Dr Airdre Grant at Classic Wallabies versus Barbarians in Lismore.
Dr Airdre Grant at Classic Wallabies versus Barbarians in Lismore. Sophie Moeller

Nut time on the train from Casino

WHEN we arrived at Casino railway station my friend sniffed the air and said: "I smell blood.''

"There's an abattoir nearby. I know these things,” she added weightily as we got her bags sorted and went to seats on the platform to wait. And with that the scene was set.

A tall skinny man, dressed in all black with a head full of matted dreadlocks, paced up and down, glaring at everyone. We studiously avoided eye contact.

A young man in his twenties went skipping past. This made me wonder, when is it no longer acceptable to skip? Children can, but adults not. At what age do you pass the No More Skipping border?

A woman plonked herself down next to me, tears streaming down her face. "Are you OK?” I asked. "My mother died 16 years ago!” she sobbed loudly as she mangled her ticket. "Here, let me,” I said and retrieved the ticket, carefully folded it and put it into her purse. "Thank you,” she blubbered, pulling it out immediately and resuming the mangling.

A hippy male with a groomed man bun and embroidered shawl swung by, followed by his svelte, barefoot partner dressed in that mud coloured hemp fabric so beloved by the feral population. The glaring man in black did another loop. Not looking, we muttered as he skulked past, not looking.

It seemed my role in this travellers' opera was to be Helper. I pointed out the way to the toilets, and jumped up to open the door to the waiting room for a bewildered looking woman who was struggling with a giant suitcase and brightly coloured stuffed bear. I advised two Scandinavian backpackers where to stow their suitcases and located the buffet compartment for another anxious traveller. Lord I was helpful. I was brimful of goodwill as the night became nuttier and nuttier.

We found the sleeper in which my friend would travel to Sydney. A dapper gentleman went into the space next door. "Hullo,” said I in my new role of travel concierge. "What's your name?”

"I don't know,” he said. "I've got old timer's disease and I forget things.'' Then "Jack” he suddenly remembered.

"I'm Airdre.” "Who?” he says. "Eileen? Deidre? Andre? Are you travelling to Sydney?”

"No, I'm not” I said cheerfully. "Well why are you introducing yourself to me then?” said Jack irritably. "I've got old timer's disease.”

The conductor came by looking efficient and very experienced in the special nature of the night train. He got my friend all set and bundled me off. The train glided away. The next day my friend said it was a good trip despite Jack using the toilet all night long and that she pressed the emergency button by accident. Twice.

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