About Me

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I am a full-time mama with a passion for writing and talking to fascinating people. I live in a one horse town with a Cowboy and my son. Thank Lord for cyberspace! I lived a colourful life in Sydney for a number of years. Working in advertising and journalism for FPC and the Sydney Morning Herald. During my time in Sydney I competed in a Dragon Boat race, choreographed a dragshow, used the Share Accomodation advertisements as a way to meet men and was told by Noiseworks frontrunner Jon Stevens that I was a bitch! Then came the decision to move back to country for 3 months to help out my Father with newspaper business while he was having treatment. Convinced I was a city girl I was caught by surprise when I fell in love with a farmer (and no, he didn't want a wife... still doesn't it seems!) convinced him that we needed to see the world, popped off to Vietnam to teach english in Saigon - before realising that the "food" in Nam didn't agree with me... turned out to be Monte - my son who is now with the Cowboy and I back in country NSW! I am in a wonderful stage of my life where I am focusing on the things that really make me tick. Including writing these chronicles.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Catty about Mamahood

When my parents and Grandma had come to terms with the fact I was going to have a baby, I received an unexpected compliment.

"Well she is good with the cat", my Grandma attested.

So here was I, the youngest of my family, a party animal who had never so much as held a baby let alone grown one - about to have one.

The only inkling my nervous family had about my potential mothering skills was the fact that my feline was putty in my hands!

As funny as this recommendation from my Grandma was, now that I am a mother, I am finding the parallels between the cat and my son to be astonishing.

Let's start with when I want to read a magazine. Forget it.

In my bachelorette with a cat days I used to love my weekends. I would often take the opportunity to lie outside in the morning sun with a good mag.

Inevitably, the cat, Princess Baby (PB) would see me enjoying my mag and decide it was "me(ow) time" and plonk herself blatantly on the magazine demanding my undivided attention.

Fast forward to yesterday. I was out the front garden trying once again for some quality mag time when my son, the little Prince, decided he would take the magazine out of my hands, rip out a page and suck on the front cover.

Since introducing solids to the little Prince, the comparisons continue.

With PB I would only have to walk past the cupboard where the tin of chicken & liver was kept and she would start circling my legs.

As soon as I opened the cutlery drawer and God forbid, tapped the tin with a spoon - the yowling would commence, and would not stop until that first bit of liver was down the hatch.

I have noticed an eerily similar scenario when I start mashing the pumpkin with a fork for the Little Prince. The clink clink of the fork on the dish sets off a similar burst of impatience and excitement in the Prince.

Thirdly, the needy nights.

P.B loved the comfort of my bed. I bought her a luxurious abode for her furry self but she just turned her nose up at it and used to jump up on my bed to nuzzle at my neck.

She would sleep there beautifully for a good few hours before deciding she might like to go outside. Id eventually get up sleepily and put her out.

Of course outside would get boring and within a few hours later she would be back at my door yowling to be let in.

If I ignored her, shed keep going and my heart would break, but Id ignore her until she started climbing up the gauze. Controlled meowing was hard. Having finally won – shed be back on the bed - curled up in a ball and sleeping.

If my foot would move in my sleep, P.B would jump on it and the games would begin.

Enter Little Prince. It appears my boy prefers my bed to his dazzling cot in his beautifully decked out boudoir – a room just as luxurious as P.B's leopard print apartment.

He would much rather sleep in the big bed with his parents then by himself in there. Similarly, one false move and its either game time, nuzzle time or return him to the cot time.

We are on his watch when its nap time and his comfort is what matters.

Sometimes with PB, I used to sleep in a little corner of my bed just so that she could stretch out comfortably. Heaven forbid her comfort was sacrificed! The same goes with the Little Prince he is often sprawled out with an arm on his Dad and whacks me in the head when he rolls over as I scrunch up in the corner trying not to breathe so as not to wake him.

As much as her comment gave the family a good laugh - Grandma did have a point!

I am happy with the similarities between the cat and my baby and oddly, PB did prepare me, in some ways for mama-hood.

So unless the little Prince starts scratching the furniture and burying his own poo, I am happy with the lessons I learnt about nurturing from my cat.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Scared Sheetless in Vietnamese Hospital

I thought that going to Vietnam and leaving the comfort zone would be a wonderful adventure full of fun and laughter for the Cowboy and I.
It turned out to be the hardest experience of my life.
Emotionally, physically and romantically.
Ending up in a Vietnamese hospital whilst struggling with the surprise news of our pregnancy in a non English speaking country was something I am glad hindsight allows me to laugh at.
We sure as hell were not laughing on this particular day.
It must have been the Pork we had the night before. We both woke up physically hurting - this was not the day we would be heading out on the tourist trail in Sapa.
We could barely leave our room.
Cowboy was confined to the bathroom.
Vomiting and vomiting and em.. vomiting.
I was of no assistance curled up in the foetal position with a fever and suffering from pregnancy shock!
Outside on the balcony, some Chinese tourists looked in. The curtain would not close all the way across. I hope they enjoyed the show.
I was too weak and nauseous to help Cowboy who sounded as if someone had taken his plug out. He was attached to the toilet and he could not help me.
We were at our weakest point.
Thank God for Pete, the Aussie restaurant owner across the road we had enjoyed karaoke with a couple of nights prior.
There was a lull in the vomiting for 10 minutes. Cowboy bravely volunteered to stagger over to Pete to see if he could help us to get to a hospital.
Pete sent a local guy with a reasonable grasp of English over to take us to the hospital via motorbike. Just what we were up for!
The three of us, helmet-less, packed on the bike.
I had to do little mantras in my head to stop the fear of meeting an early death before we reached the hospital.
I weakly clung to Cowboy's stomach careful not to squeeze too hard and Cowboy held onto our translator for dear life.
Our driver carelessly swerved and had near-misses with other bikes and trucks all the way to the hospital.
"Ommmmm... Ommmmmm... Ommmmm"
We arrived at the hospital and the translator took us into see a nurse. Our translator - though very kind - did not turn out to be very helpful as a translator. So I explained through gestures that I am pregnant felt very feverish.
I then tried to explain that Cowboy had been vomiting non-stop and was very weak.
The translator looked confused. The nurse looked confused. We were weak and the communication breakdown here just made us feel even worse.
How I longed, at this moment for the comfort zone of home.
Why oh Why did I want to get out of my comfort zone in the first place? It is overrated!
We were taken to a hospital room and were directed to the sheet- less beds.
The Doctor arrived - we discussed our symptoms with him using sign language.
Difficult and painful when at one's wits end.
Cowboy ended up on a drip. I ended up on the sheet-less bed, not allowed to take anything or have a blanket.
I shivered and shivered whilst Cowboy was motionless attached to a drip trying to reinstall the liquid he had lost.
If we didn't feel so god-awful and had known at the time we would live to tell the tale; we could have laughed.
It was the worst hospital we had ever seen! We were miserable.
We couldn't communicate.
We had just found out we were having a baby and we had no idea what would happen next.
There was no WAY I was going to stay overnight in this hospital....
Admittedly, though his English was poor - our Doctor was very kind.
He smiled at us and tried to make us feel at home, though I would have felt more at home if the floor of the hospital room was not covered in water.
After four hours we were allowed to leave.
We called the Translator and he picked us up on the motorbike again, and took us back to our hotel.
Cowboy and I were traumatised.
We were still ill, but above everything else, terrified in this foreign country with a new life growing inside me and no reassurance by anyone that everything would be Okay.
That night we held each other in the comfort of our sheeted beds telling each other we would be OK... but both fearing everything.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I am serious and don't call me Shirley

Everybody has a Countrylink travel story.
You can guarantee that if you aren't into the country scenery there will always be a colourful character or two on board to pass the trip.
Unfortunately, in my experience, that colourful character always seems to gravitate towards me.
Back in the days of uni onboard the bus from Coota to Bathurst, I met a man I wished I hadn't.
I was minding my own business up the back , when a man who made his presence, and drunkenness known immediately boarded the bus.
Dressed in leary boardshorts and a truckie's singlet he certainly was not a shrinking violet.
He walked down the aisle unsubtly starring at and unnerving each passenger.
With a spare seat next to me, I knew in my heart of hearts that this bloke was going to pull up a pew next to me and proceed to annoy the hell out of me on the road back to Bathurst.
Bingo. Down he went.
"Hello Sunshine - me name's Greg" he said and held out his hand, covered in dirt and grime.
"Sharni," I said obligingly secretly cursing that my parents had instilled politeness in me when other more 'citified' people would have just ignored him.
"Pleased to meet ya Shirley" he replied ignorantly.
Other passengers looked over at me sympathetically but probably relieved that they missed out on the company of my new seat mate.
"So Shirl, where you off to?"
"Sharni, " I corrected "Just back to Uni."
"I'm just outta gaol" he proclaimed proudly.
"Oh," I said peering out of the window, my heart rate accelerating.
"Have you ever shot a bloke Shirl?"
This time I was too nervous to correct my name.
Shirl it was.
"No." I said turning to the window and having a mini freak-out.
"It's a big world out there Shirl, you don't know the half of it"
I took a big gulp and decided that I wasn't going to argue, nor encourage - just kept looking out the window hoping he would take a hint.
Just then a passenger from up the front of the bus started making her way towards the toilet at the back. She was a teenager with a bad case of acne.
Greg took it upon himself to give her some helpful advice at the top of his lungs
"Tea tree oil love, clears up the pimples" he yelled. "Clears 'em right up"
By this stage some of the older passengers started grumbling to themselves and dirty looks were shot at him - but no-one spoke to outspoken Greg.
The poor teenager turned a shade of red and self-consciously made her way to the lavatory, no doubt to cry.
I was close to it myself feeling so sorry for the situation I was in.
Just then he bent down to a bag he was carrying and pulled out a bottle of something in a brown paper bag.
He proceeded to open up a bottle of Port, bent down and poured it over my thonged feet!
"What are you doing!" I gasped in shock
"It's just my way love" he said before taking an almighty scull out of the bottle.
I was frozen. My feet were sticky and wet but I dare not argue with this bloke fresh out of prison.
This drunk and insane bloke fresh out of prison.
I looked down at my sticky brown feet and cringed.
His mood changed.
"Shirley," he said" you know f*** all about the world out there, bet you are barely out of high school "
I smiled nervously and looked back out the window.
I can't remember much more about that trip except just wishing to God that he would get off or swap seats and harass someone else.
He got off the bus about an hour later. As he dramatically made his way to exit he stopped at the front of the bus to give me his final words.
'Don't forget Shirley - it's a big world out there"
As the bus drove off, Greg relieved himself on the side of the road.
I put my bag on the seat and went to sleep vowing not to take the window seat on my next Countrylink adventure. I also made a mental to note to me, myself and Shirley to wear lace-up shoes next time. Port on the feet is not good for long trips.

Friday, August 7, 2009

insane rants as my screaming baby chants

2.44am - freezing feet, screaming royalty.... mama's heart breaking
Partner... sleeping, oblivious...
How can he do that? seems hideous
Guess he's from mars and I am from venus
things are alot different when you have a penis..

Excuse my rantings insane from the challenge of it all
Please little man go to sleep I love you!!!
Just cant pick you up and cuddle you
if I picked you up now - I would just muddle you
Go to sleep and dream of shopping at Big W....
Mama's toes are going to fall off your Majesty, please go to sleep..........

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A big fat whopping sign that I was to live in the country for now...

"I can see clearly now the Armed Bandits are gone" - April 2007
Only four days ago I was down on the ground in the foetal position praying for my life.
Three armed bandits equipped with a gun, a machete and a sledge hammer were standing over some twenty of us drinking in the beer garden at the Golden Sheafe Hotel in Double Bay.
A few seconds earlier we'd heard them shouting “Get down on the F****** ground ” , enforcing the command with a gunshot.
How had I ended up in this mess?
Only three days earlier I left my hometown of Hay for a brief return to Sydney Town where I had been working and
living for several years.
As I packed my overnight bag I was wondering whether this trip might make me feel that I should shut up shop in my quiet little town and return to big-city action.
My first two days were filled with lunches, theatre, clubbing and other twenty-something amusements so on Sunday night after a frantic day of shopping my best Sydney buddy Carly and I retreated to her Rose Bay home to chill out in front of Channel 10. (Sad , I know, but it had been a while since I was able to watch the Biggest Loser!) Time somehow disappeared and at 10.30pm we were still rolled up in our blankets on the couch.
At that point we turned to each other and laughed “Are we grandmas? What are we doing at home, we don’t have to work tomorrow! Lets get amongst it! ” So after tossing the dice over several likely establishments, as fate would have it we decided on the Sheafe in Double Bay and took a cab to NewSouth Head Road.At this time of night the hotel is normally overflowing with swanky party people, but we noticed it was oddly quiet.
Perhaps the Universe was trying to warn us?
We ordered some vinos and made our way out to the beer garden to have a relaxing drink with a dozen or so other patrons , some of whom appeared to have been there all day.
Suddenly the quiet buzz of the garden was broken by the most horrific shouting.
My first thought was that it was just a drunken fool – but I turned around to see a vision that
hasn't left me yet : three masked men – one yelling “ Get down on the
ground” . At first everyone thought it was just bad street theatre and continued drinking.
“This is not a f---- joke” the bandit yelled and fired a gun to ensure we took him seriously.
Carly and I dropped to the ground clutching each other's hands and falling into the foetal position. I've watched scenes like this on television, but my real-life reaction was a little less predictable.
Certainly tears were rolling down my face but, probably out of complete hysteria, Carly and I were both
laughing uncontrollably .
At the same time I was thinking how I still had stuff I wanted to do with my life , how much my body was going to suffer when they shot or stabbed me and and, oh god, how I didn’t want to die. I was thinking of the Columbine Massacre (this was the day before the Virginia Tech one) and suddenly felt empathy with those victims. At this point I was not seeing this was as a pubrobbery – if something went wrong I knew I could be involved in a massacre.
My life and those important to me flashed before my eyes.
I told Carly I loved her and then started praying for my life, all the time in some sort of hysterics. The sheer terror had us reacting in the strangest ways.. “If they catch us laughing, pretend we are crying” Carly hissed at me. My heart was racing, my mind was thinking a million things at once. I could hear the guy lying on the floor next to me calling the police on his mobile, and I was worried that the bandits would include us in their reprisal if they heard him.
If you asked me how long we were down there I couldn’t tell you, but after what seemed years Carly said to me “It’s Ok you can get up now” .She was certainly the calm one of us in this scenario; I was still frozen on the ground.
“How do you know?” I asked as I warily popped my head up.
Then I realised that people were standing once again and that the police and paramedics had arrived.
We learnt later that the bandits had put a knife to the barman’s throat and forced the hand-over of the contents of the safe.
The three had escaped through a getaway car stationed out the back of the beer garden. Never in my life had I needed a reviving a drink so much. Talk about sneaking back into Sydney for a quiet holiday!
The question I had put to the Universe: “Should I return to Sydney?” was answered.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have packed so much emotion into that question:
a little symbolic sign would have sufficed. All in all, Hay has never looked better.

Now I can add Tip Truck Driver to my Resume

(excerpts from email re: life in the country )
In breaking and my God , GROUND breaking news... I have given up my job as a journalist and adwoman for the newspaper and have done something that, would have made me turn in my grave had you told me before I was alive... hmmm... yes no sense... but that is what happens when you become a tip truck driver !!!
Yes do not adjust your goggles, in the final countdown before leaving for the orient, my unemployed arse was getting frustrated and bored and frustrated; did I mention frustration? at the lack of income coming through.
That is when my Cowboy of a boyfriend lined me up work alongside him on the property,
" I will do any sort of work, " I told him wholeheartedly.
So, you who knew me in Sydney as the timid little girl who would sooner fry my eyeballs in a wok then drive a car in the city , or those from the country might recall me as the girl who is too scared to reverse park down the main street ... may be enlightened, or inspired to hear that through the gentle coaxing and patience of a dear Cowboy - I have not only taken the plunge and learnt to drive a manual on a rocky rocky farm... but I am now the official 'truckie' -!!!!
OK, granted, so far I have worked 2 days and required sleeps at every break due to the adrenalin and fear of reversing when the truck makes that BEEEEP BEEEEP noise , you know the one you hear when you see a hardcore truckie reversing???
Well I can do that now!!!!!!
And let me tell you, I ain't looking back!
Oh, sure , I had a pipe dream once, that I would be a famous writer - a cut throat journalist... a this a that, but that was before I got behind the wheel of an Isuzu......
I write in jest, but seriously!
I am so proud of myself for stepping COMPLETELY out of my comfort zone into something that I never ever thought I would do in this lifetime..
I have a new sense of confidence... it is metaphoric of what can be achieved in life when you stretch the mind and body to doing something you never ever pictured in the equation....

Keep truckin'

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Pregnant in Sapa

(excerpt from Vietnam Diary)
"....How life can change in the blink of an eye... I am pregnant. Now my constant tummy complaints make sense...
We bought the pregnancy test from a chemist, equipped with the Vietnamese translation book and I was eager to check it immediately, I was only one day 'late' but had this nagging feeling...
When we returned to our hotel to do the test, to ensure the moment was a memorable one - the town (Sapa, in North Vietnam) was struck with a blackout!
How dramatic!
The receptionist gave me a candle. As I peed into a cup, the Cowboy bought in a candle in a coke can (romantic huh) and as the candle flickered we sat, silently watching a second stripe appear on the stick.
"Does this mean I am pregnant, or not?" Frantically, I grabbed the instruction manual.
The diagram indicated two stripes: Vung.
What the hell is Vung???
Again, the translation manual... I turned pages furiously as the Cowboy held up the coke can like a torch.... Vung, Vung, aha- Vung - it means -- Yes.
As we sat in a foreign country, in darkness - we looked at each other over the flickering coke can and ... were silent.
We had come to Vietnam for an adventure - this was not what we had expected.
The Cowboy and I had not even known each other for 9 months!
So I did, what I always do in a crisis moment - opened the book of wisdom - and we held up the coke can to the page which read:
"Hope is the bird that sees the light when the dawn is still dark"
We are going to be parents. I had NEVER been more in the dark in my life.

Midday Cowboy

Flashback! It is one am on a Saturday Morning. I am on the dance floor in the Midnight Shift - one of Oxford Streets busiest clubs. My dancing partner could have easily have passed for a member of the Village people.
He was dressed in jodphurs, big black boots and a cowboy hat. He was topless, and he was gorgeous! We shimmied the wee hours away to Kylie, Britney and Wham.
And then the Oxford Street Cowboy suddenly shimmied off with a policeman in hot pants!
At that point I realised the only "Man Drought" that existed in Sydney was for the women.
All the gorgeous men were dancing for the other team!
How was I going to meet the man for me if I continued spending my partying time with fake Cowboys in a gay club on Oxford St?
I left the club en route to my Darlinghurst apartment. On the way I passed an array of drunk and souped-up party people screaming down the street. I was chased up the road for money by a homeless lady and was nearly run over by an irate bus driver.
For years I was convinced that dining in fancy restaurants, spending half my wage on taxis, partying all night and sleeping all day was the lifestyle for me.
I was convinced if I led a highly social existence I would meet Mr. Right on the way. It was not the centre of my universe to find him, but secretly I was getting frustrated he wasn't appearing before me.
I envisaged he would be a funky man from one of the "cool" suburbs in a creative line of work. We'd meet for cocktails after work on Thursdays, buy a shoebox flat in the Eastern Suburbs; jog through Centennial Park on Saturdays before cooling off at Bondi Beach; we would race dragon boats under the Glebe Point Bridge; attend fancy gallery and museum openings and every second Sunday we would meet our friends at a groovy cafe for brunch.
Perhaps I had watched one too many episodes of Sex and the City.
I was beelining towards my 30's and although I was having fun, I was not at peace with my place in the world.
For me, Sydney had become all about spending, looking good, being at the coolest venues and always striving for more, more, more. Quite frankly, I was exhausted.
Increasingly, the people that I met were on the same treadmill and it was hard to get off.
Something had to give, and it probably had to be me. Perhaps I needed to find my place and my man somewhere else, outside Sydney?
Fast forward one year.
It is seven am on Monday morning, on a property 10kms from Hay in South-West NSW sitting opposite a real Cowboy.
A world away from the vibrant and sleep deprived charms of Oxford Street. The only sound on the farm is the distant snorting of an angry bull.
THe air is clean and the only beggars in sight are the trees thirsty for rain.
The only Cowboy hat in this scene is an old akubra used for deterring the sun.
I look over his shoulder to the vast flat landscape and realise the drought that exists here is the real thing, not the city whinge of "man drought".
Out here in the country it is dry, it is hot - and when the men wear wide brimmed hats it is practical. They keep their shirts on to protect themselves from the burning sun.
NO longer for me the Oxford Street brasseriel I am having a cup of coffee on a porch with the real cowboy I have managed to snag!
He possesses al the qualities I have been scoping out in Sydney all those years ago - but what the Sydney men appeared to be, my Country Cowboy really is, inside and out.
So now I find myself in the country with a man. I'm living with limited access to fine restaurants and the closest thing to designer shopping is at Go-Lo and little in the way of commercialised entertainment has allowed us to find creative ways to "date". I've swapped dining in the fine eateries of Crown Street for a picnic on the Murrumbidgee River or 'paddock bashing' in the ute! I've been taught the differences between Rams and Ewes, and have learnt first hand how stupid sheep really can be.
The Cowboy keeps telling me that it is time to swap the stilettos for a pair of practical farm boots. I can handle the quiet life, the hot weather, the lack of ocean and life without a cinema. But the day I start wearing farm boots is the day I hope the Village people will come to Hay and whisk me back to Oxford Street.

Sensory Overload in Hanoi

(Excerpts from 2008 Vietnam Diary - Cowboy and I headed over for "adventure" teaching English... fate had other ideas)

"...This morning, the grumble in my tummy informed me something was amiss, and day three of our Vietnamese adventure I entered the ranks of the 30-50% of visitors who get diarrhoea in the first couple of weeks.

In hindsight perhaps it was not the wisest idea to indulge in Grilled Snakes Head and Stomach with white sauce for lunch yesterday. But we are here for a new experience, and Vietnamese just don’t do Scotch Fillet very well.

Thank God for the semi normal loo in the hotel.

After only 3 days in Hanoi I confessed to Cowboy that I was not feeling at ease in the crazy city. I was constantly on high alert thinking I was either going to get hit by a motorbike or manipulated by a street kid – the constant honking of the horns took my insanity to new levels and I felt like I had PMS on steroids. My tummy gurgled and moaned… as did I…what a fabulous holiday companion I was making so far, what is with me ?????

With nothing to offer us a clue to what to do but our trusty Lonely Planet Guide I convinced Cowboy that we should leave this bustling city and head for the hills. North to Sapa.

We trapsed through the hectic streets in search of the train station– official men guarded government buildings – shop owners plucked things (lice?) from elders heads, small forlorn dogs took to the roads like seasoned traffic darters , and men leered on motorbikes at the two naive westerners .

Near the train station shops sold army and police uniforms – the low powerlines tempted fate in every direction. I was overcome with sensory overload.

It was a great turn of fate to discover a refuge in a French style, upmarket restaurant as we had hours to kill before our train.

Our waiter was dead keen to converse with us. We had a lovely time talking with Chin who helped us perfect some basic Vietnamese and we helped him with English. It was the calm before the storm that is Hanoi Railway station.

No two ways about it, Hanoi Railway Station is a nightmare. And as lovely as everyone says the people of Vietnam are - those people weren't hanging at Hanoi Railway station on this particular day.

As we walked through bearing the burdens of our luggage, the locals seemed to be secretly (or not so secretly) watching and laughing at us as though we had toilet paper stuck to our bottoms or something.

We tried desperately to find the place to get our tickets. A woman suffering from severe job discontentment grunted at us and was of no assistance. It seemed no-one cared if we made our train or not.

Suspicious youth followed us around trying to take advantage of our cluelessness. Cowboy indulged them as they tried to make a quick buck. Having what I thought was a little streetwise ability I barked orders at the Cowboy “ Don’t listen to him! He doesn’t work here! Walk FAST , ignore them!”

It was all on. Cowboy and I vs Hanoi –we were fighting a losing battle.

After trudging around with the entire train station laughing at us rudely - We FINALLY figured out we had to be on the other side of the platform. Getting to the correct side involved trudging a long way with our bags through hectic streets filled with mangy dogs, people cooking in the gutter, and the severe stench of urine and rubbish. It was enough to make me bring up my french cuisine.

People shamelessly starred at us as we struggled through the calamity finally arriving at our side of the train station.

We were playing a human version of space invaders with everyone out to get us, our only hope was to avoid the shots being fired to make it to the next level! But goddamn, I wish I didn't feel so ill.... the toilet on the train is not a place I want to be visiting too often......"