My plan was in place, timetabled to the last minute, but as I waited on the platform, I was anxious that it should all go well. This slipping of an adventure in between the pages of my everyday life, like a bookmark, highlighting its unusualness. And then the train pulled into the platform, and I climbed aboard, although not quite as I remembered. Once upon a time it seemed more like clambering, leaping over the void; the distance between platform and train was now a mere step, although somehow the mark of entering another realm.
Sat in my seat, looking out of the window at the world passing by, my anxieties were left behind, like the leaves that were dancing in the vortex of the train. In their place came memories, of when travelling by train was a much more common experience for me, lines from favourite poems and a mindful immersion in the journey. I daydreamed out of the window, enjoying the different perspective. My time corralled was a jewel to me, away from any demands, to be guarded and treasured.
Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
Houses and buildings faced away from the line, showing their hidden sides, like flashing their knickers. A commentary on society in the predilection of solar panels on rooves and trampolines in gardens. Previously unseen buildings came into being, as if at that moment, a different, personal, version of the tree falling in the forest unheard. Familiar landmarks unaltered in twenty years and things unremembered from my childhood travels, although clearly trackside since then, all melded together in the scenery of the journey.
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
The landscape kept changing somehow seamlessly between being submerged in a cutting, trees almost meeting overhead to form a tunnel, and riding above the land looking down on a patchwork of life, skies wider than my usual scenery. The colours of the season predominated in the spaces between brick and glass, clothing the trees in metallic coloured decorations. But patches of shockingly bright green where crops, perhaps grown for fodder or to be ploughed back into the earth to help the next seasons growth, sat starkly among other lacklustre fields.
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
Bright lights from the carriage, reflected in the window stronger than the dull day outside. Like those on a Christmas tree rather than the feeble lamps of the old rolling stock. The gently vibrating massage of the seat but without the clickety-clack sound of truncated rails. The whoosh and then pause in sound going under a bridge, the sucking slam of a passing train travelling at what seemed such fast speeds. The lilt of familiar station names from an automated voice now. Still in the same order as ever, not jumbled although somehow that was expected.
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.
It was as if I had been transported into a parallel world, rather than just moved forwards several years. And then as soon as this alternate universe came into being, it was gone, the return journey made. I was home again, stepping back into my normal life. The delights and dramas of who was going to forget something crucial at school or wasn’t going to eat the tea on their plate was awaiting me. My secret tryst with adventure is done for now, but already I know it will call again for me to pause from my everyday, and I will come.