Perhaps the best part of my childhood was that we had lots of friends and relatives in the country that we always seemed to be visiting. I didn't hate Melbourne, it's just that the bush was quieter and nicer to look at. Bendigo, Ballarat, Yea, Heathcote; these were the places we visited a lot, and even when we weren't visiting people mum would decree an overnight trip to other places, she grew up in Bendigo and although she never verbalised it I have a feeling that she felt the same way about Melbourne that I did.

Uncle Harry lived in Ballarat, he was a widower who built trains at the Ballarat workshops. His well kept house was about a mile from the railway line. The winters in Ballarat are remembered not so much as how cold it was but by how wet everything felt, before sunset there was often dew on the ground and come nighttime the fog was usually never far away. It always seemed so quiet and still at those times, a stillness where chimney smoke rose in a perfectly straight line and horse hooves could be heard crunching the frozen grass in the paddock at the back fence.

It was on one of these perfectly still foggy nights that mum let me and my two brothers walk down to the the railway line to watch the Overland express come down the hill into Ballarat. The fog felt like a blanket, the infrequent streetlights speared at first as a tiny pinprick, as we got closer it slowly revealed itself until the shaft of light looked like in upside cone, a spotlight shining down onto an empty stage. We moved on, the only sound our footsteps crunching the dirt footpath, never sure what was just beyond our tiny range of vision, a startled rabbit rusted out of the bushes, my heart pounded and I was glad I was with my two brothers.

We crossed the highway, climbed the stairs of the footbridge and waited, we could barely see the train tracks, a dog bark punctured the silence, it sounded like the bark echoed but it was an illusion, fog does strange things to your senses. The wrought iron footbridge was cold and clammy to touch. We waited.

We heard the train long before we saw it, the mechanical whine of the dynamic brake started off as softly as the sound a warm doona makes as it scrapes across the sheets, it grew louder and then the soft glow of the headlight, it too grew until it was fully formed, the train revealed itself like a dragon emerging from a mist girdled castle. The headlight shining straight at us as it tore a hole in the night. A second before the train slid underneath us the air was pushed aside and the bridge rumbled as the hot exhaust fumes washed over us. I turned around to see the headlight, the last carriage went underneath and I watched the red tail lights slowly disappear until the fog extinguished them, my heart was pounding. Stillness and silence returned and right then I knew I wanted to be a train driver

A few years later we visited him one winters day and sat around the kitchen table drinking cups of tea. By this time my brothers had moved out of home so the trip was just mum, dad and me and I was missing the adventures I'd had with my brothers.The conversation was mundane so I went outside, it was cold, the late afternoon sky perfectly cloudless. His property backed onto a large field. It was bright green from the typical drippy, foggy Ballarat winter and the sun, golden, like in an illustrated fairytale, raked across the field and reflected off the rooftops across the valley. Just like that night years before, smoke from wood fires rose in a perfectly vertical column from the rooftops of houses where evening meals were being cooked. I could hear a dog barking a few blocks away, was it the same dog? I heard a car changing gears down on the highway. I rested my arms and chin on the low wire fence and just stared. An old horse ambled over towards me, condensation rising from his nostrils and stopped in front of me, looking at me with those huge horse eyes that always seem to look so gentle. I started talking to the horse, telling him that my brothers were gone now and he snorted. We looked at each other for ages, the sun dipping below the treeline. I didn't want to go anywhere. I realised that I didn't need my brothers or anyone else to enjoy myself. For the first time in my life I was completely happy being alone.