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.