Thursday, December 4, 2008

Choo Choo!


I've always loved travelling by train, but don't do it very often these days. Yesterday I travelled up to York to meet my mum and sister (they live in Scarborough) for some chat and some shopping, although rather more chatting than shopping got done, which suited me fine. Lordy, it was cold though.

Getting to King's Cross - the first leg of the journey - at rush hour was an eye-opener. I've never done it before. Once everyone was stuffed into the carriage it became a home from home. These people were clearly professional passengers. The minute we set off laptops were fired up, newspapers flapped open, books raised, folders dragged out, noses picked and breakfasts eaten (the last two counted as one activity in some cases).

I half expected a television in the corner to start blaring out GMTV and someone to pop their head round the door and shout "Right then! Anyone fancy a cuppa?" Which I would have, as it happened. What I didn't hear for the entire time I was on that train, was anyone utter a single, solitary, humanoid word. At one point, I felt like jumping up and shouting "Nik nak paddy whack, give the dog a bone!" (what does that MEAN by the way?) but worried they might have a system for dealing with tricky passengers, and I hadn't factored in being flung from a moving train.

The National Express to York, however, was a different story. Nobody could shut-up. Not talking to each other, mind you, but into their mobile phones. The man sat opposite wanted his secretary to download a crucial PDF file for a meeting he was running late for, but didn't want her showing anyone until he got there. I didn't want to know that, but had no choice. Call me ruthless, but I switched my phone off the second I boarded. Apart from a couple of texts about arriving safely, I didn't want to make contact or be contacted. So there.

What I did do while I was being transported forth and back was work on a synopsis for t'novel, to keep me on track, and read a whole book - The Missing Person's Guide to Love by Susanna Jones. Very good it was too. That's what I really love about train journeys- you're absolved of all responsibility for a good few hours.

It would be criminal NOT to make the most of it.

23 comments:

Paul Capewell said...

Excellent point. I recently went to Edinburgh (for a Ryan Adams gig - yes, I know :P) and oviously the journey time from Manchester is approximately half that from London. It was still over 3 hours so enough time to get some reading done, but I found myself almost missing the longer journey simply because train journeys are the perfect opportunity to Get Stuff Done.

Lane said...

lol at what commuters have for breakfast. Euurgh!

I love train journeys but very rarely get the chance. Last one, I sat opposite a woman who worked her way through a bucket of fruit - peeling it, slurping it, getting it all down her jumper. It was fascinating:-)

TOM FOOLERY said...

Gee Clarkey, I thought you had been eaten by the blinkin' rats m'dear ;-) Did you see snow on your magical journey up North ? Tommox

Honeysuckle said...

Isn't York gorgeous? We were there the weekend before. (Can only imagine the disbelieving 'I'm sure that's...' kind of thoughts which would've flittered through my brain had we hit the same weekend and I'd spotted you.)

Love train journeys. My journey to work takes all of twenty minutes but it's twenty minutes guilt-free reading time. Lovely.

Debs said...

It certainly would! I love catching the train, but then we don't have them over here, so I'm like a kid when I do get the opportunity.

Good for you working on the synopsis too.

Fionnuala said...

Nik nak paddy Whack, I'm still laughing....Fx

Pat Posner said...

How dare you go to York and not come to see me *smile*.
Actually if you had come, unless you're good at walking down steep, covered in ice, unstandupable on hills, you'd still be here. Trapped and singing that Nik Nak Paddy Whack song, though I hope it would've been the clean version!!

Leigh said...

I used to love my weekly journey from London to Winchester. If you were in second compartment (remember those?), of the third carriage, on the Friday 16:48 out of Waterloo, I was the who insisted on everyone helping me with the crossword (thanks for that, by the way). I loved it. I have no idea what they all thought of me.

HelenMH said...

I find train journeys strangely inspiring - great writing time!

Jan Jones said...

Trouble is
on a train
you're not
in control

Lorna F said...

Great description, Karen! I find train journeys (a rare event in my life actually) a great opportunity to people-watch and also to let my mind free-associate. Journeys are great for story ideas because you go into an altered state of consciousness - like the slipping-into-sleep state we were discussing a couple of posts back. However, this only works if other people do not intrude! I'm afraid I tend to be Garbo-ish on public transport:'I vant to be a-lawn. I vant to theenk, pliz. Zank you.'

bfs said...

I've never been on a train! I think I'm missing out on something neat!

JJ said...

Eeek - the breakfasts... yuk.

I love train journeys too. And I love York - I worked there for two years and would happily, happily live there.

Jumbly Girl said...

Well done for making most of your train journey. I do lots of long train trips for work and sometimes they're great -entire short stories written, chapters synopsied, books read. Other times I get to my destination only to realise I've stared out of the window for three hours and read nothing more than the Metro.

You've got me all excited about my trip to York tomorrow - although as I am travelling with hubby and daughter train journey will be spent playing hangman and listening to jokes from the Beano

Suzanne said...

Re the breakfasts - yew, people can be disgusting.

The last time I travelled by train a woman (complete stranger) fell asleep on my shoulder. I tried nudging her but to no avail - she was out for the count. Even worse, she was snoring.

Amanda said...

I love the train, it's my favourite mode of transport - we travelled up to Edingburgh recently 4 hours direct - lovely
x

Tam said...

I never get the train anymore - you've inspired me to give it a go sometime :-)

FPDuck said...

I don't often take long journeys by train (don't often take long journeys full stop), but when I do, I feel like I can't pull a book out and read (as much as I'd like to).

People give me funny looks when I do. Or there is always some joker who insists on disturbing me to find out what I'm reading, and then proceeds to read over my shoulder.

That being said, when I'm not standing up for an hour, or cramped in a seat not designed for folk of my size, I love train journeys.

Stopping blathering... now.

Cheers,
Mike

Ernest de Cugnac said...

and then there's the symbolism, but I never really believed it myself.

SpiralSkies said...

Oh, what a good post! I haven't been to York since I was about 7 when I was visiting an uncle who lives in Scarborough. Maybe I will travel by train and visit all those old places and faces that used to be important parts of my jigsaw.

Snortling quietly that you were 'on track' with the writing s'nopsis. You're steaming ahead! (Oh dear)

KAREN said...

paul - I don't know - you and your Ryan Adams! I wish I had an excuse to get the train more often to be honest :o)

lane - Ooh, blimey...sounds messy!! A man sitting opposite on the way back munched his way through a pork-pie, showering crumbs hither and thither - that was bad enough :oO

tommo - There wasn't any snow amazingly, but it was soooooo cold my face was numb after an hour of wandering round the town!

honeysuckle - That would have been very weird! York is lovely though - expecially with all the Xmas lights on :o)

debs - No trains over there?? That really surprises me! Mind you the last time I went on one, it was still British Rail :o)

fionnuala - God knows why that popped into my head, of all things!

patp - I didn't realise you lived in York! Small world, as they say. Next time, you can get the kettle on :o)

leigh - How fun! I get the feeling if anyone had suggested such a thing on the underground part of the journey they'd have got some very funny looks :o)

helenmh - Me too - and relaxing!

jan jones - I know what you mean, but for me it's the only form of travelling I actually enjoy!

lorna f - I know just what you mean - I call it passenger lethargy. Thank goodness it doesn't happen when I'm driving :o))

bfs - Never been on a train?! How can this be? It's a surprisingly enjoyable experience :o)

jj - It's a lovely place, although I've only ever seen the town centre!

jumbly girl - Ooh, I hope you had a lovely time in York! Sounds like your journeys are put to very good use :o)

suzanne - Blimey, that must have been a bit strange! I don't think I'd ever relax that much on a journey :o)

amanda - Never been to Edinburgh, but 4 hours sounds like a chapter or two's worth to me :o))

tam - I don't do it often enough either, and it only happened after a colleague at work mentioned you could get to York from London in 2 hours. I'd never considered it before!

fpduck - People reading over your shoulder is most annoying - having said that I did find myself straining to read someone's Metro on the way back!

ernest - I don't know WHAT you mean :o))

spiralskies - Trying to think of a good train analogy 'comeback' but my brain's station-ary. Nurse!

womagwriter said...

I have a weekly journey to London from Bournemouth, and love it. All that time to read and fiddle with the crossword. Couldn't do it every day though.

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