still remember the move. My new office overlooked Chalmers Street.

The Royal Exhibition Hotel is on the corner of Chalmers and Devonshire Streets near the College. Originally built in 1870, it has been extensively renovated over the years (1910, 1924, 1982, 2004). I remember the 2004 renovation, although by then I had  left the College. We used to go to the hotel for drinks or lunch sometimes.

The street directly in front of me, Devonshire Steet, runs up to Elizabeth Street. Up Devonshire and to the left in Elizabeth Street was my favourite Korean restaurant. Downstairs, it was dominated by Korean taxi drivers. Upstairs was a generally quiet dining room where you could get the best crisp skinned fish I have eaten.

Down the road but still on the other side was the old Journalist's Club, There are many stories about the Club, most apocryphal! .By the time I first went there for lunch, it was past its prime. My press connections (such as they were) were also Canberra focused, but I was still conscious of its historical presence.

Turning, I entered the station. I really I really had to move. I'm not sure when I first visited Central Station. The first time I remember I would have been around eight. We had come don on the night train, my first sleeper experience. There had been big floods in the Hunter; the train went through flooded paddocks, the lines just above the falling waters. It was an exciting trip.

Later, of course, I became more blase, but there was still a sense of excitement in visiting the country and interstate terminal. It was a busy place, marked in my memories by the comings and goings, far removed from the suburban terminal. I was probably fifteen when I first traveled on a Sydney suburban train. Then I got on the wrong train, ending up miles away from anywhere I knew. Since I had no cash with me and my ticket was not to that destination I was worried. But I was able to cross to the next platform and taker a train back to Central without showing my ticket. I relaxed then.

Today, of course, I might well be caught by a traffic inspector on the train demanding to see my ticket on one of their random checks. Would they have believed me? Perhaps not. I might well have found myself in a degree of travel.

Travelling towards Parramatta, the train follows the familiar route that was once the Great Northern far as Strathfield. Now we are in new territory. But i guess that's another story.


Anonymous said...

Gather you are finishing your contract Jim? If so, good luck with next assignment. Where ever, it will be their gain.


Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, kvd. Finished Wednesday after three and a half years. A new world dawns!