TOPICS: Torn and frayed aboard the Easter train

STATIONARY: Holiday train travel to Newcastle can be frustrating.  Perhaps Mike Baird can help.

STATIONARY: Holiday train travel to Newcastle can be frustrating. Perhaps Mike Baird can help.

DIARY of a Sydney to Newcastle train passenger, Easter Sunday, 2014.


At Croydon. Made it. Woke up from a mate’s bucks, dropped off at the station. Board the 11:06 train to Newcastle, now on track to have Easter lunch with the family of future Mrs Topics. Phew.

Today also happens to be her birthday. Good thing we caught that train.


Something’s wrong. Train groans to a halt between Hornsby and Asquith.


In-carriage PA: ‘‘We’re having signal problems, folks. Should be fixed in, um, pretty soon.’’


Train is reversing. Murmur ripples through the carriage and we’re rolling back to Hornsby. It’s pulling us in like the Death Star.


‘‘This train has terminated. Information will be available on the platform.’’


The next train’s due in 50 minutes, but it’s cancelled because of the power failure. Now there’s talk of buses to the Central Coast, but the announcements crackle out. The speaker’s broken.

This is all relayed in a text to future Mrs Topics. Phone dies. Realise forgot to add ‘‘Happy birthday’’.

Can only laugh, kick backpack and mutter that this is, after all, a first world problem. A white-jumpered man with eczema is screaming on the platform at no one in particular.

‘‘F--- you!’’ he yells. People look at the ground.

‘‘F--- you.’’


In the bus line. Hundreds of us, waiting for two buses. We’ll have to fight for seats. People eye each other, looking for signs of weakness.

‘‘Mate, I’m bored s---less,’’ says a guy in a beanie.

‘‘Got any jokes?’’

Um. OK. 

‘‘What did the fish say when it hit the wall? Dam.’’

The guy nods, rolls himself a smoke. Everyone seems to be smoking.

‘‘How do we get to Newcastle?’’ a woman asks. She lights up.

‘‘I’ve told you, there are buses to the Central Coast,’’ snaps a transport officer.

‘‘You didn’t say anything about Newcastle.’’

‘‘Newcastle. Central Coast. Same thing.’’


The trains are back on; the line is fixed. People pour into carriages. Two girls yack loudly in the Quiet Carriage but no one says anything. We’re all a bit frayed.

Train arrives at Wickham at 4.30pm. This is how we got between the state’s two main cities on a day when everyone had somewhere to be. Thoughts, Mike Baird?

HUSH: A new phone app keeps Anzac Day solemn.

HUSH: A new phone app keeps Anzac Day solemn.

TOPICS can’t decide if this is insane or brilliant: you can call a number in the lead-up to Anzac Day and listen to ... silence.

The Minute of Silence is a promotion by the Anzac Appeal, which recorded the silence for us to listen to on our phones. You call the number and pay money to hear, well, nothing. Most of the proceeds go to veterans, says the promo’s website.

‘‘Nothing speaks louder than silence,’’ it adds.

We have questions. Can you download the silence to your phone and play it on speaker to drown out your mates? Does it cancel out those people at the footy who yell out during the minute’s silence?

Topics is reminded of Lisa Simpson in a jazz club, defending a violinist to an unimpressed punter.

‘‘You have to listen to the notes she’s not playing,’’ Lisa pleads.

‘‘Pssh,’’ says the guy.

‘‘I can do that at home.’’

THIS Grange: The Musical thing (Topics, April 19) could actually happen.

Dave McTaggart, of Edgeworth, wants the soundtrack to include a couple of George Thorogood numbers.

‘‘Firstly, One Bourbon One Scotch One Beer, because I reckon Barry will have gone off the vino and the song is about a bloke who loses his job and gets evicted,’’ says Dave. 

‘‘Then I Drink Alone ’cos Barry ain’t gunna have as many mates as he did a week ago.’’

Topics will have one with you, Barry. Preferably not on a school night.