All packed and ready to go but feeling a little sick in the stomach.. it might be the extra hot vegetable chilli i had for lunch but i rather suspect it is nerves. Haven’t done anything like this since i went off to live and work in Paris age 18. And this time, I don’t actually know why i am going or what i’ll do when i get there. All along i’ve said i am just going to hang out and to finish writing this novel.. but i am not sure i know how to hang out and novel writing is a pretty lonely past-time.
No doubt it turn into a wonderful adventure and wouldn’t be an adventure if you knew in advance what was coming but it is surprising even myself after having the excitement build for weeks all the way up to yesterday, today I’ve forgotten what i was excited about and am just full of apprehension.
When I went to Paris, I was reading Catch 22 on the way which took my mind off the journey.. So i have packed Closing Time (the sequel) as reading for this journey but i’m told it is not as good!
Shouldn’t matter too much because once i am travelling the optimist in me smiles at the each twist and turn of the journey.. i love it when my plane hits turbulance and even a diversion or a delay can be fun.. it’s in my genes my grandmother always got off the train on journeys to visit us with tales of adventure.
From my (very drafty) novel..
“Chapter 2 – Trains
Some people hate travelling by train, they see it as an unreliable, uncomfortable, and slow way to get from A to B. They are not without reason. Train companies do a lot to encourage this view; Forty year old trains that break down in the platform at station A, leaving rubbish aboard from the previous journey from station B to station A, once underway they go out of service at some station C you had never heard of, to take an unheated coach the rest of the way, the driver being specially instructed to drive slowly, taking the scenic route to try to make everyone feel better. Or, if by some happy accident it appears it may arrive on time, the train will stop mysteriously for an impassive red light, just four hundred yards outside station B until the requisite two thirds majority of passengers are crimson with fury.
Of course, there is absolutely nothing a traveller can do except console himself with Tennants Extra or start meticulously plotting the kidnap and torture of the fat controllers who run the railways and come on television to lie about ‘every effort being made’ and ‘continual programmes of improvement.’ Before being driven away in the chauffeured Jaguars to supervise the swimming pool installation people involved in the very real continual programmes of improvements to their country homes, paid for out of the fat productivity bonuses they made every effort to award themselves.
The travelling public meanwhile only get madder and madder. Having just picked his way through previous passengers detritus, David Gardner was in this category before he had even left station A (which in his case was London.) He had been down to the capital on business and had already suffered one travelling incarceration at the hands of this rail company today on his much delayed journey down. A day of hostile jostling in the energy sapping metropolis had had kept his anger and resentment alive from his first journey. Now he faced the prospect of returning slowly home on an antiquated train that had not been cleaned since the age of steam. He took the empty crisp packets off his chair, saw that there was no way to fit them in the minuscule inter-seat bin and so reluctantly threw them under his seat. He flopped down fuming.
Other passengers are more sanguine; they view each journey as an adventure, each set-back and breakdown as an added amount of excitement and the long unexplained waits as an opportunity to bond with their fellow travellers. They love the uncertainty of an hour outside Stevenage with no information on the tannoy, partly because it is broken, but mostly because the crew have not got a clue either. If these happy go lucky types are forced to get off the train at some place they have never heard of, they let the other two hundred passengers attempt huddle into the two replacement buses with seats for fifty, while they happily spend three pounds on a cup of tea and a digestive biscuit at the improbably named Ye Merrie Wayfarer station cafe. Then they attempt to engage in conversation the bored teenager who has just served their tea half in the cup, half in the saucer. Quizzing the resentful and monosyllabic teen, ever keen to find out all about the local area. At least this is better than having them sat next you, their gleeful bonhomie throwing your own seething rage into sharp contrast and making everything ten times worse.
But as the perpetual optimists would be the first to point out, whenever these two types of traveller meet, it is always ‘interesting’. Hazel Cole was one of this band of happy merry wayfarers and she had just sat down next to David.”