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Facebook is celebrating its 10th birthday today amidst speculation of an impending decline. But the behemoth of social networks is showing no signs of flailing just yet.

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Facebook is one of the first things we check in the mornings and the last, before we go to sleep.

Whether its FOMO, addition or just habit, Facebook has become a stalwart pal for about one sixth of the world’s population, a staggering ‘citizenship’ which could surpass the number of people living in China, the world’s most populous nation, within the next year.

It seems the way people use Facebook is dependent on whether (or not) they grew up with the network. As Seth Fiegerman writes, ‘Facebook’s users seem to be divided into two groups: younger users who are forever connected to people from the past, and older users who are given a powerful tool to reconnect with those they’ve long since lost touch with’.

Having signed up to Facebook at the beginning of 2008, I wasn’t one of the first to jump on the bandwagon. But I did have an account before many of my friends, albeit one I saw as the inferior little sister to my, at the time, beloved Myspace. I actually got a Facebook account to keep in touch with new friends from interstate. Either myself or members of the Sydney clan had to make a move to the dark side (Facebook and Myspace, respectively), and I ended up caving to what I thought was the short straw. About a year later, Myspace became effectively defunct and I found myself pretty proud of my already established Facebook backlog and network.

Nevertheless, I still latched onto Facebook as a way of remaining connected, rather than reigniting long lost friendships from my single digit days. Simultaneously, my peers began to use Facebook as their primary social network, to the point where I’m now connected to hundreds and hundreds of ‘friends’ some of which I’ve either met only once, or haven’t spoken to directly in years. However, every now and then someone I might classify as ‘random’ (a word my mum thinks is ‘soooo Gen Y’) pops up on my newsfeed and I’m kindly reminded of their existence in the world, if not in my life as such.

At the moment, I’m still pretty dependent on Facebook to do what it does best and give me updates and a realtime tracker of what my friends and ‘friends’ are doing with their lives. Ironically, Facebook really shows just how much we’re not doing because we’re too busy updating our online presence through status’, photos and ‘checking in’ to places where we want to be (virtually) seen.

I am not out to diss Facebook. As I said, I’m still thoroughly engaged with, and through, the network to people I’d otherwise have lost contact with. Despite only being a few years out of school, there are so many people I’d have called close friends that I now, rarely see or even speak to. Facebook provides me with that virtual and emotional link to classmates with whom I spent weeks and years, side by side. Someone’s got a new boyfriend, someone else is on exchange, one girl is living abroad and another just qualified as a professional nurse and has already landed the job of her dreams.

When people announce exciting (or even terribly tragic) events on Facebook, there is an almost resurgence and instantaneous spill of camaraderie for those involved. It’s pretty amazing how quickly people come together for someone in need, or to celebrate and congratulate a new couple, job or marriage.

But Facebook also perpetuates a continuous disease of comparison between both strangers and friends. If the aforementioned friend got ‘the’ job while you lucked out, you might feel down. You see a group of old friends catching up without you and checking in somewhere for drinks, and now not only you know you’ve been sidelined, but everybody else in their network does, too.

And social networking is, ironically, incredibly self-centred. While each network proclaims to be about connecting people, they’re all centred around individual users creating a ‘profile’ through which they will portray themselves to the world. Yet whether by intuition, self-protection or devious scheming, what and how we choose to display ourselves online is overwhelmingly self-selected – and if it’s not, you can untag yourself or remove yourself from the group with the click of a button.

So people are choosing profile pictures where they’re pleased with their appearance. They’re checking in only at the places/with people with whom they want to be seen. They’re selectively creating a virtual profile of themselves filled with all the good bits, and only minimal (if any at all) aspects of their vulnerabilities. And as Brené Brown teaches us, there is so much power in vulnerability.

But with over 1.23 billion users worldwide, Facebook is clearly doing something right. The network also hosts thousands of support groups, allows for easy sharing of digital content, and makes inviting friends to your birthday soiree so much easier. Of course, sometimes you’re drowning in events from promoters or can’t see anything on your newsfeed other than bloody memes or videos of friends nek nominating each other, but being so privy at least means you’re kept in the loop… at all times… whether you like it or not.

I suppose what it all comes down to is the power of social networking in creating, building and maintaining relationships between individuals and groups across the globe. In the words of TheFacebook’s multibillionaire founder, Mark Zuckerberg, ‘It’s been amazing to see how people have used Facebook to build a real community and help each other in so many ways’.

Only time will tell if the network survives its terrible teens. Always reinventing itself, Facebook continues to keep up with if not, lead, the Joneses so if it continues to dominate global connectivity into the 2020s, here’s hoping we’re all still interested in those self-appointed popular girls from high school because, who knows? Maybe we’ll even see them settle down some day.

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Today, a friend sent me a link to The Scale of the Universe.

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While I’ve seen it before, I think it’s perfect to share with you, my readers and followers, today.

Whenever you feel your problems are unendurable, take a look at this interactive infographic. If you are feeling small, see how significant you are in a world, solar system and universe filled with so much and despite so much endless space. If you feel there is something blocking your path to success or preventing you from actively achieving goals well within your reach, this animation will reinforce your sense of self, and the power you have to get there and to achieve whatever it is you are seeking.

If you feel like your problems don’t matter, this also helps to reassure you that you are worthy of seeking help or guidance because you do play an important role in the lives of others and the ecosystem of our planet, our species and the universe as a whole.

 

The earth has seven billion humans living on its surface. If you met each living person on the planet for one second, it would take you 200 years.

The average U.S. house could fit 1000 people.

Two hundred million people have visited the Eiffel Tower. 

Despite being the smallest country, Vatican City is still larger than you or I. If you were to stretch your flesh across it evenly, the coating would be about 200 nanometres thick, less than even a single skin cell.

Also, straight hair is almost perfectly cylindrical, while curly hair is flatter, enabling it to curl.

An ovum is the largest cell in the human body, yet its diameter is still 1/400th of that of a chicken’s egg. 

 

So, see yourself as a unique and integral part of this world. Because that’s exactly what you are.

 

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” – Dr. Seuss

It’s so hard to know where to draw the line, sometimes.

Do you lift a pencil before the procrastination can begin, or knock of the pen’s lid only to twiddle it between your second and third fingers? Drawing the line can be preventative or experimental. There’s the line separating the platform from the railway. The lines that run in perfect parallel (tautology?) across the pages yearning for your scrawl. The points of high and low across a musical score, the bars on a cell, the perimetre of your windows and doors. The lines created through positive and negative space when observing the heating vents on your floor. The pinstripes of your pants, the lines of the law. Script lines, spoken words, paraphrases, Southern drawl. Accents have lines and are lines. Exclamation points, marks on a page, seats on a stage.

What is a line? Are all lines straightforward, or are they up for interpretation? Some lines are a way of expression, they are creative, help us make sense of things.

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Sometimes things seem so black and white, with a definitive line separating two distinct parties. Good and evil, right versus wrong, high and low, speech and song.

I wonder if it all comes down to respect.

And just because one person crosses a line doesn’t necessarily make it okay for us to follow suit.

I saw a man yesterday. And I saw another man. The first man was in trouble. But he was troubled. He may have done wrong but he wasn’t wrong in himself. He needed help. And how can one be helped if one keeps to them-self? The first man was scared. He was under pressure. He was paranoid and upset. Then the second man took it upon himself not to offer support or a kind word, but to take out his phone and captured the first man’s pain. He literally filmed another man in crisis. And that cannot be okay. There has to be a line there. And man number two crossed it.

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Today, a young person going through a rough time has found herself to be a headline act featured across newsstands worldwide. I am aware that by writing about this I too, may be partaking in the media frenzy. But I have chosen to voice my opinion for a purpose. If someone is suffering, don’t make jokes. You may think you know the whole story, but for better or worse, people do draw their own lines. There’s the stuff they tell you, and then there’s the stuff they don’t. They might do it to protect themselves, or to stop you from hurting. And suddenly, a single person transverses the line, whatever it may be, and the whole world knows everything person ‘A’ wanted to keep secret.

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Boundaries are both helpful and unhelpful. But, put ourselves in the situation of another and many of them suddenly seem to make sense. Line’s are a protective mechanism, a signifier of privacy, a marker of difference, or a connector between two people or events.

Some lines are straight forward, clean cut, obvious and matter of fact. Practical, functional, statement, simple. Other lines are elusive, you can’t quite catch them, or if you do, you can’t properly grasp them.

But all lines have a purpose. So, if your lines are hazy, broken or you’re feeling uncertain, call another line for help. Because that’s a healthy choice you can make to expel, settle, and regain focus.

Helplines.

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And, here’re some lines I wrote for artsHub this week:

‘Prince Harry Kills Me’ Banner Left Out of Biennale

Understanding Arts Audiences <— *this is really interesting*

On the train home from university this afternoon, I boarded a carriage with very few spare seats. I set up shop (read: positioned myself in a corner with The Age) opposite a distinctive group of individuals, who were chatting excitedly with smiles miles wide on their faces. Usually I try to steer clear of noisy groups, whether it be business men, school kids or screaming children, because I like to read in peace and relative quietness. But for some reason, I decided to stay put and have their conversation as a background soundtrack to my travel home.

The train took off and I started to read. But I was soon taken by the conversation this group of people were having. The first thing I noticed were their accents. Each person seemed to speak our mother tongue with their personal flavouring on top. Some were sweetened and drawn out, others spoke in sharp consonant soundbites. One man I found quite difficult to understand, yet another spoke clear and precise English, as if it was a language she’d known from birth, with just a hint of something special on the side. As I studied their faces, I noticed the diverse ethnicities they represented. Of the six people, some were dark, some of Asian heritage, and another appeared to be Middle Eastern. I heard one man speak of his hometown in Saudi Arabia. He was a hardware worker. One woman thought he’d said ‘hairdresser’ rather than hardware worker, and after clarifying his profession through adjectives they both understood, they had a laugh about their mixup. They bonded over their struggle to learn English but their pursuit of it, regardless.

I came to realise that among this group, one woman seemed slightly out of place. She was an Indian woman, significantly older, spoke of navigating Melbourne’s public transport system, and with correct grammar and articulation. She asked questions of the others, and stimulated conversation through these open-ended inquiries. The other members were only too happy to answer, practicing their English and enjoying the interaction and celebrating their achievements in managing to construct appropriate and coherent responses.

They discussed what might happen if they missed their exit station the next time they took the train, alone. The older woman pointed to the map on the train wall behind them, and used her finger to guide them along the line as she explained how to navigate the map of Melbourne. They were to get off at Parliament, today, and the group carefully named the stations before and after their stop, to familiarise themselves with the suburban stations surrounding the city loop.

As the train pulled up to Parliament, what I had thought to be a group of six suddenly ballooned into a group of a much larger scale. The woman turned around and announced to the seats behind her that they were arriving at their station, and to get their Myki’s out, ready to touch off upon exiting the station. As I scanned those I’d previously ignored in the nearby seats, I began to realise what they had in common. I can only assume, but I’m fairly confident, that each of those youthful individuals were new arrivals on our shores. These people were migrants from war-torn countries, others coming from backgrounds of poverty and hardship. Some had left behind their families and friends, and all were making an enormous change in hope of a better life in a land more prosperous and filled with opportunities, than their home.

It was incredible to see how excited they were. They were so full of energy, hope and delight. They were making friends, overcoming obstacles and making the most of what life has given them. And I was able to gauge all of this from about five minutes on a train. Not even speaking with any of them directly. Just overhearing their conversation.

As they left the train and stepped onto the ground at Parliament, my eyes turned back to my newspaper. I scanned the page titled World. Bombings, corruption, hope for basic human rights and democracy, suicide. Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Egypt. Bulgaria, Myanmar, Libya, and Syria. So much violence, and seems so far away. But it’s closer to home than many of us care to realise. We are a multicultural society, and it is so important that we continue to welcome people to our country. They may be escaping, fleeing, or simply looking for a better life. Some will stay, others may return to their homeland. But we should accept people not just for who they are, but because they are who they are. Everyone has a different story, and it is only through sharing these stories that we enrich our own lives and in turn, the lives of others.

These people appreciate what we take for granted, they persevere and fight for their human right to be treated with respect.

So in the midst the politics of 457 visas, stopping the boats, illegal immigrants and the like, maybe what we need to consider is the value of our culture as a melting pot. We should consider the risks people have taken and the choices they have made in coming to this country, and treat them as whole, and special, people. We need to stop treating people like abused animals; herding them, dictating to them,  mistreating them, and start to speak with them, as our equals.

Because that’s the right way forward for Australia. And politicians aren’t doing us, or themselves, justice, if they choose to act otherwise.

  1. Hygiene and Sanitation in Communal Bathrooms – bathrooms and toilets in particular have the potential to be inherently dirty and disgusting. But walking into a clean, air-freshened toilet cubicle makes the whole experience so much nicer. No one wants to pee when there’s dirt on the floor, blood on the bin lids and others’ remains waiting to greet you, so I’m thankful for cleaning staff and the majority of the population who respects the facilities they use and the cleanliness of those present before and after them. Leave a toilet how you’d like to find it.
  2. Navy Blue – today I wore a navy blue top with navy blue shorts. As a little kid I hated navy because I was constantly dressed in it but I’m happy to say my opinion has changed. I also wore a baby blue backpack. I’m feeling blue, with a positive connotation.
  3. Honesty – it is pretty rare, so it’s nice to know it still exists.
  4. Location – today I woke up at 7:45am to be somewhere by 10am. That’s early for a sleeper like me. But other’s had to get up at 6am to arrive at the same place at the same time. So I’m thankful I live within close proximity to many places I frequent.
  5. Diversity – today, an ABC newsreader was publicly abused on a Sydney bus. But I am in awe of how diverse our population is. Each person is unique and no one can be defined by a single determinant such as race, religion or age. I am thankful that I’ve grown up in a multicultural society and that I have the chance to meet new and interesting people so often.
  6. Graduation – or more distinctly, the phases one passes through and graduates from within their life. I was in the presence of a young man today who is about to graduate into a new phase of life. Stepping into unfamiliar territory is scary, but he has accomplished many things and is now ready to make this transition. It is important to recognise our small graduations, because they may be significant in subtle ways.
  7. Random Acts of Kindness – I opened a lovely packet of Derwent Artist’s colour pencils today. They had been used many times before but the girl next to me had taken the time to organise them according to the colour wheel. I feel less anxious when things are in order and her small action had also made my experience of scanning the pencils more aesthetically pleasing.
  8. People Singing in Their Cars – while driving today, a song came on the radio and I started humming along, as I’ve taken to doing since driving on my own because I’ve always thought people singing in their cars look pretty silly. So while I was humming and singing the words in my head, I looked in my rear vision mirror and instantly recognised the girl in the car behind me was mouthing the words to the song I was listening to. It was a strange feeling, firstly knowing we were listening to the same radio station (which I’ll admit, must happen all the time without us realising) but then I was reading her lips and hearing the words come through to me via my stereo. It made me smile. Furthermore, we were going to the same destination and entered the building one after the other. And it was a song with lyrics and a video clip I love. So keep singing in your car, it’ll make someone else giggle.
  9. Athleticism – not mine, but observing that of others. Watching someone truly run, with power, energy and determination is a great thing.
  10. Getting to the Station Just Before the Train Arrives – I walked onto the platform and the monitor told me the train would be there in two minutes. Best feeling, knowing I’ve timed everything right, from waking up to stepping outside.
  11. Today’s Weather – Melbourne was a beautiful 28 degrees today. I’m generally a Winter Girl, but today had just the right amount of sunshine, a light breeze and no insanely hot periods. Nailed it, Melbourne.
  12. Coincidence – today I met a girl who’d gone to the same school as me, a few years behind, and yet I’ve never seen let alone met her before. Someone recently noted how frustrating it is that in Melbourne (and possibly other cities/countries as well) people are very quick to ask what school you went to. While she saw it as a negative, and I can see her point of view if it leads to judgement or remains the only topic of conversation, I believe it’s an easy way to make connections with new people, find mutual friends and acts as a pathway to discussions of similar interests and knowledge.
  13. Professionals and Education – being in the presence of someone who actively steers a conversation in a meaningful way as a result of their professional training or knowledge is both a testament to their abilities, and a help to those they are guiding. The value of education is often disregarded, particularly in a society where almost everyone receives a minimum of 10 years of mandatory education and so many go on to complete further training. Amongst my peers, I feel learning in its own right is thought as compulsory rather than voluntary or engaging which means it is often seen as having many, often unwanted, strings attached. We should be able to enjoy learning without the pressure of grades or rigorous study schedules, as well as learning to gain qualifications. Hundreds of people go through all levels of education each year and settle with just passing their subjects so they can get their degree and walk. Education is an opportunity, but I feel it isn’t valued as such.
  14. Flexibility – similarly, education amongst other things, should be flexible. Amidst a group of people I was with today, many educational institutions had been flexible in allowing them to miss a day of school or study, allowing the individuals to better themselves and expand their horizons outside of their primary institution. While rules and regulations are necessary to maintain standards and behaviours of living, being about to be flexible is so important. I am still learning to be more open to flexibility myself, but accommodating unexpected situations, people and new ways of thinking is important for our personal growth.
  15. Preparedness – on the flip side, being prepared is very rewarding. I know that if I’m cold, I’ll get shitty. It happens every time and so for me, checking the weather forecast the day before, for instance, is very important. Despite the beautiful weather outside today, I was inside an air conditioned building for the majority of the day. So I’d packed a jumper. When possible, prepare yourself and life get’s easier.

The Victorian Premier Ted Ballieu announced today that from December 2014, solarium beds will be banned in Victoria. This brings the state in line with New South Wales and South Australia, and will increase the push for a national stance against the use, manufacture and importation of tanning beds.

Victoria’s Better Health Channel stresses that “Sunbeds and solariums do not provide a safe tan.” This  year, over 300 Australian’s will die of Melanoma, the deadliest of skin cancers. And medical professionals are adamant that the use of solariums are contributing immensely to this figure. Why should we become statistics when we could be happy (and alive) in our own skin? It is common to experience the societal yearning for a tan that is present all year round, but as summertime comes, many tan before they’ve even made it outside.

Australia is The Sunburnt Country. We’re all taught to recite this Dorothea Mackellar poem in primary school – for me it was in grade six. But just because the stereotypical Australian, as portrayed on American sitcoms and cartoons such as The Simpsons, is a jolly swagman in a cork hat, jumping around with kangaroos, or a surfer living miraculously without financial, family or relationship pressures that are part of everyone’s lives, doesn’t mean these projections are accurate. And in the same respect, just because our land is sunburnt does’t mean we should have to experience our own skin reddening, stinging and for some, peeling, to feel at home here.

My skin is just about as fair as you can get. I burn within 10 minutes walking in the sun and summers without sunscreen always end badly for me. On school days I hated putting on sunscreen because of the smell, and the fear that others would know I was indeed looking after my skin while they were able to go about their days cream-free. For some reason, I was embarrassed about being fair, about being responsible, and that isn’t right. This ideal of a tanned Australian has been instilled in me from a young age, and I’ve put up with extreme burning to edge my way closer to that prize.

Unfortunately, I never got there. I always freckle, burn and peel. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to tan. So of course, I turned to fake tan. When I was in year nine, I was literally the queen of fake tanning – not a position I am proud of today. But looking back, it was pretty funny. I didn’t use a solarium, I haven’t and I never will. But I applied cream, after spray, after can of fake tan. Johnsons, Dove, Sally Hansen, Le Tan in a Can, the list goes on. And it was the norm, at least to some extent.

I do believe people with a tan look healthy. But that doesn’t mean being fair (or pale – which has become somewhat derogatory), is a bad thing. If you are naturally tanned, summer is your time, evidently. But those with fair skin shouldn’t be seen as ill or unattractive just because they were handed less melanin through their genetics.

Getting a salon spray tan is fun. I have and will continue to indulge myself for special events. But spending hundreds of dollars to maintain a tan all year round is expensive and should not be necessary. We should accept that the pigments in one’s skin responds to sunlight, and to varying degrees. While I would endorse spray tans over solarium use, neither should be essential.

The banning of solariums in Victoria will bring with it some controversy, no doubt. Small businesses will suffer and jobs will be inevitably lost. I am not saying it won’t him some, hard. But I believe it is ultimately a good thing. In 2007, Clare Oliver lost her battle with cancer. Towards the end of her life, she campaigned for the banning of solariums, and started to educate Australian’s about the dangers of UV, whether natural or falsely generated. In her honour, the Clare Oliver Melanoma Fund exists to further and continue her message.

The banning of solariums will not cure skin cancer, nor will it prevent deaths in Victoria from Melanoma and related diseases. It will, however, help prevent large numbers of avoidable morbidity in Victorians, and will create dialogue between health professionals, the community and businesses in the fight against terminal and preventable disease.

Day Four of the Carnival.

Official Flower: Red Rose

Today had ‘a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere’ drawing families, school friends and all the regulars to the track for the final day of the Spring Racing Carnival. As I mentioned in my last post, I wasn’t rostered on to work today but received a call yesterday afternoon asking to report to Tote Control this morning to wait to be allotted a placement. We’d been asked to keep all four days free and I was more than happy to finish up the festivities with the crowds.

Completely coincidentally, I ended up at the very say tote of the very same station I’d been at on Thursday, so I was familiar with the supervisors and many of the other workers. On the train in I saw many young girls and boys dressed up in suits and floral dresses, the girls discussing how they were wearing makeup and the specifics of what their mothers had applied to their faces.

Special stalls and areas set up for Family Day included a Boost Juice truck, a large fairy floss store ready to ruin teeth for decades to come, face painting and special kids areas. We’re not allowed to sell bets to kids under 18, nor to adults who are obviously betting on behalf of someone underage but I so no one refused when fronting up with the cash. They’re pretty clearly underage when two young people say ‘I’ve never done this before so you’ll have to bare with me’ and then are profusely thankful for you helping them along the way. I saw no 18+ wrist band but they were served regardless. Same goes for the six, seven and eight year olds who were held up to the counter to place ‘their’ bets with one girl I’d say as young as four even taking the tickets and putting them into her own little purse. What’s The Law?

I saw many young couples with their arms around each other, the girls looking at least two years older than their boyfriends in their heels, splashed faces and tightly pinned hair. All the dresses today were fresh and appealing. I really saw such a mix of colours, lengths, styles and fits, but less peplum than the previous days. The kids and teens sent me back to 2008 when I attended Stakes Day with friends. To be honest, our favourite part was getting ready for the day, but I hope all that attended today were thankful for the sun and celebratory spirit.

There were prams that’d been absent all other days as families flocked to the track for their big day out. There was a stronger police presence than I’d seen before, too. Safety first. Two things I’ve been meaning to mention are as follows. Number one: in no circumstance should stockings be worn to the races. They look ridiculous. The races are a spring festival, so no matter what Melbourne throws at you, you must adhere to the rules of Spring fashion. No fishnets, no patterns and certainly, no black stockings. The same goes for leggings and tights. Just no. Secondly, it’s been really lovely to hear a range of accents around the racecourse. I’ve spoken to many Pommes, heard Italian accents, Americans, New Zealanders and South Africans.

One couple I served multiple times today were from Wellington. They were moderately intoxicated but were fun and having a lovely time. They kept coming back to me, their ‘lucky charm’ to place their bets, and learned my name to personalise things a little. They offered to bring me back fries to eat because I’d been such good luck for them, which I politely declined. But they won in every race they bet on, so you can’t ask for much for than that. I also chatted to a British soccer player who said he was inebriated and here on holidays, who asked me out for drinks. Again, a polite decline was satisfactory but he was fun to have a laugh with for a minute or two.

It’s funny because after four days at Flemington, I saw precisely zero horses. That’s a measure of how big the area is. On the train home, I listened to a conversation of a group of friends, probably in their 20s. One guy was legitimately confused when his friends corrected him saying Indonesian food was from India. ‘Thai food is from Thailand, Indonesian food is from India! A 50 cent cone is 50 cents!’ He had no conception of Indonesia as a separate country, let alone a country in its own right at all. It’s a worry, is it not?

After I changed trains I sat across from two gentleman who I’d say were in their 60s. For one, it was his first train trip in 20 years. He still remembered nearly all the stations, in order, as I confirmed his guess upon request. He also offered me a job at his cafe in a nearby suburb which was kind.

Emirates Stakes was a good day. Girls grew up, families had fun, babies cried and money was won. A more than adequate end to a wonderful Spring Racing Carnival. Congrats Melbourne, you’ve done a nation proud.