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.


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.

Another train journey

Last Saturday I decided at the last minute that I would go to the writing group I joined in 2014.  I had wondered whether it was worth the effort.  We meet in alternate months.  I checked the weather forecast and it was going to be warmer by 1°C and sunnier than here.

Last time I went I made notes in a small notebook on the outward journey and later used them to write a poem.  This time I realised I only had my diary and a posh notebook with me.  I noted down the birds I saw on a spare page in my diary.

The notebooks I mentioned

The notebooks I mentioned

It was high tide.  There was a large group of cormorants, which I was not quick enough to snap.  Later a group of birds on the shore included cormorants, oyster catchers and gulls.  They looked to have sorted themselves out into breeds!

Some of the berries I had noticed in November were still on the bushes.  This time I didn’t see any herons.

I took a few photos from the window of the train, having in mind the Daily Post photo challenge – Optimistic.  I was optimistic travelling and even more optimistic taking photos through the dirty windows of a moving train!

There were many people travelling to a football match.  The platforms looked busy, but the train did not become too crowded, although it was only two coaches.

Some of my photos may be seen on Sue’s words and pictures.  I also took a photo from the Castle View Restaurant in a department store, where I ate a sandwich and drank tea.

Can you see the castle?

Can you see the castle?

As well as travelling on the train I also have to catch a bus to reach the house where we meet.  I was eating a bar of chocolate as I boarded it.  Then I remembered that bus companies do not allow eating or drinking.  I hastily hid it in my bag, without thinking of the consequences.  (The following day I emptied my bag and had to clean away crumbs of chocolate.)

The meeting was enjoyable and interesting.  Our homework had been to write about red sky.  One person had written a children’s book and illustrated it.  We had at least two poems written by members and several pieces of prose.  We heard about South Africa, India and Switzerland as well as Bible lands.   We also talked about books we had read.

On my way to catch the bus home I was treated to a murmuration of starlings, which I saw twice in the sky above the busy road.  It was dark by the time I reached the station, which sounded like a roost for birds.  I did see one pigeon on a platform.

Some of the passengers had been to the match and were discussing it and the wider politics of football.

My walk home from the station was in pouring rain.

Three days later part of the railway line I had travelled on was closed due to a landslide in a storm.  It reopened in a couple of days.  It is easy to take the infrastructure for granted. The mechanical diggers that we have today make work easier than when the railways were constructed.  Even so people have to work in all weathers (and at night) to repair and maintain the railways, roads and power lines.