Up until last Sunday I have been more or less keeping up to schedule with my blog posts, but last week I was travelling to Bristol. Of course I could have scheduled it, but I had a very busy week and kept putting it off and putting it off, until finally I was hurrying to get packed to go away for a couple of days and I realised I hadn’t done it. What was worse my little Notebook had frozen and I couldn’t do it, either on my journey, or when I was away.
The Notebook was something else I should have sorted out, but again I hadn’t got around to it. Mostly, I admit, because technology scares me and having to download a programme I’d never used before was one of those things that I consigned to the depths of my consciousness on the understanding I would do it when I had some free time, which of course never arrived.
So there I was with a new book, the next in the Letty Parker Adventures, to edit, plus a blog to right, sitting on a train for four hours with no means of doing either.
Refusing to let the guilt creep in, I decided that I would use the time to experience the journey in a way that is not possible when I’m working.
It was a beautiful late autumn day, blue sky, vibrant yellow and gold leafed trees. The drive to the station was very quick and the platform was empty. Gradually, however, it filled up and when the train came in I had to move fast to get a seat.
As the doors shut, I heard a woman ask “This is the London train, isn’t it?” To be told by another passenger that the train was going to Bournemouth. “But” she said mournfully, “it goes from platform 1.”
“That’s the next one,” someone replied and I was left wondering what she was going to do.
By the time we left the next station people were standing in the aisles. It was not hot, but the woman by the luggage rack was fanning herself with a paper fan. Was she ill? Menopausal?
At Birmingham, I had to get out fast, as I had a connection to catch and platform to find. Getting to the door, I joined the others who needed a quick exit, among them an older couple, the woman very pale, wearing a silky blouse and a black fur gilet which she took off and put over her arm. She was staring anxiously out of the window and husband, or maybe partner, smaller, older greyer, had his arm protectively on the small of her back. Was it simply that she didn’t like travelling by train, or was there another reason for her anxiety?
Getting from one train to the next was, as is usual at Birmingham New Street, fraught. The barriers were down, there were no staff to ask and none of the departure boards so much as mentioned Bristol Temple Meads. I was beginning to despair, when I saw someone in uniform. Bright red lipstick and a mobile and she gave me the number of my platform and I was ready for the second leg of my journey.
Travelling south west into the afternoon, sheep grazed in harvested fields. The sky was a softer grey-blue and the landscape was flooded with light. At the side of the track the branches of a tree were festooned with old-man’s-beard and the waters of the canal were a deep bronze. Stroud was a town strung along the side the valley. Red brick mills, Bath stone houses, churches perched on the hillside.
Then in the industrial suburbs of Swindon and out again through Bath Spa, pretty station and a view a sweeping Georgian terraces. The train sped up, plunging through the cutting and into the tunnel before emerging into Temple Meads.
Greeting by bright sunlight I made my way to the exit, where my son-in-law was waiting.
PS The picture at the top of this blog has nothing to do with my journey. It just gives a flavour of the day.