Gare du Nord, Paris

May 26, 2013

We arrived in Paris at midday. We’d woken at 4am and hot-footed it through the cold, pre-dawn London streets to make the early Eurostar, and the journey had left us feeling nervy and dried out.

Paris was the city M wanted to visit more than anywhere in the world.  We stepped off the train into the great hall of Gare du Nord Station.  The high arched roof was made up of squares of black iron and opaque glass that filtered the light into a white glare.  I clutched our print-outs from Air B’n’B and Google Maps, and hoped that our giant rucksacks didn’t make us look like easy marks.

We made our way to the station map.  The print-out told me which bus I needed to catch, and as I looked for the right exit a girl appeared in front of me.  She was young, maybe fourteen or fifteen, with olive skin and dyed-brown hair pulled back in a pony tail.  She was wearing a t-shirt, jeans and a baggy hoody.  She was holding a piece of brown cardboard with a sheet of paper attached to it, upon which was printed a table with three columns with some names scribbled in the first few rows.

‘Sign the petition?’ she said in accented English.

I stared at the paper dumbly.

A large arm shot over my shoulder and grabbed at the piece of cardboard.  The girl twisted away and trotted off, grinning in a way that was both playful and corrupt, like it was a game she’d played a thousand times before.

‘Be careful,’ said the security guard.

We found the right exit and headed for our bus.

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14 May 2013

May 14, 2013

The protesters stood on the steps of State Parliament. On the road in front of them, two police cars were parked, their lights flashing and their drivers leaning against them with their arms crossed, chatting.  It was a cold day that hadn’t decided on rain yet.  There were only about thirty protesters and they were all young.  Many of them wore red or were waving red banners, and they held placards that read, ‘NO UNI CUTS’ and ‘TAX THE RICH’.  A chant went up between them that went, ‘Education for all, not just the rich’.

I kept walking along Spring St and turned the corner onto Bourke. My friend was away and I didn’t feel like browsing in the bookstores, so I did a blocky and came back to Lonsdale. When I was near my office a copper on a bike came down the hill on the wrong side of the road.  Up ahead, the protesters had begun marching towards the city centre, taking up all three lanes.  They were chanting a different slogan now, some of them dancing like hari krishnas, some of them clapping hesitantly, and some of them too self-conscious to do anything but be carried along with the crowd, but all looking very young and happy.

Later, I read in The Age that there was a very big protest in the city that converged on the State Library and Federation Square, and shut down Collins Street.


Colonel Santa and the Red and White Song Battle, or My New Year’s in Japan

January 20, 2012

2011-12-27 16.02.46

Yoyogi Park

25 December 2011

On the Narita Express (N’Ex!) to Tokyo.  It’s a clear winter day.  Bare trees raise their feathery branches towards the sky.  Rice paddy fields, their harvest exhausted for the year, give way to neat little houses, then uniform apartment blocks that crowd either side of the tracks, so that when we cross a bridge we are surprised by the sudden horizon, the clouds, a river, and a wheat-coloured baseball field where kids are doing early morning sprints.

M asks if I thought it was ugly the first time I saw it.  I say I don’t remember.  It’s not ugly now.  I’m comfortably numb from the wear of the flight.  There aren’t many people in the streets and the traffic still eases along.

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Tokyo from Aoyama-I-Chome

26 December 2011

You’re never alone on the streets of Tokyo.  Even on the latest drunken stumble home, you always happen upon someone on their own night errands.  Now, I’m sitting in the sun on another clear winter day, at a cafe on a side-street t-junction, watching the steady stream of people.  They speak in quiet, regular tones, moving around each other and the slow intermittent cars.  They are impeccably dressed.  There are many beautiful looking people.  In groups, the women laugh and chat in high clear voices.  The men are mostly alone, but even in groups they barely talk. Read the rest of this entry »