Thursday, 13 October 2011

Faster than fairies


Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.
Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And here is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart runaway in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill, and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone forever!

Robert Louis Stevenson

My eldest son and I travelled to Birmingham on the train.

We left the farm at 6am then spent the rest of the day slumped against a train window (or sitting bolt upright depending on alighting passengers with baggage and respecting the 'British' thing of not making contact by accidentally brushing a knee or shoulder).

The journey was an education in itself - derelict buildings melted into forgetfulness, concrete forests sprung from long forgotten earth, there were few trees, curves or patches of green.

Chimney pots took on the persona of the passengers; different shapes and sizes, different colours, all piled higgeldy-piggledly as comfortably as they could, perched on their narrow plinths like roosting birds.

There were huge metal towers which looked like they were made of industrial lace, delicate yet sturdy and offering an almost etheral beauty, skyward.

People came and went. They ate, drank, laughed, sat silently, read. One or two slept seemingly unaware of the noise and movement all around them.

The journey and people were fascinating. We are so used to isolation at the farm, few visitors, few trips into town, it was quite overwhelming to make contact with enormous crowds of people and all the noise and bustle they make.

I found the Best Tree Ever.

It spoke of fairies and witches, probably housed a few yet stood with quiet dignity amid the urban chaos.

The journey home was this side of Hell.
Eldest son had three enormous glass boxes which could have easily housed a Great Dane or Newfoundland dog. There was no easy way of carrying them and I think I huffed to Morpeth then gave up the will to live.

Four men had a fight just outside Newcastle but two seats away. I worried about the glass boxes making contact with irate large men but the aggrieved alighted and continued their fight on the platform.

Hours later, the train broke down at Stirling so we had to continue by soul may have left my body at this point, aided by the person who coughed every three seconds then sniffed snot into a blocked nostril.

We arrived home after midnight. It was pitch black and the familiar mud squelched reassuringly under our town shoes.
The glass structures designed by Satan made it home in one piece, the carriers slightly more frayed.

I stood outside in the dark.

Not a sound.
Not a soul.
Big sky, tiny stars.



  1. A fascinating evocation of train travel...but, curiosity is getting the better of British reserve...whatever were the boxes for?

  2. What a beautifully written post. Thank you.

  3. coming home is wonderful, isn't it?
    especially when it reminds you of all that you love, the peace and quiet, the space...

  4. The boxes were for anything - I would have used the biggest one for raising plants. He is not sure what to put in them yet but 'just liked them' :)

    Going away is exciting but returning home is pure joy.

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  6. All the way to Birmingham because you liked some boxes! Well, OK, glass ones... lovely writing though, as ever. :o)

  7. I won two VIP tickets for the Grand Designs exhibition in the N.E.C. which included meeting Kevin McCloud.( He adored the bothy and was lovely).

    Experts gave free advice on roofing, windows, alt energy, insulation, etc so we were able to collate lots of advice, contacts and info for the farmhouse. It was well worth the long journey.

  8. Sounds an amazing day out, and coming back with glass boxes just takes the biscuit.

    Love the description of the journey, and I agree, coming home is The Best.

  9. Lovely and well written post reminding me of my own journey back into the recent past, concurring this side of hell.

    Are,nt we so lucky to be the wives of farmers?
    Remote living is not so bad after all,
    Remote living is this side of heaven :)

  10. I once lived just outside of Birmingham for five years, during which time I think I made the journey into the city about seven times, usually to change trains. It was more than enough.