Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Trains and stations

This morning I was reading a book on the train. I was on a chapter called 'attention' and I thought how the many things I'd noticed about the trains and my journey go unremarked except in my skull. There's no need to share my observations, but there's no harm in paying attention.

Today I was on the 'Buddah' train. This particular train, when idle, makes a soft bell-like noise similar to that of a wooden mallet being gently tapped against the side of a brass prayer bowl. It's quite a restful noise compared to the rest of the squeaks, groans and grinding noises it also makes.

I was on a singing train the other day. In London, the underground train made a squealing noise as it hurtled down the tracks that was light and musical as opposed to harsh and irritating. I christened it the 'singing train' in my mind. You don't talk to people on the underground (well, sometimes I do and I am always amused by the look of panic on their faces). But on this journey, I remember, I was talking to a family from Hungary who had enjoyed a tremendous day in London. They were glowing with fun and delight and the daughter, who was about 15, enjoyed translating for her happy parents and siblings. So, sometimes talking on the underground does work; but I still enjoy freaking out the regulars occasionally by offering a small mote of conversation.

Each morning when I get on the commuter train to Cambridge there is a woman I have known for 14 years. She steadfastly ignores me - has form the first friendly smile I gave her when I knew she was on the same commuter run as me. I don't know why. Perhaps I committed some grave offence, perhaps she'd just like her mornings quiet, and to herself please. Either way that's ok with me, I enjoy the opportunity to read in the bright morning sunshine, lulled by the rocking (and sometimes belling) of the train.

When we get to Cambridge there's a struggle to get past the bikes stacked at the doors, some folding some not. Then there's the sheep-like trail as we head from the platform to the exit, funnelling through the 'dip' (exit gates) dutifully and emerging into a crowded main hall. It's not a big hall, and not always crowded, but most mornings it's a throng of people headed into London or to Kings Lynn, or arriving at Cambridge.

Then I walk up Station Road towards my place of work. And the faces coming towards me are a mix of excitement (off for a day out?) and panic (my train leaves any moment...) and intense concentration (I am a commuter, don't bug me!). Sometimes I notice odd things about people.

For example, the impossibly muscular calves on that woman walking ahead of me - and her nice black skirt and... total lack of hips. Long blonde hair, feminine walk, but in a hurry. She stayed ahead of me. And the cyclists who think that riding on the narrow pavement is safer than the road. Well, it's not safer for the pedestrians. The confused tourists who don't understand the bus stops (actually, they change so often no one understands the bus stops any more). The tall, incredibly student looking guy who, when he turns around, is probably at least 40.

Cambridge is stuffed with youth and life. There are hordes of language students chattering away in various tongues, all 'cool' with eachother and their temporary displacement. There are business people in suits (and some really bad mixes of stripes!) and the wonderful eclectix mix that is Cambridge - from floppy hats to sandals, kaftans to kilts. You will, if you stand at Cambridge Station long enough, see just about every kind of person it is possible to imagine.

So my day starts out with a visual and auditory feast. Perhaps that's why I like to delve into my book. But more often than not I'll be distracted by the view as we trundle along - watching the fields turn from green to gold, from gold to brown, and eventually to white (when the winter comes). Being a commuter is not so bad.
Post a Comment