Friday, 28 December 2007
Three Wise Passengers, and Stars of Wonder and Delight
So it was a little crowded but the guard on the platform laughed rather too heartily for my taste when I showed him my seat reservation.
"Due to cancellations we are trying to fit three train loads of people on one train and you will all have to change at York, we suggest that it is no good shouting at any passenger sitting in your reserved seat as all reservations have been suspended".
I managed to catch this announcement from the corridor next to the toilet where I was ensconced on my own luggage plus a rather large rucksack owned by a north sea oil platform worker trying to get back to Aberdeen in time to be lifted out for a twelve day shift over Christmas and the New Year on Platform Delta One. I learnt a great deal about life on the rigs over Christmas and why this man was prepared to leave his wife and children to work there. He was desperate to get a foot on the housing ladder and Christmas and New Year shifts paid really well. "Enough to make up for not seeing your children over Christmas?" I asked him, enough to buy them a better future off the rough crime ridden estate they currently lived on, it transpired. "I can speak to them by web cam", he added.
I felt sad for him and his children but at the same time he was very vocal about wanting to do the best he could for his young family and hopefully in years to come his children might remember that their Dad only spoke to them by web cam on Christmas Day because he loved them. I thought that there might be a happy ending, he may buy a house off the rough estate but then the marriage might fall apart because he is away for such long stretches at a time and then he will still be talking to his children by web cam or email or text for every Christmas to come.
I think sitting on the suitcase was making me cynical. However worse was to follow, the 4.15pm Christmas Handicap Train Race at York....a frantic pelt of passengers up steep stairs, over the bridge and down steep stairs to a distant platform to another train only to find myself sitting on my suitcase yet again in a corridor. I think , the halt, the lame, the elderly and those with large suitcases had distinct handicaps in this race. It was myself, a man on crutches, who had he told me broken his foot two days earlier, a very jolly but very pregnant woman and a very elderly lady who had with the wisdom of age packed a flask of coffee and sandwiches, who were crammed into a tiny stretch of corridor. The guard shook his head in an inn keepery sort of manner and informed us there were no seats left anywhere he could direct us to and he was unable to demand that younger more strapping passengers give up their seats to the halt, the lame,the elderly and those with child ( I feel I fell into those with big suitcases category although I am not so proud that I won't admit that the other categories, apart from heavily pregnant might also fit my state of being ). However bless his little National Express Train Company socks, the guard stood in the automatic doorway, which was now permanently blocked by suitcases and shouted in a very loud voice, " I have a gentleman on crutches,an elderly lady and a pregnant woman standing in the corridor would anyone like to do something about that?" He then added with a sort of wistfulness, " It is Christmas you know. " And lo as if Moses had struck the Red Sea, or a star from the East Coast had guided them, the luggage in the aisles parted and an Aussie back packer, a young girl with heavy black eyeliner and two nose piercings and the oil rigger I had sat with in the corridor on the Christmas Journey Part 1 gave up their seats for the lame, the elderly and the pregnant and a merry time was had by yours truly in the corridor with afore mentioned heroes.
I decided oil rigger would live happily ever after in his nice house in a better area and live to enjoy many a Christmas with his children in person and that Goth girl and back packer, who were getting on famously with the help of oil rigger's proffered cans of Carling Black label, would exchange e mails and meet up next year in Sydney, where more cans of lager, words of enduring love, if not bodily fluids would be exchanged. It's heading towards a New Year I am determined to keep the hope of happy endings buoyantly alive and living in the fens and I am determined to look for small moments of delight and wonder, such as those that can occur in a crowded railway carriage.
I have now become temporarily addicted (is that a paradox, the concept of temporary addiction? ) to Tyne Daly's readings of Edna St Vincent Millay poems.
Here with my best and most sincerely felt wishes to you dear reader for a happy 2008 is her reading of As Sharp As In My Childhood. May your 2008 be full of wonder and may the fingers of delight hold you very tight( stick with the reading until the end and you'll get my drift).