I had to go into the city yesterday and took the opportunity to do a necessary detour on the way back. It meant stopping at the show grounds not far out of the city.
A little thought let me do the sensible thing and catch a train that goes on the other line. It saved time - something I did not have a lot of yesterday morning.
I then pedalled through the show grounds to the office. It was a curious experience. Usually my trips to the showground mean I am surrounded by people all busy getting ready for one of the many events held there, people coming to such an event, people packing up after an event, and so on. Sometimes the place is crowded with students doing examinations in the big halls. It's a busy place, full of life.
Yesterday it was quiet, very quiet. The whole place was almost deserted. Somehow the building site away to my right didn't seem to be part of the place. There was a safety fence in between.
I saw just one person in the grounds until I reached the main office. It was an eerie, unreal feeling.
In the office I was greeted cheerfully. I picked up the materials I had come for and then I made another return journey through the deserted grounds. The train station was deserted too. It just added to the feeling that I was isolated from the world for a time.
Waiting for the train I thought back to the journeys my family made when I was child. The Senior Cat and my mother taught in a remote country "town" - not much more than a hamlet - for two years. It was a long, long way from the city. The journey to get there took all day. We would leave at about 6am and get there in the early evening. Back then the road was not sealed and we would endure the choking dust from passing vehicles and hope each one would not throw up a stone and shatter our windscreen - a constant hazard. We would go for miles and miles and see nothing but low scrub on either side of the road, short spindly gum trees and salt bush for the most part. Beyond that there would be what Downunderites call "paddocks", outsize fields. Sometimes we might see sheep and once, in a very long, we might see someone on a tractor.
And I would look for the farmhouses. Downunder properties tend to be very large, thousands of acres large. In the part of the world we travelled through they tend to be even bigger than they are in some other parts of the state. The soil is not good. Farming is hard.
The farmhouses are far apart. I wondered then about the people who lived there. Most of the properties were worked by married couples but the farmer would almost always be out of the house and alone all day - occasionally coming back for lunch if he was working "close in". His wife would be alone in the house and the immediate surroundings. Radio reception was very poor. There was no television. Computers did not exist. They didn't get newspapers and most of them never read a book. They went to bed when it was dark and rose with the sun - or earlier.
I wonder now what they talked about - if they talked about much at all.
It is little wonder that they would head into "town" - the nearest hamlet - for "the footy" on Saturdays, the "tea" (evening meal) which followed, and the dance after that. Many, perhaps most, also went to church on Sundays - a social occasion as much as anything else.
But, for the rest of the week, they were alone and isolated. Some of the hamlets are gone too now. The farms are even bigger as children didn't want to take over and they have been bought up by others trying to make them viable.
I wonder whether people travel through them and see ghosts? Do they feel the ghost of isolation, of loneliness?
Or is it just me?