To Coledale

Kingston railway station waiting room. Feeling slightly queezy from the bus, but excited also to be off with a bag, book and journal. Not that there’s much beauty in the modern transport world; the telly is on behind me, playing the most banal, hideous, daytime television — but what else is to be expected? They cater to that most vile denominator, the General Public (not that such a thing exists, surely?).

I slept well last night, once I’d read a bit more. It was warm and soft in my little red-robed corner; I didn’t want to get up. I never want to get up on the morning I’m going anywhere.

I had to buy some things — whiskey specifically, but I’d thought to think of more once I got to the shops. So I rode over to Dickson at half nine (I was leaving at half ten), and blowing into my hands went into the grog shop. The grumpy, cold wog behind the counter waved his hand in the general direction of the small bottles, with Eye of the Tiger playing the in the background, and I bought a flask of scotch. My hands were numb from the cold.

I’ve this digital camera of A.’s with me, and it’s giving me some things to think about as I potter around: I want to take photos for my blog (or whatever this website is), and for Wikipedia, and (as usual) for my archiving habit — keeping a record and all that. So I might just go and take a photo of the railway station.

Well gosh, I’ve actually overcome my usual public photography reticence, and wandered about taking photos. Of the station enterance, the platform the train, and a couple for me of the shunting yards and building to the ___(east?) of here. Now boarding the 12:05 Xplorer service to Sydney.

On board. As everyone files on board, dragging suitcases and feeling self conscious (or is that just me, with my notebook?), and they settle down for the beginning — not settling in for the journey, just the period of waiting which precedes it — they crackle chip packets, crack the seals on drink bottles, and flick through the information leaflet from their seat pocket. The smokers dump their gear and quickly, without first visiting their seats or meeting their neighbour, jump back onto the platform for a last puff, an occasional whiff coming back through the doors to where I’m sitting near the rear of the car. The clouds are coming over outside, it’s forecast to rain, but that means nothing to us, enclosed and protected in this air conditioned space, with our minds stretching out already, along the track to the places we’re yet to be, leaving Here and seeing Now as just an interim before Then, which is when we’ll get There.

For a hundred and eighty years trains have rolled on steel, taking people far, fast and in comfort. It’s not at all fashionable nowadays to decry this motion, and anyway it’s just a small insignificant part of the speed and distance that are normal now. I feel echos of those first terrified, excited passengers on those old English railways, going for the first time faster than a galloping horse.

But now: how things change! This is the slow option for me today, and I choose it because of that fact, and for the many tassles of history and tradition (and comfort) that hang from the permanent way. Where my ancestors sew heartless, vile destruction of the countryside by the new tracks, I see these thin ribbons of steel and contrast only with that ubiquitous devilry the highway. How very much more soulful is the highway!?

The rain came in before we got to Golbourn, but my usual pleasure at being in a warm train chortling through wet farmland was somewhat marled by the odd girl sitting next to me and her DVD which she insisted on playing without headphones. That and her “you have been called” ringtone — frightful. But I was happy enough, staring out at the sidings, old loading docks and worn down fences. The rain made a peculiar soft, grey light, gentle at first but something in it struck me as somehow alien, although I can’t say what.

After Sydney. Kept my wits about me I did, after the excitement of big Sydney and a beer with D., enough to realise an hour into the journey south that I was on the wrong train. I changed at some cold, empty station, I’ve no idea which. I got more and more tired, it grew dark and I’d run out of water…

Would be nice to never have to go anywhere, but then what would I write about? Glad I haven’t worn a suit. These trains wobble. Coalcliff now, cold and concrete and green steel out there. Oh for wood in my life again!

…and I returned to reading Swann’s Way, content but not really knowing at which station to get off.

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