A less-than-busy Virgin train allows me to upgrade my seat from the non-table seat reserved for me to a tabled seat, complete with power point for powering my laptop without draining the battery. How handy! Now I can give you a running commentary on my journey! (Of course, I should really be working, although I have written a variety strategy report and we’ve not even reached Oxford yet).
The Oxfordshire scenery is looking rather beautiful, if also rather dry. The grass is closer to yellow than green on the hills as we pass by. I much prefer sitting on a train to driving, as there is so much more opportunity to look at things, like the absolutely fabulous range of barns we just passed near Closey, with tilehung sides and large old wooden doors – beautiful.
The journey up from Chichester to Reading was uneventful, with only a bloke who went to the door of the train at every station for two hurried puffs on a Marlboro Light, much to the amusement of his friend. At Reading, a pair of teenage American lacrosse players got on the train. One immediately realised that she had left her jacket on another platform. She asked me when the train left, and I suggested that she asked the guard to hold the train whilst she went and found it, but in the end she was back on board before the train moved off. Her travelmate bears an almost shocking resemblance to Penn, only younger. At first, I even thought that it was her, as Penn lives just outside of Reading and could feasibly be catching a train there. But unless she has suddenly started dyeing her hair auburn and taken to speaking with an American accent, then this girl is doing a fairly lousy impression.
Two rows behind me, i.e. the row behind the one I should have sat in, a child is playing with some toys whilst his father (or maybe grandfather or uncle – hard to tell) dozes next to him. It sounds like a lot of people are getting hurt and blown up in his imagination, and there seem to be plenty of car crashes. I guess it says a lot about me that, as a child, one of my favourite toys was a Britains combine harvester with which I would "harvest" the circular straw coloured rug that may parents had on the living room floor.
Two people have sat next to me and are conversing in rapid sign language and working on a series of forms and business documents. It’s hard to imagine how much of a hindrance profound deafness must be to everyday life, let alone holding down any sort of job that requires interaction with others. And I can’t even speak another spoken language, let alone sign language.
I could really use my bag of sweets right now, but their packed in my computer bag, and I can’t get to it without disturbing people. I’m usually better prepared than that when getting onto a train or plane. Bah. I may have to go for a contrived loo break to get to them, although the coffee I had at Reading is making the contrived nature of such a break less necessary by the minute.
OK, loo break achieved. Spiral notepad with important meeting notes that I need to convert into strategy reports – retrieved. And, mst importantly, bag of wine pastilles retrieved and disappearing fast.
The train has just left Banbury. As you leave the station, on the right are several industrial units. One of those is clearly the home of a manufacturer of golf buggies. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many golf buggies parked together in one place in my life!
Just passed a huge patch of yellow toadflax just a few hundred yards north of Leamington Spa station. It’s a plant that seems to grow well on railway embankments, clearly enjoying the free draining nature of the ballast tat forms the trackbed. It’s a plant that I often see growing along Centurion Way, the cycle route that follows the course of the old railway line from Chichester to West Dean. I’ll walk up there soon and see if I can get a photo for you.
Right – we’re heading into Birmingham, and I’m pooped. Time to switch this thing off and maybe have a short rest. Travel is tiring.
Well, Holmes Chapel is the back end of beyond. Not only that, but the back end of beyond in a power cut. But the Swan Inn is friendly, and I think I’ll stay there next time I come to the area, not least because it is right next door to the station. Instead, I’m in a TravelLodge. Top tips for TravelLodge guests – get the disabled room. It is at least 25% bigger. Secondly, don’t eat in the Little Chef. The food is lousy. But it is reasonably priced and is comfortable.
But there is no phone point in the rooms, so I can’t update from here. Gah! Or check my mail. Oh well, I’ll have to do that when I get to Holland.
And, apparently, Ian is back. Yay!