Travelling by train

One of the people I follow on Twitter travels by train and tweets about his fellow passengers, sometimes quoting their seemingly bizarre comments.  He is well-known in the UK as the broadcaster, Ian McMillan (@IMcMillan).  Some of his tweets make me cringe, but he is very popular.

When I travel by train I probably observe as much as he does, but I do not go online from the train.  Instead I allow my observations to settle.  I might tell members of my family or friends about the strange fashions I have noticed or the conversations I have overheard.  I may even blog about them: View from the train, An outing by train, Life, luck and Lent and Another train journey.

I have recently made a series of journeys to visit relatives and attend a writers’ day.  Travel broadens the mind.

I learned about a game some people play on the internet.  They open a random page on Wikipedia and see how many clicks it takes them to reach the page about Hitler.

Why Hitler?

Why not Queen Elizabeth II?  Or one of the saints? Or the pope? Or even Jesus Christ?

I heard a proposal to resell used Kindle books in the way printed books are sold in charity shops.  This raises all kinds of questions.  Charity shops do much good, but authors do not gain anything from their books being resold.  There is a scheme in place for them to receive some payments from library loans.  It would not be practical to have a scheme for the resale of books to be monitored and authors rewarded.  Only the initial purchase of the book is of value to the author (and publisher).  No-one would want to prevent books from being sold to raise money for charities, but perhaps those of us, who sometimes buy books second-hand might help authors by reviewing books on Amazon.

In a way it is a good thing that digital books are not resold.  The issue that gave rise to the idea that they should be, was that digital books have a single owner, who may have built up a sizeable library.  This investment allegedly cannot be passed on to their heirs.

On Saturday at the first station I entered, I was handed a leaflet by a policeman – presumably British Transport Police.  It was about reporting hate crime on the London Transport network. It did not occur to me that later that day, I would see one of their officers at work on a train.

I was impressed by the way that this officer engaged with the people he was trying to keep in order.  It was not particularly late at night, but in rural areas transport is limited, so people, who go out on the town do it earlier in the day.

He was helping keep all the passengers safe on the train.  This is important.  There should not be any no-go areas or services on the transport network.  As a writer I was interested to observe my fellow-passengers.  I even told the officer I was collecting material!

The Writers’ Day will have to wait for a later post.

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My head is full of spaghetti

Last weekend I did something I had been hoping to do for about a year.  I went away for a long weekend to meet with a large group of writers.  Many of them are members of the Association of Christian Writers.  The speakers for the weekend were Adrian Plass, Bridget Plass (his wife) and Tony Collins, a publisher of fiction and the author of a non-fiction book, Taking my God for a Walk.

I have come back so full of stories, ideas and experiences that it feels as if my head is full of threads of spaghetti, which need time to settle down and become untangled.

It would be worse if I had remained indoors for Saturday afternoon and attended more sessions of information.  Instead I went for a two hour walk in the hills with five other people – not all writers.  After that I did some singing with six other women of various ages.  It was very enjoyable and relaxing.

I travelled on five trains and was a passenger in three different cars.  The journey took me from one county into two others and back again by a different scenic route.  Almost the entire journey was through beautiful countryside in Northern England.  Part of it was along the coast.

View from the train

View from the train

At one point in Yorkshire looking at the small stations I recalled a memorable day in November 2010, when I was in a party of four people travelling on four trains each way to reach Gruyère.  “Look at that castle!” I said.

“That’s where we are going,” replied my daughter.

I was amused by the contrast in size of a station (in Yorkshire) named Clapham with another station I travelled through twice over a month ago, which has a two-word name.

How can I unravel the spaghetti?

Unless my readers have any better ideas, I intend to let it simmer for a while.  I shall continue with my usual routine, trying to do all the important things, being flexible enough to cope with any unexpected events and letting strands of spaghetti out in the form of blog posts and other literary endeavours.

Hopefully nothing will boil over, burn or explode.  Perhaps some of the strands may even be nourishing.

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To travel hopefully…

To travel hopefully…

…is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.

(Robert Louis Stevenson)

I have mostly heard this misquoted as “To travel hopefully is better than to arrive.”

Last time I mentioned that travelling hopefully could be the theme of this post.  A post on Sue’s words and pictures describing my journey to a writing group is also relevant to this theme.

Last week I set off on a longer journey.  I had arranged a visit with plans to see as many members of my family and friends as possible, but not all at once.

After all the storms we have had and the resulting closures to sections of the railway, hope was definitely needed.  The journey began well with the newly installed digital information system advising that the first train would be on time.  Suddenly “on time” was replaced by “8 minutes late”!  Fortunately I had decided to travel on an earlier train in case there were any delays.  Another passenger had been hoping to connect with a bus to keep an appointment.

The train stopped between stations.  An announcement was made that a delay of 15-20 minutes was expected.  The train arrived at the mainline station considerably delayed, but still in plenty of time for my next train.  I used the ramp to take my luggage across the station.  An employee of Virgin trains asked me if I needed any help, so I mentioned the train that I had booked a seat on.  She confirmed that the 12:46 train indicated was the same as the 12:49 on my ticket, indicated the train standing at the platform and gave me permission to board it immediately.

“I want to buy a sandwich first”, I replied, thanking her for the excellent customer service.

I had expected to buy a sandwich and a puzzle book in WH Smith near the ticket office.  Once I was in the shop I realised that it was a different franchise selling hot drinks as well as the other items I expected to find.  As my favourite puzzle book did not appear to be there, I pulled out a wrapped bundle of Puzzler magazines.  It advertised fun for all the family.  I could see two titles through the plastic and read that they were all out of date, in case I had been thinking of entering any competitions.

Being in good time for the train I was possibly the first person to enter the coach with my reserved seat.  I settled myself down and opened my bumper puzzle pack.  The magazine hiding at the back was the sort I’d have chosen.  It felt like my birthday!  There was one, which Mum likes, another, (which is probably too hard for the youngest members of the family, but won’t eat anything) and a pocket crossword book.  There was also a leaflet advertising the launch (last year) of a cryptic puzzle book.  It included hints and tips for solving cryptic crossword puzzles.  I found good homes for them all during the week, just keeping my favourite.

Unlike people travelling to and from Scotland, I benefitted from the closure of the line to Glasgow as I could sit in a warm train instead of having to wait on the station, either on a cold platform or in the waiting room, which has also appeared on Sue’s words and pictures.

While I was on the train I received a text message from a family member, telling me that the London underground staff had called off their strike for Friday-Saturday.  She had been concerned about her own pre-booked journey.  There had been the possibility of changing her visit from Saturday to Wednesday.

The train arrived on time in London.  There was a slight hold-up at the end of the platform, where tickets were inspected.  I crossed London by the Victoria Line and checked the platform at Victoria station for the next train to my destination, only to see a train pulling away from it as I approached.  I asked which train to get and there was one waiting, which arrived at my destination five minutes before the time on my itinerary.  I left the station, crossed tram-tracks and a busy road to reach the bus stop, catching the first bus going near to my destination.  I did not see a particular bus, which would have taken me closer.

After a week of activities with friends and family, I had to make the same journey in the opposite direction.  There were no problems with it.  I discovered that the tilting trains are more comfortable in an aisle seat than a window seat.  (Usually I choose a window seat for the view, but I am liable to feel queasy due to motion sickness.)  It is obvious that the outside tilts more than the centre of the train.  I can’t think why it didn’t occur to me before!

Penrith station and castle

Penrith station and castle. 

When I changed trains I met someone I hadn’t seen for a few years as she spends most of her time abroad. We travelled together as far as her destination.  Hubby met me and drove me home from our local station.  He said the train had arrived three minutes late.

I’m glad to have gone and glad to be home.  I’m also thankful that there were no serious problems with any of the legs of the journey.  The name of the Virgin train I travelled back on was “Mission Accomplished”.  My mission was accomplished too.