Tarago Diaries #18 – Frankston

Mark reflects on the nature of misfortune and perceptions of it.

Author:  Mark Seymour.

Date: 1 November 2019.

Original URL: https://www.facebook.com/MarkSeymourOfficial/posts/2234616109978049?__tn__=K-R


Article Text

The car broke down. Perished radiator hose. Kinda critical. Had to get the train home. Mounted the platform at Oakleigh Station, stood on the Frankston side and heard a woman cursing on the other platform in the mid-morning drizzle.

the place was empty but for me and her.

She came into view walking up the northern end, oblivious, raving into a mobile phone.

The raving turned to tears, then screaming abuse, shoulders shaking, head bent forward, a slight stagger. Stoned or drunk maybe.

The abuse escalated.

“Don’t come home you bastard.”

The train pulled in, doors opened and she continued as she stepped inside.

“Why the fuck do you think?”

Human misery isn’t funny, boring to point this out I know but when you’re alone in the face of it you’re bound to wonder how it started. What got her there? Drugs, violence, abuse, poverty or a cocktail of all? What came first? The dog or the tail? Who cares? One thing’s for sure.

Public transport is a loungeroom for many.

People do more than ride on trains. They live on them. Generally cash is the common denominator though. Otherwise you’d be having said domestic behind the wheel on Nepean highway..

In an Audi perhaps.

Youth on Young Street. Hangin’ out on their pathway to the loungeroom, for whatever reason.

Gaunt, furtive, dressed in dirty crushed home gear.

The question inspired a song once. The capacity to endure, survive. People are always going home in one way or another. And wherever they find it is a moveable feast.

People cry for home.


The word ‘Frankston’ comes up on stage occasionally.

And People laugh. Or sort of titter. Which is a source of wonder. Why funny? It’s kinda nasty isn’t it? To laugh at misery? Or not?

It’s quite specific actually. Say the word ‘Frankston’ and BINGO.

It goes like this:

“this is a song about Frankston.”

Thought bubble perhaps: Really? Frankston? How unusual. Oh I get it. He’s going to poke the stick. Jeer. Mock. How ‘rock’ of him.

Hmm. Titter.

But I wonder, if you’re still wandering through the world looking out at stuff, wondering at the mystery of life itself, still thinking about how humans work, how they deal with adversity, that’s interesting isn’t it? Human beings can be marvelous creatures. Their capacity to endure is gut wrenching and worth singing about I would’ve thought.

There’s misery everywhere. Even in Brighton. Or Subiaco. Or Vaucluse for that matter. But you’re hardly likely to have it thrust in your face as you wander through the leafy streets of success. Brighton is not the sort of place you’re likely to feel something surely? ‘Cept maybe avarice. Come on! I mean Frankston is friggin’ interesting!

Audience laughter:

Band starts ‘Football Train’.

Which involves a rolling snare beat from the Maz, big grand appeggio riff from Cam and an early reference to Young Street which runs alongside the length of Frankston Railway Station full of Saturday morning street kids.

It’s an anthem really. Quite positive in fact.

Quietly To the lads:

“Hang on guys. I just need to address something.”

Band stops.

Back to Audience:

“Aah, why are people laughing? Did I say something funny?”

The Jo Pesci moment.

Of course, it’s rhetorical. No one’s likely to shout, ‘you mentioned Frankston you dick.’

Hmm. Then again..

Actually, to be truthful, I’m not entirely mystified by this. And far be it from me to put a crowd on the spot but still, never let a moment pass. There’s nothing like audience engagement. We’re all way too squeamish we Aussies.

‘Cos there’s a phenomenon in live theatre that actors remark upon, when an audience finds a dramatic moment inappropriately amusing.

And the director may warn the actor in advance not to be confused by it because sometimes

‘people laugh out of fear’.

Ever heard of ‘nervous laughter’?

Especially when the lines of social acceptability aren’t solidly drawn and you’ve mentioned the word ‘FRANKSTON.’

But you’ve got to wonder, at what point does a human being stop being one and becomes a thing? A sort of miserable joke to be scoffed or guffawed at?

This isn’t a personal. It’s not accusatory. But there’s definitely a line. It’s historical actually. Kind of runs through civilization itself.

I remember the dignity of my old dog Sally who when she died went quietly into bush in our back yard and sat down to wait.

It was sad. Tender. Definitely not funny.

Make no mistake.. human beings en masse can be incredible at times and fairly awful at others.

So, next time I launch into Football Train and I forward announce it thus:

“This song is about Frankston.”

By all means laugh.


It’ll be a real conversation starter…