Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Seven trains for seven story-starters

I had an adventure this week. I made an impulse journey to Manchester to cuddle my newborn grandson, my proud son and my exhausted daughter-in-law. I’ve never been on seven trains in one day before. It should have been six. One was a mistake but they provided lots of material for my writer’s notebook.

Train No. 1 – Leicester to Sheffield
Opposite me a suited business man tapped out a report on his laptop while his headphones fed a gentle suss suss into his ears. He was unaware of the drama unfolding in the seat behind me, of an anxious voice on his mobile,
‘We have to close the deal today.’ ...pause... ‘Because I’m leaving the country tomorrow.’ ...pause... ‘You’ll have the money by 5 pm, right!’ I didn’t see his face but he was fast becoming a character in my mind.

Train No. 2 – Sheffield to Manchester
I was on the Trans-Pennine express, not as romantic as it sounds. There were no seats, hardly a spare piece of floor. A man took pity, stood up for me and I fought my pride and accepted. We travelled side by side, him hanging from the overhead rail, me squashed between people and suitcases. He looked as if he’d missed a night’s sleep, eyelids drooping, hangdog jowls. Shame he hadn’t got a seat! As we approached the station he tapped out a text, one-handedly. The reply was swift. His face was no longer hangdog. He pushed his way to the doors and was the first to leave the train.

Train No. 3 – Metrolink Tram to Eccles
I hadn’t seen the centre of Manchester since 1968. It’s changed. The tram provides an excellent vantage point for sight-seeing/nosying. We passed Salford Quays, a square of water surrounded by newly developed flats. The place was deserted except for a man sitting on a bench, his legs outstretched, his head hanging down. The tram veered to the right and he was gone but for a moment longer his despair travelled on in my mind.

[At this point the above photograph should be inserted but Blogger won’t let me move it down.]

Train No. 4 – Metrolink Tram to Altrincham
Yes, I know that I shouldn’t have been on this tram but it didn’t take me too far out of my way and it provided a colourful character for my notebook. He was with his mates. He spoke with a gentle rap rhythm, shoulders undulating, hands gesticulating. The closer we got to the City the more animated he became.
‘We is gonna have, right, one hell of a night, right!’ At Market Street I left them to it. I only hope it was a good night he had rather than a hell of a one.

Train No. 5 – Metrolink Tram to Piccadilly Station
A short trip. I stared through the window until we entered a tunnel beneath the station and a row of faces reflected back at me. My own was tired. I glanced away to the face behind, a young girl, long black curls, red lipstick and a tear rolling down her cheek.

Train No. 6 – Manchester to Sheffield
The train had come from Manchester airport and once again was packed before I even got onto it. I squeezed in beside a young boy and his dad.
‘We’ve had a great adventure, haven’t we?’ said dad. The boy nodded, a plastic aeroplane in each hand. I didn’t mind as aeroplanes dived-bombed across my bags. I’d had a great adventure too.

Train No. 7 – Sheffield to Leicester
At Chesterfield an elderly mother waved as her son got onto the train. She walked back along the platform alone, trying to hide her tears. It’s hard to say ‘goodbye’ to your son and then go back to your own life while he gets on with his, even though that’s why you brought them into the world in the first place. I took another tissue from my handbag.


  1. Wow, what an exhausting trip. But love the snapshot stories you shared with your pen.

    Congratulations on your lovely grandson!

  2. Thanks, Marisa. Exhausting is perhaps an understatement but well worth it.

  3. I'm not happy you had to take all those trams/ trains, but I'm happy we got to read about it! I feel like I was there with you.

    Love these vignettes. Thanks - and congrats on your new grandson!

  4. Thanks, Talli. Glad you enjoyed the vignettes. It's looking out for things like that that help to make a long journey feel not quite so long.

  5. Mazel Tov again. And looks like you gained not just one gorgeous grandson but seven great characters for stories as well.

    I see, like me you've been having trouble using Blogger to put up your blog posts, especially with placing illustrations. I now use Windows Live Writer which lets me write it up as though I'm on Word and put pics wherever I want and then uploads the whole thing straight to Blogger.
    A fellow blogger has a great post explaining just how to use WLW if you want to give it a try.

  6. Thanks, Ann, and thank you so much for that advice about Windows Live Writer. I'll give it a try for my next posting.

  7. What a fantastic adventure, I was totally enthralled and what a lovely moving photograph. Many congratulations on the birth of your beautiful grandson, oh and for someone who doesn't enjoy travel (5th April posting), I think you deserve a huge "Well Done".
    Rifka M.

  8. Sorry but for some weird reason the shortened link to the blog post I intended to give was the wrong one.
    Here is the correct link ( I hope) to the blog post about Windows Live Writer

  9. Your last trip brought a tear to my eyes.

  10. Thanks Rifka and well spotted. I am a self-confessed non-traveller.

    I hadn't tried the link yet, Ann, so thanks for the correction.

    Know what you mean, KFC. It made me cry too.

  11. Beautiful writing and gorgeous picture - what a lovely baby, mazeltov again.

  12. Wow what an epic journey! Well done Ros. You are very brave to have done this journey when you dont like traveling. Mazeltov again on the birth of your beautiful beautiful grandson. Love Karan X

  13. Thanks for your kind wishes Keren, Jemi and Karan and to all those who keep asking, we still haven't got a name yet!


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