Posted in Railways on Saturday 19th May 2012 at 10:27pm
Lately my wanderings have gained in importance once again due to frustrating and dull times at work, but have also decreased in imagination. Often, all I'm aiming for is journeys long enough to distract me - to see movement and feel distance pass by. As the schedule of engineering works and diversions slows to a crawl ahead of a summer of events, it's proving tricky even to find interesting diversions. So, I'm drawn repeatedly to London. I can easily spend hours doing nothing there and still feel part of something bigger than the rather tiny life I seemed to have got myself wedged into back home. There is also the sense of London being off-limits soon - the Jubilee and Olympics making an always chaotic city even more difficult to navigate, and the attempts to impose order no doubt creating an unpleasant edge. So perhaps I'm unconsciously cramming as many London trips as I possibly can into these few precious weeks of relative sanity?
This one was a little different - my drive to take long, relaxing trips had suggested the normal run out to Birmingham, which is generally a good start to the day. Noted the Phantom Seat-Stealer back on the train and wondered if I'd have a scrap for my booked seat at Temple Meads, but noted him still on the platform as we left, heading for Cardiff I suppose. Ruminated on how the railway led me to know all these people by association - but not to know much of their lives, or mostly even their names. The journey was quiet and uneventful - just what I needed it to be. Changing trains at New Street left me time enough for coffee and people-watching on the concourse. I hope this possibility is preserved when the station is refurbished, because it's become something I rather enjoy. This station always signified mystery and a long trip somewhere - but suffers of course from a rather grim experience at platform level. Even though being delayed here is an unwelcome proposition, I recall breaks in epic trips with some fondness. Down to the platform for the 10:13 service which was a little late in arriving. This led to a lot of people milling around asking about the unit that arrived. In particular, a group boarded first class a little in front of me - a sarcastic, sleepy man and two babbling women. They'd snapped up the cheap London Midland tickets eagerly enough but wanted the Virgin experience - Where were the people handing out refreshments? Why did it call at all those stations? Headphones in, for a snoozy but pleasant journey south along the WCML, as always enjoying the approaches to London particularly.
I wondered if I'd left long enough to switch trains in London, as this was to be quite a fleeting visit? Though a short journey to Marylebone it can be a slow and congested one - but in the event I was able to get a 205 and have a fairly smooth trip. Along the way I noted the Euston Road pubs were full of West Ham supporters. It was the Championship Playoff Final today, and I'd completely failed to notice this. It wouldn't interfere with my trip, as the Birmingham Snow Hill service I'd chosen didn't call at Wembley Stadium, but Marylebone itself was an interesting experience! Chiltern were running additional shuttles to the stadium which worked well, and the crowd were nothing if not good natured. They were very, very vocal however - and everytime the chanting, singing or shouting died down there would be a solitary, clipped and almost embarrassed rallying call of "Irons!" which would kick it all back into life. The police looked amused and unconcerned in the main but I was stopped by one and asked some questions about my business. He was polite and friendly, and seemed keen to talk so I explained I got stopped a lot and asked if he could tell me why? He told me the simple truth was that I appeared unusually confident and knowledgeable in the station. I knew where things were, didn't mill around in confusion like most passengers in the off-peak seem to. It was unusual enough to make him wonder what I was up to. I'm not sure I'm any happier with this explanation, and I told him that - but I suppose I can sort of see the logic.
Away on the 14:00 to Birmingham via the Chiltern Line, surrounded by a loud group who kept swapping seats and moving around. They were comprised of a couple of asian women and their children heading off to Bicester Village to shop. But they didn't know where to get off, and asked a pair of black guys sitting opposite them. The response was quite frankly racist - some of the worst and most open I've ever seen in public. They asked me and I set them right, but noted that they seemed used to the response which disappointed me. Otherwise the trip was quiet and pleasant, just like the last time I passed this way which was fairly recently in fact. This time I bailed at one of the through platforms at Moor Street, and spent an idle hour watching people and trains, particularly the new Class 172s, shuttling back and forth.
After another leisurely linger on the concourse at New Street, I took the usual 1V65 back to Bristol. As ever it was a quiet, pleasant run into the slowly setting sun - echoing trips of old. While waiting for 1C27 homewards at Bristol I figured that today had broken no new ground at all, but it had been just the tonic I needed.
I've had a home on the web for more years than I care to remember, and a few kind souls persuade me it's worth persisting with keeping it updated. This current incarnation of the site is centred around the blog posts which began back in 1999 as 'the daylog' and continued through my travels and tribulations during the following years.
I don't get out and about nearly as much these days, but I do try to record significant events and trips for posterity. You may also have arrived here by following the trail to my former music blog Songs Heard On Fast Trains. That content is preserved here too.