One version of my halcyon, daydream life is a life without decisions. A life that follows a calm and satisfying plan, never throwing up unexpected obstacles, never detouring to offer an alternate path; a predictable, safe life. Obviously that life is dull, and absurd, but tempting still.
Decisions, it seems to me, are sentient beings. They hide away to formulate their strategy of attack, fermenting complex blends of promise and fear. They arrive unbidden, timing their appearance with care so that they manifest before The Decider at the very moment when he or she feels most at peace with the status quo. I suspect they learn their subtlety as we age: decisions that presented themselves in my youth seemed relatively simple and impulsiveness was generally rewarded. I was, after all, invincible. But with every added year decisions gain cunning. And, especially, with every added child decisions baffle me more. If you’ve been the parent of a teenager asking to borrow your car, or your money, you will know all about this (and my home has seen a grand total of 37 teen-years; 5 still to go….). Today’s decision: will I or won’t I catch a train to Northern NSW, where some of my longest friendships lie. While I decide – a task that habitually takes me a week or two – I am turning back the pages of my hand written journal to another train trip, just a few months ago:
Journal of a Land Voyage
The First Day
A Wednesday in September 2014.
Tonight a big adventure begins: first to Sydney, then on to Queensland. Now that it has finally arrived the day feels neither as thrilling nor as terrifying as I had expected. I the past weeks since I decided to travel again I have sometimes felt quite intimidated and frightened at the scale of the plan, and by the possibility of things going wrong with me or with my equipment so far from home. Now that all the preparations are complete, it feels modestly secure. I don’t know how many days I have spent at the workbench with a soldering iron, rewiring and reinventing the breathing machine caddy which hangs behind my wheelchair. Many! The helpful folk at the electronics shop have taught me all sorts of things, but I still need to head back there with projects like this; electronics is such a tricky thing I reckon, and all I’m doing is wiring up switches and LEDs.
“The (pause) XPT (pause) service to (pause) Sydney”,
we are loud-hailed every quarter hour in perfectly stilted robot-girl English,
“is approximately (pause) 2 (pause) hours behind schedule”.
Furthermore, we are loudly hailed, robot-girl apologises for any inconvenience. It’s the “ANY” that I find increasingly annoying, in 15 minute increments. As if inconvenience is optional: it may be, or may not be inconvenient to spend 2 hours in the middle of the night on a railway platform. Why can’t she just come clean and simply apologise? The same thing happens in politics, and sport, “If anyone is offended by what I said then I apologise”. If? IF?
Thankfully they have axed the loud-hailed quasi apology, and a uniformed, living being has come around a couple of times to assure us that the train is still expected within the well advertised 2 hour delay. The living uniform told us with some pride that it was he that had placed the call to someone higher up, suggesting that the quarter-hourly loud-hailing had to stop. And he brought us tea and biscuits!
The Second Day
We have returned, my Favourite Wife and I, from a commanding performance by David Suchet in The Last Confession. On the train platform last night we had listened to Suchet, famous as Agatha Christie’s Poirot, in a wide ranging interview with the ABC’s Philip Adams. Suchet is wonderfully candid about his conversion to Christian faith in his 40s, and the issues of faith, power and unbelief in tonight’s play were all the more poignant knowing that the gentle and humane lead has explored them personally. Favourite Wife’s birthday celebrated in great style today!
The Third Day
Breakfast in the restaurant of our rather flash hotel, celebrating our 25th Anniversary. From our floor to ceiling glass window we look down 30 feet or so onto the top of the old Post Office clock tower in Martin Place. Our trip has been a success! Lots of planning and no small amount of apprehension about various decisions, especially the timing of leaving home just before one of our daughters was due with her first child, has all paid off and our adventure has run perfectly to plan (but is that a contradiction?).
We have parted company. She headed south, by air, homewards with the promise of a new grandchild only days or even hours away. In fact it was our soon to be mother who met her at the airport: I bet that was fun! I am heading north, by rail. Fourteen hours on board another train to see two little grandsons that are two states away from our home. This leg of the journey is the one I have worried about most, and worked hardest to make secure. The problem is the number of hours between leaving our hotel room this morning and arriving at the cabin on the Maroochydore River where my family and I will stay for a brief time.
To be continued …
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