The day I am writing this involved a train journey to London for a work meeting. First happiness this brought me was not leaving home as early as usual, then a shortish drive to the railway station and a bacon cob for breakfast. The last bacon cob in the cafe the person behind the counter told me, I considered myself fortunate indeed.
The train was post-COVID and post-strike half-empty. As I stood on the platform I think there were 10-15 other people about to get on the train. This is a fraction of pre-COVID days and yes, it makes the journey less stressful not worrying about getting a seat but as a business model it cannot be sustainable. Now as you know this is my blog my rules, I suspect you are not reading this to have a discussion about sustainable travel, using trains more, making them more affordable and maybe even re-nationalising them to make this all possible, so I will not mention any of these things.
For me the greatest joy of being on the train is watching the outside travel past me. As I head for London today the countryside is going backwards and I don’t really mind this too much, I almost feel I can see more of it as I watch it disappear into the distance. There are lone houses perched on the rolling hills amid the fields. I have that moment of wondering how I would cope living in such isolation? This is a brief pondering as I know beyond doubt I would not last long. My townie existance would make such quiet probably quite scary. I like to be able to walk to the shops too. In an ideal world I think it would be wonderful but the reality for me would most likely not work.
The train moves through the stations on the route that I can recite in order as we go through them. This particular train on the way in to London is the treat of a train that does not stop between Leicester and London. I cannot always get on this train yet it is my favourite as you get on it and get there. Though it does mean I have to be alert as to where I am. After a period of time has elapsed I have to start thinking 'are we nearly there yet' and the sure and certain sight of Cromwell Tools tells me that the journey will not last much longer. Way back in the day, when I lived in Nottingham, it was the Ladybird Books sign in Loughborough that signalled the journey was soon to end. The answer to 'are we nearly there yet'.
Today as my mind relaxes and gives me some much needed downtime it is the sky that captures my attention. There is a faint cast of blue in the background, which is quilted over by clouds. Some start of shiny silvery-white at their top, with gray brushed up through them like an unsuccessful comb-over. Some look full of grey, an overlay of darker grey, not heavy enough yet to flatten itself into a serious rain cloud, but you know it is considering its options and working on it; it is a cloud with ambition.
Suddenly we are travelling through sun, suddenly the day has improved considerably. Will it last until journies end or is this town (which town?) just in a sunny spot. New houses line the track now, the outskirts becoming the inskirts. You can see the waves of housing aging along. I am now in 1970s land, then fields, then B& Q and car showrooms. On and on, repeat and repeat.
There is a lot of water on the journey. Some are ponds/lakes (I am never sure of the difference between a pond and a late, I can find no clear definition that says when a pond is big enough to call itself a lake or a lake so small it is really a pond.) There is water lying in the fields that should not be there. We have had quite a lot of rain recently.
I am reminded how much green space there is in and around our towns. There are places where the fields just carry on into the distance. Then the train moves to where you can see the motorway starting to run close by. There are sewage works tucked in beside the tracks, and suddenly a beautifully kept set of allotments. The site of allotments makes my heart sing. There is something magical about them, they are such loved spaces, productive spaces and social spaces. The world of the allotment is not one I am privy to and yet I look on them with wonder. One day, I think to myself, one day an allotment will be the solution I may need.
Then there are the buddleja, always the buddleja overwintering, looking cold yet standing proud. As I walked down to the platform at the start of this journey I saw a buddleja in the middle of the tracks, probably about 4ft tall (hard to tell, I was on a raised platform and my sense of perspective is legendary in that it does not exist). I smiled at the buddleja, a knowing smile. That smile that says ‘you are a plant in the wrong place, its not your fault but you are a pest and yet for this brief moment you bring a smile of recognition and joy - nature will not be beaten. The journey begins and ends with that thought, always.
Take care and be kind.