The Journey North

“The Journey North” sounds tremendously romantic – I’m imagining Svaldbard, and huge armored polar bears. Unfortunately my journey is taking me a few thousands miles short of the frozen wastes. Still a long trek, but not quite as exciting as a rendezvous with Lorek Byrnison.

While walking towards the station, the public footpath passes behind a number of “allotments” – a uniquely British idea (I think?), where people can buy a small area of land from the council, who divide a field up into many such “plots”. While wandering along the path, I could see a woman in the distance leaning against the wall alongside the footpath. At first I took no notice of her, but as I grew closer, I started to wonder what she was doing. It appeared (and I didn’t stop to ask her), that she was hiding behind a lamp-post, smoking – which starts to look really odd when the footpath is several hundred yards long, and she’s halfway along it. I began wondering if she was waiting for a covert meeting, perhaps.

After getting on the first of the four trains I will take today, we passed through a few suburban stations, and somebody else suddenly came to my attention. It’s worth noting first that it was sunny this morning – but that the weather had been turning throughout the day – from t-shirts to coats by lunchtime. A woman approached the train in a business suit, carrying a laptop with no case. Quite apart from essentially carrying a sign shouting “please mug me”, what happens if it starts raining?A guy in a reflective tabard just sat down across from me on the train. He’s in perhaps his mid fifties, and took a really good look at the iPad on my lap (I’m writing this in Editorial – the app I mentioned a while ago).

Anyway… Time to sit and watch the world go by, I guess. Read a book. The train I’m on will arrive in London in about an hour – then the underground, then a walk along the street to Euston, and then the high speed train along the East coast, towards the North…. An hour passesNow sitting on the train out of Euston. I would have had a businessman sitting next to me, but it appears a gang of people had a party on the train into London, and have left wreckage in all directions – including all over the floor, and a spilled drink on the seat next to me. Not happy, because I sat on the wet seat for a moment before realising. After hastily making a notice to go on the seat, I’m now sitting in slightly damp trousers for the remainder of the journey. Looking at how neat the damp patch on the seat is, I would say somebody deliberately poured their leftover beer into the seat as a joke. Not happy.

There is a 50-something woman sitting opposite me, who seems engrossed in her newspaper. She’s very pretty. Tall, blonde, willowy. We exchanged a few words after getting on the train about the state of the surrounding area, and the paradoxical station announcements prior to the train departing. With perhaps twenty minutes remaining until departure of the train (which had appeared on the boards), the “estimated boarding time” appeared – two minutes before departure time. Immediately following, a general announcement reported that train doors close two minutes prior to departure. We’ve now run out of pleasant conversation, so she’s eating some kind of rice cracker thing (that explains the model figure).

I haven’t done this journey for some time. Perhaps months. The hotel I will be staying in over the next few days has become a bizarre home from home – with a supermarket across the road where pre-made salads can be bought, and a pub next door where hot meals can be bought while watching humourless bar staff deal with a succession of customers being picky about the menu.

I had meant to pick up loose change on the way out of the house to use the facilities at the train station in London – I realised I had forgotten while wandering along the road in central London. While the toilets at most of the major stations are immaculate, they cost a small amount to use, and if you have no change in your pocket you face a logic puzzle in order to acquire said coinage. Today I thought on my feet about how best to solve the dilemma, and got cash out to last me through the week (including taxi journeys). One of the paper notes got changed into coins at a machine in the station, and then one of those coins got fed back in to turn it into small change. Problem solved.

I may opt for breakfast at the hotel this time. I have never bothered in the past, because I tend to think hotel breakfasts are a rip-off, but you never know. A part of the decision rests on being given a pass for the client building or not. If I can’t get one, I will have to wait at reception each time I enter or leave the building – and that’s enough to make me not leave the building during the day at all – rather buy lunch in the morning from the supermarket across the road, and take it in with me. If given the choice, I always choose the least friction route through the day. Yes, I am a bit mad.

Perhaps it’s time I stopped writing this jibberish, plugged my music in, and tried to relax for a while.(Half an hour passes)Well that lasted a long time. When I travel it’s like a faucet has been turned in my head, and the words start pouring out of me. It’s probably worth mentioning that I have no idea how I will get the words from the iPad to the Internet – maybe use the phone as a WiFi lifeboat of sorts. Another minute passes while I tinker with the phone, and the iPad, before a load of errors appear like confetti from the iPad. I’m guessing it doesn’t like being on a train, where the Internet connection goes up and down like a yo-yo as the train hurtles through cell mast coverage areas.

I’m listening to “The Best of Howard Jones”, for those that are interested. “Like to get to know you well” is currently playing. I caught wind a few years ago that the various “modern” Christian churches had latched onto this particular track as yet another thing they have bastardised, and ruined in the process. It drives me nuts for no particular reason I can think of, other than enjoying being annoyed with people for something or other if possible. I will admit it made me laugh heartily up my own shirtsleeve when they all latched onto Katy Perry singing “Firework”, and went out and bought her albums, because by-Jehovah she was just the nicest thing they had ever heard. Then they of course heard “Peacock”, and “I Kissed A Girl”. Serves them right really. You should have heard the aghast comments – funniest thing I think I’ve ever been witness to. I guess it was ironic (in the true sense of the word) that her upbringing was conservative religious – as against the Alanis Morrissette version of irony, which is really just “unfortunate”.

Half an hour left on this leg of the journey, then another twenty in a taxi, and I’ll finally complete the journey – then of course the ritual “unpacking of the bag” – hanging the shirts up, unfolding trousers, and lining everything else up ready to be worn and thrown back into the bag. It’s like a professional game of running around in circles – an all expenses paid version of running around in circles (well… all expenses within reason).

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