Sto­ries from the Man­durah train line

Kwinana Courier - - Front Page -

WHEN she got a two-days-a-week job in Perth, it meant a four-hour round trip for Bar­bara Fretz from her ru­ral home in the South-West, driv­ing to Man­durah and then catch­ing the train.

Fretz would rather stand on the train than sit, re­fuses to be glued to her phone or lap­top and be­came a peo­ple watcher.

Dur­ing her first week on the Man­durah line, she hatched the idea for a book.

Fretz says she has be­come a bit of a Mar­garet Mead (the Amer­i­can an­thro­pol­o­gist) but the dif­fer­ence between her re­search and Mead’s is the na­tives do not know they are be­ing watched.

Ev­ery Fri­day, she wrote up her ob­ser­va­tions and the re­sult is Shar­ing the Pole: My Year of Com­mut­ing to ‘The City’.

“Bor­ing train jour­neys are full of hys­ter­i­cal char­ac­ters if we but raised our eyes from phones and lap­tops,’’ she said.

Fretz de­scribes the genre of her book as cre­ative non-fic­tion with “a soup­con of bulls**t” and a “real blast” to write.

One of her favourite char­ac­ters was a hand­some mid­dle-aged man who caught the train just north of Man­durah and dressed on the train.

“When I looked up he was tuck­ing in his shirt, zip­ping up his trousers and strap­ping on his belt,’’ she said.

Months later, she found him rac­ing madly along­side the train on a child’s scooter.

Her favourite is the Bee Boys, a gag­gle of young pri­vate school boys she met when they were jump­ing about and squeal­ing be­cause of a bee on the win­dow.

Fretz col­lected the bee in a small box and the Bee Boys later re­paid the favour when they tried to hold open the doors as she ran for, and missed, the train.

Then there’s ‘Shirley Tem­ple’ who belted out Broad­way songs, ‘Pyro Boy’ who melted soft drink bot­tles with a lighter, the se­nior high school Na­dia Co­maneci wanna-be who de­fied grav­ity on the over­head hand rings, ‘Stiletto Woman’, the dos and don’ts of fash­ion, beer drinkers, lit­ter, ob­nox­ious stu­dents and par­ents who do not look af­ter their kids.

On a less hu­mor­ous note among the colour, Fretz re­cently woke a young boy in a deep sleep when the train reached Man­durah.

“No­body was go­ing to wake him; train trav­ellers seem to have no sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity, they get on the train and it’s like a door closes down and they are into Face­book and head­phones,’’ Fretz said.

For a free PDF of Bar­bara’s book or a hard copy at $8 for print­ing and postage: bar­barafretz@ya­hoo.ca.

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