2

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  I could see two titles through the plastic and read that they were all out of date, in case I had been thinking of entering any competitions.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.

5

View from the train

My life is full of stops and starts.  Starting out from a station with four platforms in the morning, I welcome people of all shapes and sizes, a few dogs, bicycles and luggage in all shapes and colours.  Sometimes I wonder how I put up with the noise.  My engine is noisy, I know.  But the passengers!  Some of them have ear-phones with noise going straight into their lug-holes.  Others are excited to be travelling with friends and talk animatedly, getting louder and louder as the train fills up.

Weekends are the noisiest.  Take this one in July as an example.  There were the usual stops and starts, surges of people going to visit friends and family in some of the villages, hikers setting off on their weekend walks from beautiful places, shoppers going to the larger places.  Then it all began to be too much of a good thing.  More people had been getting on than getting off.  My two coaches still had a few empty seats, but out of each pair of seats, at least one was occupied.

A platform at a pretty village was busy.  A few people climbed down from my four doors.  There were far more waiting to climb inside.  A party of little girls holding hands in pairs expected to find seats together.  Their adult friends accompanied them onto the train.  Not much room.  Some passengers moved round, so that the girls could sit together.  The adults remained standing.

Another station, more bodies (living ones, I mean).  A tunnel. “High, low,” goes my horn.  Out into the light I come, slowing into a station.  Oh, my…  All those people.

Fortunately quite a number are heading for the carnival here today.  The ones waiting climb aboard.

My conductor has given up trying to move along the centre of the coaches, checking tickets and collecting fares.  Hardly any stations on this line are manned or have ticket machines.  All he can do is operate the doors and try to keep the passengers safe as they enter and leave.

Who are those women in uniform?  They look very official.  Aircraft cabin crew?  No.  There are RAF-style uniforms, yellow  uniforms, other costumes and lots of makeup.  Some people are applying more as they travel.  They are entertainers – a dance troupe heading to a carnival farther along the line.  I can hear them chatting to another passenger, who was as mystified as I was about their gear.

I call at more little stations and one of the main ones.  Oh, dear. Oh dear.  It is very crowded.  If I had arrived empty, I’d be leaving full.  But I’ve arrived full.  What now?

Good.  A large group of adult and junior rugby players are headed for this town.  And some shoppers.  I’ve heard there is a good shopping centre here now with lots of chain stores and some independent shops.  I have to take the passengers word for it.  I can’t leave my tracks and find out for myself.

What a crush!  They’ve all managed to pile in.  Those entertainers are relieved that some more of their number have come on board.  They might have had to wait for them to come by bus.  Whatever next?

The next station is the one for the other carnival.  The dance troupe musters its forces and begins to pass the standees in the aisle.  They alight from the front of the train and have to walk along the platform to the exit.  Not much delay here.  How a train is supposed to run to time, when loading and unloading takes so long, I cannot imagine.  My conductor will have some explaining to do.  He has targets to aim for; sometimes they are impossible to attain.

The track leads inland now and we pass fields and rivers.  There are still more people joining the train than alighting at each station.  Did someone say they are going to the races?  And it’s a sunny day.  That makes a difference to the number of shoppers and sight-seers.  People with luggage and another train to catch travel regardless of the weather.

The conductor is at his wits’ end.  The quiet little station with its floral decorations and its murals is over-populated.  He walks along the train banging on the windows and indicating to the standing passengers that they need to squash up a bit.  A man with a young dog was waiting for the train – or was he?  Someone has given him a suitcase and off he goes on foot with it and the dog.

At the next station I wonder what the mature lady with her long-distance bike will decide to do.  The panniers might have fitted in the bike area, but there is no room for her and the bike.  There’s another train behind – almost an hour behind.  And will it be full?  And will it be full?

I heard that the train ahead of me took ill part way along.  Did the passengers wait an hour or was a bus laid on?  They never tell me.  They never tell me.

Two more station stops and we’re there.  “All change.  Remember to take all your personal possessions with you.”

No apologies for the delay or the crush.  I’ve got you there.  What more can you expect at my age?

 

9

Journey

Written in response to the daily prompt: Journey

Last week I decided to make a journey to the city shops.  For me this takes over an hour by train, stopping at every station on the way.  The weather forecast was good and I needed some summer trousers.  So off I went.

I remembered to post a letter at the local Post Office before continuing to the station.  I live in a village which was not designed for motorised traffic.  On the way from the Post Office to the station I felt threatened twice by unobservant motorists.  The first time was when a four by four pulled up on double yellow lines just ahead of me.  I couldn’t work out what was going on and thought that a window might be opened and directions requested.  Not so.  The passenger opened his door and got out missing me by inches.  He apologised, but I was quite shocked and just glared at him.  Those heavy doors are wide and the pavement is very narrow at that point.

I was a bit more streetwise about the next incident.  A car was manoeuvring on a parking strip near a restaurant.  I don’t think the driver was aware of my presence, but I kept clear of the vehicle.

On the platform I half-recognised a young lady, who was talking loudly to another about-to-be-passenger.  By the time the train arrived I had heard enough to identify her – the trumpet in her luggage gave it away!

The train was packed for the first two stops to the next town.  I prefer not to travel facing backwards, so before the waiting passengers could get on I moved to a forward-facing seat with a table. Looking out at the people waiting to board the train, a certain group stood out from the crowd.  It was still quite busy although there had been a mass exodus there.  The three young people I had noticed on the platform joined me at “my” table.  I moved my rucksack to give them some space and one apologised quite unnecessarily.

They entertained me for the remaining hour of the journey.  I couldn’t help listening to them and watching how they interacted with each other.  I did watch the scenery outside the window as well and spotted all sorts of birds, plants and trees with the signs of spring belatedly transforming the views.

Two’s company; three’s a crowd, they say.  Two of my companions were talkative and one was quiet.  Two were young women and one was a young man, who had not bothered to take much with him on the journey.   In particular, he had forgotten his script.

It became apparent that they were performing arts students preparing a dramatised version of Animal Farm.  The young man had five parts in it.  There was one part in particular, which he had not learned, so he asked the quiet member of the group to lend him her script and subsequently to test him on his lines.

After the fourth attempt he was more or less word-perfect, but he requested another go.

“Everyone on the train will know your lines!” she exclaimed.

I read Animal Farm in my youth, but I don’t remember the details.  T’s lines involved paying some money – and counting it out.  He was racing through the counting, so I asked him how fast he thought the character would have counted.  He politely replied, “Quite slowly.”

The other girl was the narrator and was looking through her part, some of which had been cut.  She remarked that, “They had had a bad year” did not make sense.  I think she decided to make further cuts.

I’d have liked to explain the grammar of tenses to her, but thought that was beyond the call of duty for a fellow-passenger and might not be appreciated.

So, as the urge to explain it has not left me: present tense 3rd person plural (they) have, past continuous were having, past perfect have had, past imperfect had, pluperfect had had.  Future will have/ will be having, etc.

The pluperfect tense is used to report something which has happened.  For the narrator it would have been the correct tense to use.

I hope I’ve named the tenses correctly; it is a very long time since I went to Grammar School!  I had to leave mine when it was closed towards the end of the 1960s.

It was an enjoyable and memorable journey.

I am wondering how all you other bloggers would have reacted.  Would you have kept quiet, or would you have joined in with the lively chatter?  Would you have given them any advice?