As you can tell from the date of the picture I took from the train window just over a week ago, this post is a little behindhand. I was then, and am now, heading south on East Coast rail. What a lot has changed in one week! The temperatures have soared, high pressure has established itself over the whole of the UK and the train Wifi is working for once! I’m conference-bound today, with all the lightness of heart that good weather brings. Here’s what I wrote last week:
I’m on the train to London again, for the first time in quite a while. It’s just after 7 a.m. and broad daylight – a luxury that I haven’t experienced on this journey at this time since last October. It’s chilly: the fields are damp, still drying out after the rains, and a low mist rises from the earth as it warms up for the day. The sky is oyster-coloured and fretted with a complex pattern of clouds that seem to form the shape of the skeleton of a whale, or some long-dead prehistoric beast; I see a dog running across the grass, but can’t spot its owner. Mostly the land in this area is flat and arable, but occasional huddles of cows or solitary horses tethered in a paddock, grazing peacefully, flash by.
As usual, there is a problem with the train’s WiFi, but mercifully the electrical sockets are working, so I can still use my laptop. This is just as well, because, try as I might, I’m struggling to find my fellow passengers interesting. Opposite me sits a burly man reading the Metro newspaper. He licks his finger to get a purchase every time he turns the page, an unhygienic habit that I’ve always found irritating (particularly when employed by bank tellers counting out notes that I must then grasp). I wonder how much newsprint he swallows each week? The man sitting opposite is slenderer, younger and quite geeky. He’s wearing square, heavy-framed spectacles and is immersed in his iPad. I can just see that he is reading the Financial Times (and can tell that he is familiar with East Coast – he’s downloaded the paper before getting on the train!). At least there’s not much prospect of his sucking on his thumb and index finger as he scrolls down the articles!
Looking round, I see that all my fellow passengers are men. The ones behind me, each seated at a separate table, are all reading documents and making notes: weekend work that didn’t get done, I guess.
Now the train is approaching Newark Northgate. The sun is riding quite high in the sky, but is still watery and pale. Newark is this train’s last stop before King’s Cross. Quite a crowd of people is waiting to embark, but again not a woman in sight. Smarter than I, perhaps – they’ve managed to stay at home to enjoy what promises to be a bright early spring day.
Breakfast arrives (I’m travelling first class, though on a very cheap ticket, because I ordered it weeks ago). It’s a smoked salmon omelette. Porridge and fruit compote, which was what I really wanted, has apparently ‘sold out’. I’m sceptical about how this could happen on a Monday morning. Someone forgot to fill in an order form, perhaps? The omelette is OK, but the half-bagel on which it sits looks tough and rubbery. I decide to give it a miss.
All of this, I’m sure you’ll agree, is quite humdrum. The journey is one that I’ve made scores of times before, usually, but not always, with more promising travelling companions. (I’m hoping that the rest of it will be as uneventful and that the train will arrive on time, as I have only forty minutes to cross the city to get my connection at Victoria.) But my spirits are lifting. I feel the old magic that I’ve always associated with train journeys since I was a child. It’s been dulled by the dreariness of winter, but today it has returned, in full strength.
It’s 8.10 a.m. and the sunlight is streaming through the train window, flinging a glare of orange across the computer screen so that I can hardly see these words. Spring is here. When I arrive in London, spring will be burgeoning there, too. It is the beginning of March and at last it seems as if the year has really started. There is the whole of the spring to sip at as if it were a delicacy and the almost-certainty that it will be followed by the feast of summer. It will be eight whole months before we shall arrive at the end of October and watch with dismay the withering of the trees and the light as winter approaches again.
Today, I am travelling to London, then on to Eastbourne: an ordinary work-day expedition. But it is part of a much bigger, more exciting journey: my odyssey into 2014.
Today, I am travelling to Brighton, where this year there will be no heaps of snow on the promenade and I’ll be interested to see just how little the storms have left of the West Pier skeleton, which I wrote about and photographed twelve months ago.
Have a lovely week of spring weather, everyone.