Monday, November 19, 2007


Arrived back in London last night on the 11.58pm train into Euston from Yorkshire. We drove the first part of the journey, winding across the Yorkshire Dales along narrow one laned roads, white metal fencing along some of the fields just visible in the glow of the headlights. There was that same safe feeling which I had as a child, cosied into the back of our trusty Volvo with my two sisters, Mum and Dad in the front, Dad driving, Mum navigating and handing out cups of tea and sandwiches, when we were all together and could have been going anywhere, a voyage, an adventure. Last night was much the same, only now, still eldest but now smallest, I have to sit in the middle seat and the third occupant of the back seat was M rather than my other sister. As we drove, the snow started, softly at first, as if it hardly meant it. Sleet turned into snow and as we left the Dales behind and headed down the motorway it started to strengthen and settle. Annie's friend in the RAF had left behind his GPS navigator in her care whilst he was posted overseas and so 'Brucie' attempted to guide us southwards. He was persistant and adamant that we should use the M6, despite the warnings that there was slow moving traffic and an accident further south. "in three hundred yards, turn right" he directed. "Turn right". Pausing only to recalculate he started up again as Mum tried to direct us via another road and Annie desperately tried to work out which buttons to press to avoid motorway junctions, all the while Brucie insisting that we should "turn right". Once we decided to rejoin the motorway we were surprised he didn't applaud when we finally chose to follow his directions but there was a final test for him, when Dad wanted to drive past the slip road, over the bridge to check the traffic was flowing and was then going to turn round. We all looked over the bridge and saw that the traffic was flowing albeit reasonably slowly and there was a moments silence. "What shall I do?" asked Dad. "Turn round" replied Brucie, followed by gales of laughter which embraced the car and carried us along the slow moving traffic to Stafford as we raced against snow and time to reach the last train which would take M and I to London, which we caught in the nick of time, jumping on board just as the train was ready to depart, brushing what felt like unseasonal snowflakes off our hair as we walked the length of the train to find solace in the quiet carriage.

The snow stopped somewhere round Milton Keynes and the rain started, lashing against the side of the train. I drank tea and read my book and London rushed closer and closer. The occupants of the carriage seemed resigned to the baby crying and after a while even he fell asleep under his mother's coat, lying on a table, perhaps lulled by the rain and the gentle rocking of the rail carriage. I sat there watching his face and hands in the reflection in the window, thinking of the reasons for the sudden trip northwards and the illustration of the cycle of life which had been so bluntly laid out for us: my aunt lost her father on the first day, her husband lost his mother on the second and his daughter gave birth on the third.

London seemed very light last night when we arrived. Despite the light by our door not coming on as usual I could see almost as well as in the daylight. The sky did not even seem to be dark, more an odd yellow hue and even at 12.30am there were sirens in the distance. There were no stars. How different to the night-time air in Yorkshire where accompanying my uncle on his nightly check on the animals at his farm I had not even been able to see a foot in front of me nor see my own feet. Pausing for a moment in the garden last night the air even smelt different - I could almost taste the pollution, could feeling it replacing the clean sweet air which I had greedily drunk in whilst climbing and walking on the fells only that morning. There may be a lot of things which London does better than Yorkshire but clean and dark night air is not one of them.

1 comment:

James said...

Ha good for Brucie, he knew he'd get you there on time, as long as you listened to him. I'm surprised he didn't get in a huff and say "fine, find your own way there". Although he probably fears you would just change the default voice.

It's so true about the dark air, when you live in cities you forget what truly dark really is.