Friday, 28 May 2010

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

Greg reminded Lurene that 20 different train companies service the railroad. She joined us for a three-day train outing through the England, Wales and Scotland. We took 6 trains from five different lines in one day, leading us from London to the Lake District: Great Western, Arriva, Heart of Wales, First Trans Pennine Express and North Western. 

Wyona’s pinpoint scheduling was so finely executed that at one point, we stepped off of one train, pulled our suitcases in a circle to the other side of the platform and stepped on the next train less than one minute before it was leaving.

Not all of the trains have a first class service, as we are now well aware. The first class service has a yellow bar along the top of the coach to differentiate it from the standard class. At times we were just lucky to get on the train at all. 

When we had put many miles behind us and we now moving toward Wales there was a small gap of time on the plastform and I asked the train guard, “Could you please tell me what platform the Heart of Wales Train is leaving from, and whether the first class coach will be at the back or the front of the train.” How organized is that?

With a large gesture of his arm he pointed to the right and said, “Madam, there is your train, one coach and only slightly better than going by horse.” 

This was the best train of all. Once aboard I discovered that at the same time a train can lurch from side to side and front to back as well as give a gentle body massage from the shimmer of the seat if you are so lucky as to have one. 

I settled in to enjoy the noise of the engine and the sound of the clicking of the wheels on the rails. 

The driver blew his whistle as every curve. 

“I think he does that to scare the sheep,” I said to Lurene for the sound would make the newborn lambs who were looking at us through the fences skittle back to the centre of the fields. 

The train doors didn’t close tightly. There was no air conditioning. A strong breeze was sweeping in through the gaps in the doors. I put a blanket on the right side of my leg to keep my body temperature regulated.

Lurene and I were at different windows, using our cameras as though we might never be able to take another picture. On the sports mode of the camera, 3.5 shots can be taken every second. Between the clicking of her shutter button and mine, the locals on the train were looking around to see what could be so interesting. 

After about ten minute of that, the conductor came to us and said, “The only really interesting point on this line is a Roman aqueduct up ahead.. You can only see from the back coach. Come back after the third stop and I will let you take a picture from my station.”

Back there he said to Lurene, “Only a place for one in the room I am going to show you. You must promise not touch the one white knob on the panel or we are all in trouble.” 

He went on. 

“Count ten seconds after we come out of the next tunnel, then snap away for you will only have a brief glimpse of the viaduct. Be quick.”

On my way back to my seat, I tried to walk down the aisle without falling into the laps of the other passengers. Using all of the tai chi balance techniques I could muster, I was still grabbing the chartreuse handles at the backs of the seats to steady my weaving and swaying.

While we were gone, Wyona had enticed the little Welsh boy who was sitting in the seat to come and sit up on her bench. 

Wyona and Lurene played with him for the rest of the trip, at first barely getting eye contact from him, then having him colour on her post-it-notes, and finally giving him a pair of scissors.

“You aren’t going to give a little boy that age scissors,” blurted out Lurene. “And aren’t you going to ask his mother.”

“Of course I am going to give him scissors. How else is he going to develop small muscles control?” Wyona responded. “He is going to be fine. I am helping him.”

The three of them had chatted happily across the isle from me. 

Lurene later reported, “I didn’t understand a word he was saying. The first words I got out of his Gaelic accent were, “Are these boy’s or girl’s scissors.”

“Girls,” said Wyona, watching for his reaction.

“No, they are sharing scissors,” Lurene said correcting Wyona.

When we left the train the conductor told us that the platform is so short that everyone has to exit by the same door, for both doors won’t fit on the platform at once.

I got off the train to get a picture of the shortest platform on the line, the one that won't take a whole coach.

Lurene got off to photograph the name of the stop, since that is our new practise -- take a picture of where we are so we can remember when we get back and start looking at our picutres. 

The Lake District.

A place I never dreamed I would visit.

Lurene says that the first action a person should tke when going to their lodgings is to unpack their suitcase: make the room their own. 

We spread everything out in our room and then took a trail up the hill to get a few evening shots of Bowness-on-Windemere.

We investigated a broken rock wall for a while. Then we followed a footpath down to the lake, looking at the rowboats for hire, at the sailing boats taking tourists for a spin to see the views of the hills from the water, at the gulls in the air and the swans on the lake.

Two old men came walking along with a bag. 

The bag was a paper bag. 

Out of it they pulled two loaves of bread and some buns. 

Gulls began descending from the skies and swooping around them. 

Other gulls were on the beach, as well as mallards. 

The swans started swimming to shore and their feet aren’t made for shore travel and they lumbered along, joining in on the fun so awkwardly.

“I notice that as we ride along in the train that Wyona loves watching the animals in the fields, the cows and especially the flocks of rams, sheep and new-born lambs. 

She sat down and on a bench and enjoyed the bird show. 

Part of the time her mind was on how to creep up on them and see how close she could get to them before they would scatter.

We got this day-old bread at the market, tonight”, said one of the old men. “Best two pounds I have spent today.”

And writing this note has been the best two hours I have taken today.


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