Posted by: Corri van de Stege | August 18, 2007

One and a half working days

On the platform, the doors open and the train swallows me up.
Caught in the small first class compartment (tickets pre-booked,
times and seats allocated)
Tourists in shorts (surely, it’s not that warm?), happy skirts,
creased trousers and well dressed elderly couples and
schoolchildren and teenagers, gathered in the expectation
of a Cambridge and a London, or even further afield, in
holiday mood.
I open my workbag, my overnight case tucked away in
the baggage rack at the back and sit and read
in the exclusive silence, alone in this part of the train.
Outside the yellow rapeseed fields have long given way
to the bales of dirty yellow hay, ready to be taken away, winter stock.

In London the tube efficiently picks me up and puts me down again in
Paddington, too early for my connection to Wales, the
station hall is crowded, full of buzz and milling people, wheelie suitcases, unwieldy large weekend bags and holiday packs, some briefcases, small rucksacks and
computer bags, carried along by searching faces, full of expectation, others bored, tired and squinting, searching the announcements, crowding the information

My head is glass, impenetrable and glaringly filling up with the sharpness of the noise
and the light, I am not part of this, unobserved, an alien from a
different world.
I have another tea, waiting, reading my book, and watching the announcements
for destinations and platforms and slowly getting lost in the
Himalayas of my reading, another planet still.

This time a busy first class section Carriage H is out of service
sir, so we will help you find a seat in one of the other compartments

passes by and shows an empty seat.  My seat is safe I’m in F.
Head is beginning to feel taut and brain mass is jellying inside, no
i-Pod, too much pressure on the ears, more reading?
The Inheritance of Loss takes me up again in the isolation
of he Himalayas, mountains and villages hitherto unheard of
and I start living there and the words and sentences tumble at me full speed
as the train tak-taks along and gathers movement.
A trolley dispenses tea, water, a tiny bag of nuts and when at long
last five hours later, I am in Cardiff, a taxi noiselessly takes me to the
hotel, a few streets, not many people around, but then Cardiff
never shows its best when coming out of the station.

The room is white, white sheets and covers, white bathroom
and towels and white sink and white cups for more tea
and the light hurts my eyes are sore and I am unable
to focus properly on the screen of my computer, trying
to read my e-mails after I have connected expensively
to the internet via wifi
Floaters the specialist said when he looked at my left
eye, only floaters, harmlessThe right one is more serious and
will not improve.
What if these floaters suddenly decide to become static?
I panic, rub my eyes and they disappear and I can
see the letters again, the sentences, but I am tired and close the computer
and have something to eat.

The next morning another taxi to the WAG, no not the
English footballers wives, but the serious WAG, the
Government one, where decisions are being made and
the entrance demands a security check, my gold bangle
setting off the alarm as it always does in airports,
a grey looking building
Quite different from what I expected my young colleague
says, new to this It’s not a very attractive building I
Meetings, positive and with the hoped for results, then another taxi
back to the station, messy looking forecourt, buses pulling up
and it’s too early for my pre-booked ticket, which only allows
travelling at the prescribed time, allocated seat reservation.
Colleague goes in a different direction, is eaten up by the station
whereas I find a Café Nero just outside and have a coffee, take up
my story in the Himalayas, with Sai, her grandfather the Judge, the
Cook and their origami of different hopes, disillusionments and expectations, in
the confines of the mountains, reaching back and moving forward
but I have not finished this book yet so will not give away too
much, and then continue on the train, quiet this time, nearly
empty zinging along to Bristol, then Reading, then
Due to an overhead failure in the southwest area of London, we will be
delayed coming into Paddington.  I can only apologise for any inconvenience
this may cause
My head hurts again, sinuses blocked, ears popping, I am definitely catching
a cold, is it the air-conditioning, the imprisonment in airless compartments
and buildings, the dirty stations, the crowds?  Everything seems to play
havoc with my brains, my breathing and I realise that I will miss my
connection in London.  The train stays, hesitates then moves forward, a bit, does not gather speed, it is hopeless I will be even longer coming back than going.

The Friday afternoon chaos in London with we apologise but there are severe
Delays on the Circle, Hammersmith and City Lines.  This is due to staff shortage
I’m becoming an expert at reeling off excuses by train companies as to why
their trains run late. 
This time the train is full to bursting, a human mass of tourists, workers, employees and bosses, all trying to get a seat but some have to stand all the way from London to Cambridge, when the train loses a large number of passengers and the
remainder can sit back; enjoy the last bit of their journey, sitting down.

Seven hours after leaving Cardiff the train spits me out at my destination, feeling
Weary and tired, ready for the weekend.
One and a half day’s work, twelve hours of travel.


  1. Gosh! I’m tired just reading this post! I do hope that you’ll manage a nice relaxing weekend
    (and no I’m not really supposed to be here or online ….).

  2. Caroline – yes, having a really good weekend if only because I have been able to write it all down! And you should be doing the 10,000 words! Helping you along….

  3. Splendid. You deserve a profound rest, something intangible but effective rest that makes you forget that ordeal. Float or something the likes of it without any contact.

    Happy weekend.

  4. Thanks Jose – I am I am, despite the pouring rain! No contact with the outside world, except virtual. Bliss.

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