It’s the Saturday before Christmas Eve and as we board the Virgin East Coast Express, I realise my thick knitted jacket matches the shade of the bright red train. I feel conspicuous and wonder if I’ll be mistaken for a member of staff, I’m not, their uniforms are grey/blue and anyway I’m probably too old.
I’m not supposed to be here, sat on a train travelling to London in a carriage full of strangers, with a ticket that doesn’t even belong to me. Ill-fated circumstances have placed me here, a sick grandson and the daughter’s husband who offered to stay at home with the boy. There are just the three of us, mother, daughter and the eleven year old granddaughter.
I’m a reluctant traveller and rarely venture far from home; this has led the second daughter to quip that she couldn’t believe I’d actually left Yorkshire, as she was quite certain I must be in receipt of a travel ban! An ASBO perhaps?
The train is packed, and from fellow travellers I hear the buzz of excited chatter, others remain solitary, with heads bowed over mobile phones. Two small children play games on their iPads and from time to time the boy shouts out at his electronic screen. Before opening the notebook on my phone I have a conversation with my family and finish off my coffee and Danish. My daughter picks up her magazine, the granddaughter plays a game on her phone and I jot down notes for my next blog post.
We’ve been travelling south for over half an hour and it’s still dark outside. Looking out of the window I observe the peach sunrise in the east and I take delight in watching the sky becoming brighter. A glance to the west shows me a different picture, a grey cloudy outlook that is waiting for the sun to beam across and brighten up the day.
Later there is an eerie mist rising over the fields and I notice allotments with fragile, rickety wooden huts next to the tracks, each small community appears to have them. Another locomotive passes us and the sudden noise startles me.
I pick up my book, ‘Strangers On A Train’, I’m familiar with the story having already watched the film. After a little while I put down the book and stand up to stretch my legs. I decide to walk to the tiny convenience at the end of the carriage, en route I take a fleeting look around the compartment. I’m about to play the game in my head, the one where you imagine the identity of other passengers. Today I’m looking for two men, strangers who might have jumped out from the pages of my book. I’m unlucky as no one appears to be travelling alone.
I return to my seat and stare out of the window, my mind begins to wander and I imagine I’m a character from an Agatha Christie book, ‘The 4.50 from Paddington’, at any moment I expect to see another train pull up alongside and through the window I will witness a murder, the strangulation of a poor unfortunate woman. I would of course have my phone at the ready and take the picture that would prove the murderer’s identity! Though in reality, (if there is one here) if I identify the guilty party at this early stage, Agatha’s book would need to be cut very short!
My games come to an abrupt end as does the journey, we have arrived. To be continued …