Location: Sydney
Date: December 2011

December 12, 2011. 1:30am at Taree railway station, I boarded the XPT train to Sydney. I thought at that ridiculous hour no one would be on the damn thing. Wrong! Before I could get to my allocated seat, I had to pick my way through and over lots of sleeping bodies curled up on the seats including mine! And to make it more difficult, all the train's interior lights had been turned off. "Is that your seat?" a young woman with a small child from the other side of the aisle asked. Her husband was sleeping on MY seat! "Hey, Goldilocks!" I felt like saying, but the woman woke him and, after lots of muttering and grumbling, he went back to sleeping on the floor at his wife's feet. It occurred to me later that I could have asked him to stay where he was but... well... I figured maybe that wasn't such a good idea after all.

Anyway, the trip was not pleasant. It was black as pitch outside so I couldn't see anything through the windows, and I had two heavy snorers nearby, which meant I couldn't nap even if I tried - which I did. AND... the undercarriage had a squeaky spring.

A few days prior to booking my train trip, a Taree surgeon checked out a lesion in my oral cavity (the thing you and I commonly refer to as the mouth) which, following a biopsy, had been declared non-cancerous. But he was suspicious, and refused to be the surgeon for its removal. Instead, he referred me to a head and neck specialist in Sydney who happened to have an early appointment opportunity. It was all a bit of a rush but I decided to take advantage of it, and use my time in Sydney as an excuse to take a bunch of photos of the old town. I had 7 hours between arrival time and the appointment with the doc.

When daylight appeared about 2 hours out of Sydney, the train's windows were being spattered with rain. Charming. Rain continued to fall all the way. And when I arrived at 7am at Central Railway, you guessed it, it was peeing down. I bought a one-day multi-pass on all Sydney's public transport which cost only $2.50 (pensioner concession). Definitely the way to get around! Then I took a train to Circular Quay where I figured I'd do the obligatory pics of the Bridge and Opera House. But the rain kept falling and it was miserable. I hung around for some hours, wondering what to do, but found a couple of opportunities to get some pics UNLIKE you normally see on postcards and brochures of the Harbor City. I also grabbed a coffee, and egg and sausage McMuffin at McDonalds. I haven't been to Maccas for umpteen years, so the coffee was a bit of a challenge. I couldn't get the bloody lid off! Then I realized you were supposed to drink the coffee with the lid on, through the little hole in the top. Roite. Bloody country yokels.

At about mid morning-ish, the weather cleared a little. It was still cloudy and sprinkling a bit, but I decided to take a walk along the covered walkway to the Opera House. That was fortuitous because it provided an opportunity for some interesting pics prior to most lunchtime eateries and other businesses being open. There were also only a few workers/pedestrians about. Wet conditions and no sun meant I had to look for alternative photo opportunities... anything that might be vaguely interesting. Luckily, I did find a few.

I headed back to Circular Quay and got a few shots of the local buildings, including the AMP inwardly curved skyscraper that I photographed back in the '60s when the Opera House was still under construction. The weather had cleared a little more by this time, so I figured I'd take a ferry over to Kirribilli for some shots looking back at the city skyline. That's when I met Captain Jimmy Cook II, a lovely bloke with whom I chatted for quite a while about things Cookish, Endeavourish and ahoy there matey-ish, etc. "You can't take photos of me unless they appear on Twitter," he said, but I explained that I was a good friend of the original Captain. "Oh, well that's different, then." "He was very tall you know... 6' 3", I said. "No he wasn't, that's a fallacy. He was only 5' 4"." "No, he was well over 6 foot. I've seen his cabin and it has a very high ceiling. Have you ever been on board the Endeavour? The replica?" Well, he hadn't, so I had him against the ropes. Hehe. But he let me take a couple of pics, anyway, and I told him about Red Bubble and also about Aussie Odyssey.

Sydneysiders are very friendly. Earlier, a lady approached me and said g'day. She noted I had a camera around my neck. "Don't worry about the rain," she said with a smile, "at least you won't get any shadows." Then she gave me a little flyer. "You might like to read about the future according to the Bible." Oops! A religious nut! "But the Bible is all about the past," I argued as I handed the flyer back to her. "The future hasn't happened yet." She wasn't prepared to waste time with a cynic so she toddled off into the drizzle and wished me a nice day.

As I waited on Circular Quay station for a train to Newtown, a bloke wandered up to me and asked if I was a tourist... noting my red Buckeyes Ohio State University long-sleeve shirt and camera around my neck. "Not really, mate. I'm from Taree but I lived in Sydney before that." We got to chatting and he told me about his work with computer art. His train arrived and he wanted to travel with me to continue our chat but it wasn't headed to Newtown where I needed to go. Pity really because he's been living in Papua New Guinea for the past 20 years and I'm sure he had some fascinating tales to tell.

I'd forgotten how many steps there are at Newtown station... with NO escalator! By the time I got to the top, my legs were like jelly but I had to walk all the way to the Medical Center, maybe a mile or so. I arrived at a pub and stopped for a beer cos I was about 45 minutes early for the doc appointment. Got a window seat and watched a Chubb Armored Truck arrive just outside for a cash delivery to the pub... uniformed guys with guns on their hips. I was tempted to whip out the camera for a few pics but then thought no, no, no - not a good idea, Gary. The guys were giving me supicious glances as it was! And the last thing I needed was to be sprawled face down on the floor with 3 guns pointed at me.

And the main reason I went to Sydney? Well, the doc was a most pleasant man but he didn't like what he saw when he took a peek into my "oral cavity". He said the original samples taken in Taree were too small to get a reliable biopsy result. He's convinced the lesion is malignant, so he took a few more larger samples for another biopsy. I got a needle in the tongue (ouch!) as well as a camera probe thingy up my nose to check my throat internals. All seems clear in that area, but he said if the second biopsy proves to be negative, he won't believe it. Hehe. He said the operation to remove the lesion to the fullest extent will also include checking (and possibly removing) lymph glands in my neck for signs of cancer. It's a serious operation (or series thereof) which will keep me in a Sydney hospital for 10 to 12 days. Oh well... go with the flow, I say. And I'm not gonna worry about it.

My ex-neighbor turned up to meet me at the Medical Center and we went back to the pub for a drink - his treat. I had a terrible time trying to talk because there was a bandage thing in my mouth and my tongue and lips were still numb. Nonetheless, I managed to throw a glass of white wine down the screech without too much effort. Hehe. Lots of practice. Then I decided to catch a cab rather than a bus to Central station in order not to miss my train back to Taree. Good thing I did because the driver was most interesting and even invited me to take his photo! Click here for the photo album.


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