I’m travelling from Norwich to Leeds by train. I’ve just changed at Grantham after a forty minute wait, during which time I made use of Starbucks. Choosing a Mozzarella Panini with a Skinny Latte. I’m glad I consumed these on the platform bench, as it would have been impossible to relish, due to the toxic wind from one (or more) of four lads seated in front of me! They’ve been to a Radio 1 concert.
Clearly still hammered and fairly muddy, they’re pungent.
The man sat on the isle next to me must be reading something exciting on his Kindle as he’s not sitting well in his shorts. Wriggling around, the occasional awkward cough. He’s turned facing the window with one hand obscuring his screen. Cheeks ruddy – looks flustered – intermittent low key groans. (Him not me…)
I love travelling by train. Hard to comprehend why so many use this time to focus solely on their iPhone’s when the British countryside is so breath-taking. I enjoy the sturdiness of carriage bouncing over track with the hum of engine. I would imagine it’s a similar experience to being in the womb? Grounded in transition yet protected by the vigour of confining walls. I like to people watch. Always have done. One of the many benefits to travel alone. But there’s always space for another provided they absorb equally. To whisper … share findings.
‘Someone’s just ‘dropped one’ again – This time I’m wrenching. I may have to move. I think it’s all of them combined with digestive stress, as the one who dealt it goes without question? They’re probably immune to the odour that runs throughout Coach H.
The Leeds to Grantham train was far more civilised. Only six of us on that carriage. A lady sat near – I asked if she knew where the refreshments bar was located. She kindly informed me there were no facilities on that particular journey.Parched, went into daze to pass time.
Snapping back to reality, same lady (now seated next to me, reading her book).
I smiled – she asked where I’d been to? I explained I was on my way to Norwich – it’s a long story. She told me she’d recently relocated to Dublin following a job promotion for a well-known ladies fashion outlet. Elucidating the offer was too good to refuse; she’d left her family and friends behind to start a new life. Returning to London for a weekend visit. Apparently the return journey had cost her over £300. Travel can be costly, myself paying £165 for a round trip to the South East. And that was economy!
My ‘for now’ train companion continued to tell me she’d covered as far as Hong Kong with her work. That she loved the freedom and the pay was attractive too. I admired her independence and commitment to stay with one company, working her way up, thus getting the liberation that comes with a leadership role and salary.
So then I get off at Grantham to head to Norwich. Grabbing a coffee and a copy of Physiologies Magazine. The cover appealed more than the title. Couple of interface articles enticed. (I was not disappointed, by the way.)
Clambered on with my case and bag, trying to juggle coffee whilst being aware my glasses were rapidly slipping from crown point, so strategically placed … it was all going wrong! Another lady sat casually against the window jotting things down. She stood, then adjusted her case to upright so I could fit mine next to it. There was something unnerving about her. I still can’t put my finger on it. But I do tend to go with my gut reaction. It rarely lets me down.
Browsing my magazine I was aware she was focusing her attention toward me. We made eye contact; I gave a zip smile then turned the page. Her eyes still fixed. Unlike the first train where I felt chatty, yet now slightly lacklustre. I just wanted to read as I’d a busy few days ahead.
‘I’ve finished with my boyfriend’, she announced.
‘Oh goodness, sorry to hear this,’ I replied.
Closing her notebook, she continued telling me that having met at Norwich University, they’d been together for eight years. She was a school teacher for juniors in a village near to Norfolk and they’d lived together for six months, then him deciding he wasn’t in love with her.
I felt this entire burst of privacy quite tough to get in to. Assuming she didn’t seek opinion, but more someone to listen. It’s true that on occasion we find clarity amongst strangers.
There was something very stern about her overall persona. She wasn’t the most attractive of people. A large shiny nose and fairly buck teeth, with equal gaps of approximately 7mm, then very pale pink gums. I should image she wore a double brace at some time, as her facial bone structure suggested her teeth could have protruded more, yet still fit comfortably.
Yes, beauty is ‘skin deep’ and chemistry grows with time. Yet is can equally diminish.
I’m not one of these who think we’re all beautiful, but rather, we’ve all got potential. She’d clearly let herself slip or had never bothered much in the first place? It seems that many of those who turn to the teaching profession go with a slouchy, comfortable look, unbiased and ‘well’… plain.
Around five minutes later. ‘I shagged my next door neighbour,’ she declared,
‘Was it good’? I replied.
She looked surprised at my question. Telling me she was drunk and it ‘just happened.’
Oh please… Surely there was some anticipation if their front doors are inches apart.
Asking her, ‘so was this after or during your relationship?’
‘Just after…’ she said slightly blushing yet clearly thrilled at the revelation of telling a stranger about her vaginal activity.
I told her ‘you’re entitled to have some fun. My neighbours are squatters on one side and a couple who are lovely on the other.’ Continuining. ‘He makes his own beer and she’s a Mental Health Nurse named Laura.’
‘Squatters!? That sounds interesting…’
‘Not really’, I responded. ‘I’ve had drug dealers the lot.’
Then, changing the subject I told her about my former neighbour Joan who’d been evacuated due to a gas leak.
A while later the lady got on with her jotting.
Anyway, back to the moment, Norwich not far now. Time to daydream. I’ve my favourite cotton shawl wrapped around me and the clouds are subsiding where the sun is peeping across a meadow of golden yellow flowers on rambling hills, with little chimneys here and there.
We complain that the rail tracks plough through rural UK but on the flip side it makes great window time. It’s so beautiful!
On reflection most glad the stinky bum mob got off at the last stop. I’m now enjoying a cup of tea and a Kit-Kat whilst planning how I am going to build my mini commune, complete with authentic Gypsy Wagon and plans to convert a couple of containers in to work-space. Destination undecided. I’ve discretely squirted some body spray too so the next to board won’t think the stale festival burger fumes belong to me.