Posted by: Corri van de Stege | December 10, 2008

Write on Wednesday – empty…

Coming back from a long haul- three days in Wales – I realise there is no new challenge on Becca’s blog… What is going on?  But in anticipation, and feeling a little bit at a loss this morning at 7 o’clock, on a train somewhere in Wales, I wrote my own ‘write on Wednesday’.  It had to do with feeling at a loss, feeling challenged, wondering about what I was writing for and for whom.  

So, glancing around the compartment I was in and trying to work out what all this is about, this travelling, this matching two totally different lives, the work-live and the writing-live, I came up with my own observations, leading nowhere.  But then, what writing leads anywhere anyway?

This is Wales: Swansea to Cardiff.

I am up early, too early in this impersonal hotel room, where I have to grab around in my suitcase to find my clothes for this day and wonder whether I’ve brought the right stuff, but then, who cares?  I arrive at the station, too early after having paid my bill and walking some 7 minutes, hauling my suitcase and an umbrella in the miserably not-quite-rain.   A train to Cardiff is waiting on platform 1, ready to go.  I get on it and it’s nearly empty.  A girl is asleep, a man sits bleary-eyed scanning a newspaper.  He confirms that this train will go to Cardiff, so I sit down.  The train chunters out of the station in the dark and a conductor comes to check our tickets.

Then I realiste that this is the slow train, it stops at every station on the way.  It’s not one of the trains that I checked up on last night on the internet.  Oh well, who cares.  I’ve got a seat.  I’m early anyway.   I’ve got time to write all this down…  Write on Wednesday, I think.

I lose track of the stops, as the train fills up, and then, at Bridgewater, it’s full.  Then there’s Pencoed.  What do these names mean?   I’m beginning to understand some of the geography.  They’re place names I’ve heard mention, but in my usual rush to get from A to B I usually miss out on the in-betweens.  Two stations after Bridgewater, people are standing in the isle.  These are the workers, clearly, and the woman who finds one of the last seats next to me, takes out a Rosamund Pilcher and an Oxfam ticket is her page guide.  Opposite me a middle class commuter, a man in a grey shirt, black raincoat and striped grey/black/white tie puts his computer back underneath the table.   His glasses are small andblack-rimmed and he busily scans his mobile, ticks the screen and then puts it back in his pocket.  From then on he surrepticiously scans the passengers, his brown eyes alert, but unobtrusive.  I don’t think he notices me noticing him, but I may be wrong and I don’t think much about it. 

Girls on high heels, black tights, slim coats, some of them white, totter along the isle and grab the very last seats available.  I’ve noticed that here in Wales girls are often petite, with sleek black hair, they know their fasion, and dress just so.  Men in fleeces hug mugs of coffee, a croissant in a paper bag.  A middle aged woman in a red coat pulls out a chocolate bar and eats it slowly then takes out a newspaper.  She does not care what either you or I think, is oblivious.

I’m conscious that my suitcase, too large for a two day sojourn, but then it’s got my trainers and an extra pair of boots, and my papers, and…   this suitcase is blocking a seat, but I pretend I have nothing to do with it.  I’m too tired to care.

Outside a frosty world slowly lights up, revealing white hoar, trees in a christmas spirit that I don’t feel, as if it’s a different world.  ‘You tend to gather in on yourself’, one of my interviewees said yesterday, ‘it’s too far from everything.’  Then,  ‘It takes you three hours on the train to get from Swansea to London and then you arrive at Paddington.  Paddington!  It takes you another hour to get across London…’

More pretty landscapes revealing glowing whites and grey greens, and a few cumulous orange rimmed clouds and then the pilons stark and clear against the now brightening sky. 

Passengers are lost in their own worlds, the man in the blue fleece has drunk his coffee and now sits back to front talking to a friend behind him, who yawns, then asks about the white paper bag on the table, containing something edible, a croissant?, looking enviously but smiling. 

When we get to Cardiff it is day time and the crowds first cling together finding the exit and then scatter.   I find my way to the taxis and am off to my first meeting.  The taxi driver thinks I’ve come from the other end of the world, when I say I live in Norfolk.  He’s probably right.

Later , after my meetings, I will catch another train, from Cardiff to London, and then back to Norfolk.  Another day.



  1. It’s obviously a dreary commute, but you’ve at least made it interesting to read about. I can relate to being too tired to care about details like my suitcase taking up a seat.

  2. This is the writing I love, the details, the travel, the countryside.
    Thank you for this entry.
    It’s difficult to explain but I love your UK, all of it. Every detail.

  3. I love train journeys like this (even when I’m tired) and some of my most vivid memories of my last trip to the UK were of loving the passing countryside and being fascinated by the people. Loved the descriptions and I think the writing works nicely here. Must be a drag for you though with all the travelling but I guess it develops its own rhythm after a while.

  4. I want to hear more about the Welsh girls and their fashion sense. Fascinating!

  5. Sarah – I’m just relieved I did not forget it when I got out!
    Oh – I’m glad you enjoyed this little trip over to Wales x
    Couchtrip: oh yes, train journeys give so much inspiration – there’s not just the landscape, but also the people and the opportunity to watch them, stuck in the same small place for whole lengths of time. People you’ve never met before and probably will never meet again.
    Chartroose: I’ll be going again in January – will make it my mission to carry out some more relevant observations 🙂

  6. An ordinary trip made extraordinary 🙂

  7. Chunter? What a delightfully descriptive word – I love it!
    And what a gift this trip was for you, going slowly and appreciating/noticing the journey and what it had to offer, rather than just a destination – not only around you, but within you.
    I note a feeling in your words – is it a place in your life for a shifting and remaking? Paradigm shift time? Or were you just tired today?

  8. Kim L – glad you enjoyed it!
    qugrainne – well, it helped make some decisions! See The Sunday Salon. Very perceptive of you! Mmm, yes, definitely a paradigm shift….

  9. Thank you for this lovely tale. I am so happy I stumbled onto your blog. My ancestors emigrated to the US from Wales in the late 19th century though I myself have never been to the UK. Your descriptions make me long to.

  10. I really enjoy your observations, seachange. Here I am sweltering in an Aussie summer, reading your blog and imagining myself in the coolth of Wales.

    I have a Welsh surname you might’ve noticed.
    BTW your blog is on my Google reader now.

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