Thursday, 24 November 2011

Arriving in Brisbane

Jim and I took the overnight train to Brisbane.  It set off at c4pm from Sydney and arrived at 0530 in Brisbane.  This was a different experience to the plane or campervan.  As it was a $69 budget railtrip, the customer base was that of budget customers.  Oddly the seat booking system put most of the customers on one carriage, out of the 3 available.  This meant we were in the middle of a noisy car. 

When I got fed up of this, I took a stroll up and down the train, found the two other cars were virtually empty and decided to ask if we could move.  There were transit security officers right at the back, and they said they would get the supervisor to find me to confirm we could move seats.  She came seeking "the english girl", and duly found me, and agreed we could move, and noted it on her seat allocation sheet.  We had quite an interesting discussion with her.  She advised Us that a girl with mental health issues had been moved into the rear car with the transit officers, and the girl had quietened down.  We decided to settle in this car as, other than the girl, it was empty and quiet.

The supervisor and I had an interesting chat about shift patterns as transport workers.  Her pattern was for a duty taking a train to Sydney, then 7 hours rest in a barrack, then an 11 hour night duty taking the train back. I thought this was appalling.  I've worked a system where the rules said you had to have 12 hours rest, and even this small turn round made me feel appalling.  7 hours rest, even in accommodation provided by the company would never be enough for me.  The supervisor said they had also recently had a change to shift pattern where they now were not allowed to work more than 10 consecutive days, whereas my pattern previously had no more than 8. 

The supervisor showed us how the seats reversed with a foot pedal. Apparently the train has a diesel unit front and rear, and the train runs forward or backward, and each journey the seats are turned to face direction of travel. But if it is nearly empty, as in our carriage, and you get on with the supervisor(!), they can reverse alternate seats so four seats are facing. This meant Jim and I could curl up to lie down to sleep, each of us sleeping across 4 seats. Much better than sleeping sitting up.

My first museum in Brisbane, was the Brisbane Museum, which has an exhibition of social documentary photography 1993-2010.  Blakeley and Lloyd are two photographers whose work focusses on documenting stories about trauma, suicide, genocide and grief.  It was a set of very demanding, thought provoking artwork.

The first series of photographs was called "Control Yourself" - a set of images about a girl with anorexia and self mutilation.  One image was of her torso, very thin with self harm scars; followed by a pink corset with extra pink laces around the body; followed by a handwritten weight chart documenting fortnightly body weights over 3 years deteriorating from 52k-37k, and finally a large image of a bottle of laxative.  The images themselves were not particularly disturbing, but close inspection told a very distressing story.

The next series was about the Rwandan genoicide.  There was a row of 37 black photo frames, to portray one Rwandan woman's family.  There were 4 head and shoulders portraits, and the rest of the frames either had a name and birth/death dates, or just a name if the person disappeared.  Obviously this person had lost most of her family in the genoicide of 1994.  Very powerful.

The third set of pictures that remain with me are the set of 4 images of a woman talking, obviously upset.  The caption stated she had lost her son, and kept his ashes on her dressing table, and dusted them regularly.  But when she needed to, she took the urn and nursed it, feeling closer to him.  Another set of very powerful images, which probably portrayed intense emotion, with which parents in similar situtions could identify.

A small exhibition, which was very thought provoking.

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