I read ‘The Girl on the Train’ a few months ago, what a brilliantly written unreliable narrator the protagonist was. And what a great idea, because the train journey to work is something most of us have to go through at some stage in our lifetime and I often wondered what the people around me are thinking and experiencing as they travel through this life.
I was saying in an earlier post, I had found a temporary job in Southampton to live out the quieter writing months, and have been commuting the 1.5 hours from Surbiton to Southampton daily on the train.
There are only a few of us doing this same journey, as most people head towards London, rather than away, so on the 7:31 to Woking then change for the 8:00 towards Weymouth, you tend to recognise the same faces and after a week, it becomes a little commuter’s club. We make eye contact, we nod to each other and we all knowingly walk towards the end of the platform for carriage 5 when the signage board announces the train is made up of 4 carriages.
Because we were in the know, you see.
We do this every day. We’ve got this.
That is, until one day, it does happen the train forgets to join that very last carriage, and we all sprint back towards carriage 4, and share a nervous giggle along the way.
When you travel in one certain route every day, you notice things. When the tall skinny guy has had a haircut, when the cyclist has decided to use the station bike racks rather than lug it onto the train with them, you notice it when someone is missing.
In a way, we are all that girl (boy) on the train. Except, I don’t end up killing someone at the end of the day.
If you have been following my blog for a while, you’ll notice how I love trains. Some of my favourite journeys have been by train, with funny stories and incidents that have occurred on trains!
I don’t love trains in the way that train enthusiasts / railway buffs love trains. I don’t know anything about the engines, the mechanics and the force of the motions. I don’t have a list book to tick off trains I’ve seen, nor do I sit for hours waiting for one to come by the railway line.
I simply just love sitting on trains, as a form of transportation, even if it’s just a work commute.
There is something very soothing about the click and clack of the motion, not that these modern long distance trains have much of that any more. The sound, as the train leaves the station and picks up speed, is more swoosh than clack, and sways gently just as its passengers go through the ritual of removing their coats and putting their bags up on the overhead railing.
And I am currently loving my journey to Southampton, where I get to spend an hour admiring the Hampshire countryside, with rolling hills and grazing sheep, and at this time of the year – autumn, my favourite – the layers of earthy colours that are displaying as the seasons begin its process of letting go.
Although I always have a book with me, I often find myself mesmerised by the passing scenery, enjoying the moment with the soothing jazz of Michael Buble in my ear. The buffet cart will pass-by tempting us with tea, coffee, croissants, chips and muffins. The ticket inspector will follow shortly after, but they would be the only distractions between me and my inward serenity on this train journey.
This part of England is mostly flat, not like the dramatic landscape we saw in north west Ireland recently. Once out of the urban zones, the train moves fast and swiftly, and I am able to see parts of Surrey and Hampshire that makes my heart sing. Even though you know it’s the same view, but something is always different and it is hard to look up and not stay mesmerised by it.
I have been watching this scenery everyday for the past 5 weeks now and I am still not tired of it. Over the course of my hour long journey, I watch the sun rise slowly from my far left upwards. As the days get colder, I am noticing changes that happen with season. Trees letting go a bit of their autumn glamour and frost clinging on just a little longer each day; recently ploughed lands are now covered by layers of new grass and frost; the temperature over the past months has dropped a solid 10 degrees and steam rise from the surface of the ground, rooftops and out of nostrils of grazing sheep; the cold is making more people order the watery (but warm) coffee they serve on the trains.
There’s also the sky and its clouds, which always fascinate my mornings with shifting shapes and patterns. Nature’s art work, unpredictably beautiful.
Not everyone can see beauty in the everyday, which I think is a pity, because that’s the only thing we can control within ourselves. There is absolutely no point in being annoyed or angry about things we can’t control – union strikes, train delays, the long commute – but there is always something you can be joyful about. The bird songs, the sun shining (and it does more often than you think here in these parts), the feeling of the hot coffee in my hands and the smiles of my secret regular commuters club.
Yes the journey is long but it is possible to relax amongst the farmlands, the passing towns and temptations from the snack cart.
And the best thing? I get to think about things, to remember all the small moments in my life that has made me smile.