Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
Richmond station here in Melbourne is a major suburban junction that also serves as the jumping-off point for thousands of sports-mad Melburnians. Instead of driving in to the city and trying to find a parking spot, the majority prefer to take a train and then walk across to the mighty stadium we know as the MCG, or Melbourne Cricket Ground.
My first encounter with Richmond station here in Melbourne was an interesting one. It was in February 1985, when I still lived in Calcutta, India. Let me start at the very beginning ...
I was in the Indian commercial capital Bombay (on the west coast) on a long writing assignment, when the phone rang early one morning. It was a colleague of mine, saying I was to drop everything and return to Calcutta. Was there a problem, I asked. No, he said, but I would have to fly to Australia at short notice. Make that very short notice.
It was a Thursday. I had to be in Melbourne by Saturday morning to cover the Benson & Hedges World Championship of Cricket. We're a phlegmatic bunch, us sportswriters. Nothing's too much of a drama.
So I caught an afternoon flight and flew across the country to Calcutta (on the east coast) which was my hometown at the time. I went home, packed a suitcase, picked up my passport, dropped in to the office for a briefing and caught a flight with a colleague to New Delhi (in the north). We had to go to the Australian High Commission there and get high-priority media visas. That done, we went to the airport to board a KLM flight, but was told that it was full.
Instead, my boss told us both to get on a flight to Bombay, where my own journey had begun 24 hours earlier, and attempt to get a Qantas flight. This worked perfectly and, having flown right round India, we then boarded a Boeing 747 to Singapore. After a couple of hours in transit there, we caught another Qantas flight to Sydney and then to Melbourne.
Jetlag? We didn't even have time for jetlag. Sleep had not played much part in my life for 48 hours.
But here we were, each with a heavy suitcase, outside a crowded stadium on the opening day of a full-strength international tournament. Someone suggested that we simply walk across the road and ask the rail staff at Richmond station if we could leave our suitcases there. Deep in the bowels of the station we found a couple of uniformed employees who waved away our apologies and said there was no problem at all. Yes, of course we could leave our suitcases there.
Several hours later, the opening match of the tournament was over - unlike baseball or Aussie Rules football, a limited-overs cricket match was a whole-day affair. Because it was a day-night match, beginning in daylight and finishing under the wonderful state-of-the-art light towers of the MCG, it was close to 11pm when we had finished writing our reports of the game.
We then caught a cab to the city to file our reports and while my colleague tidied up his last few paragraphs, I decided to make myself useful and go to Richmond station to collect our suitcases. I caught a cab and told him where I wanted to go. The driver just looked at me. "You DO realise there are four different Richmond stations," he said with a grin."
Ya live and learn. There was East Richmond, West Richmond, North Richmond and Richmond, he said. Where did I want to go first? We started with East Richmond, where of course I drew a blank. Next he drove up to Richmond, but he approached from a different street, where nothing looked familiar. Undeterred, I found my way (don't ask me how) to the area where the suitcases had been dropped off many hours earlier.
Because there had been a change of personnel, I started to explain to the staff that I had dropped off two suitcases after a long flight. "Yeah, mate," said one of them, "We know all about it. There aren't many journos who fly halfway round the world and drop their gear off here."
It was a less complicated, more trusting world back then, wasn't it?
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