Archive for the 'trains' Category

Tales from the trains #3

[Notes from my rather epic journey to St Andrews a few weeks ago. It kept me amused]

And that was that.

We came we theologised, we left.

We had a poetry night, which is more awesome than it sounds.

I think I get poetry now. This is always been a personal bug-bear of mine; that I never really got it; that I never really got the significance of it as something more than mere transfer of information.

The key it seems is hearing it spoken. Perhaps in 10 different accents with some Ardbeg on the go.

I remembered some Seamus Heaney. Somewhere back in my memory it was there, unused and untouched but there all the same.

But the week ends as quickly as it begun

I’m at the beginning of my epic return, troy is conquered, I have a dangerous and mystical journey to get back… I’m sure I’ve heard that before…

I’m hoping southbound will be a bit smoother than northbound was: so far so good. I’m on the 1657 from haymarket to Birmingham. I have a whole table to myself. I have a flask full of coffee and a power suppply. Too bad the graphics card finally and conclusively died yesterday. Virgin trains give you free wi-fi? That’ll do nicely. Shame i’m confined to iPhone.

3 hrs of this. I’m a little buzzing with excitement at the prospect. God I love trains…

I have 3 hrs to hang around in Holyhead waiting for a ferry. You can imagine how much fun that will be.

Tales from the trains #2

[Notes from my rather epic journey to St Andrews a few weeks ago. It kept me amused]

So yeah, I know this wasn’t the most efficient way to get to St Andrews, but it is a kind of transport, travelling adventure.

I spent an hour and half in holyhead train station this morning. What have you ever done?

I was shouted at by a toddler, I was cold and they sneakily stuck us on a train replacement service instead of a train. There were almost fisticuffs for the seats.

It was never made entirely clear that there was actually more than 1 bus coming for the 100 or so passengers. Hence the anxious panic.

Bus is no way to travel. At least for me. I get nauseous when I try to read so i’m limited to headphones and podcasts.

The woman in front of me has a mid-sized dog on her lap. i wonder where the term came from – mid-sized, it makes it sound like a VW Golf, it’s kind of mid-size. It’s a very nice dog, lies there quietly and I don’t notice it piss on the seat once.

After 90 mins on the bus we’re in Ryll. I remember being here on a BB camp a long, long time ago. I may have been 14. Imagine that, i was 14 once.

With an hour to kill I spend my time in a chip shop eating lovely fish, horrible chips and surpisingly appetising mushy peas.

There is a scrum back at the train station as the angry mob (my fellow passengers) attempt to storm the turnstiles, just as the passengers are leaving the train we need to get onto. Hilarity ensues. By which I mean gruimpiness, swearing and angry looks.

The attendants were blissfully unaware of the situatin letting the two masses collide into each other in some amateur hour version of CERN.

We all get a seat somehow, on a 2 carriage train smaller than any even Northern Ireland railways seems to have to offer.

This train goes for 20 mins. We get off (scrum style)

We get on another train heading fro London, and there are no seats and a repeating announcements that those of us with rail sail tickets wil be castrated and fed on our own genitalia if we fail to leave the train at Crew.

So I’m in crewe. Huddled over a pint beside a power socket, recharging, figuratively and literally, for the final assault.

Tales from the trains #1

[Notes from my rather epic journey to St Andrews a few weeks ago. It kept me amused]

8am Dublin-Holyhead

I envy the people who can sleep. Sleep anywhere I mean.

A half-empty ferry on a wet Sunday morning, and people are sprawled out all around me sleepng like babies. Their cheeks elevated on rolled up sweaters to keep their skin off the faux-leather cushions.

The MV Ulysses. Joyce would be chuffes I’m sure.

I forget how much I enjoy travelling. Or perhaps this is just commuting. I’m not sure what the difference is. Maybe the weather.

It’s all about getting a seat, and the train connections. And waiting rooms where I can ge a power point for the lap top. Such an amount of work and entertainment I have to occupy me. If I can just keep the battery charged.

Commuter love – #11

I now regret the five minutes I took cleaning the bathroom before I left the house. That five minutes was the difference in catching the train or not.
I try not to run for trains. Walk quickly yes, but not run. Not that I mind running it’s just it inevitably involves your bag coming open and your keys falling out and then you have to turn back and then you fall over etc…
Walking quickly would have been enough today except my rail pass wouldn’t work on the turnstile. At least that’s my excuse. Seems easier to blame the technology than poor time keeping.
At least it’s a pleasant morning. At least the birds are singing.

Commuter love – #10

At rush hour, the golden hour of public tranpsort, between five and six when people are rushing around desperately trying to be home to make dinner and pick up the kids and whatever else they have to do.

At rush hour stations are busy bustling places. The platfroms throung with punters. Those in suits with briefcases.

But not in the evening. Not come 9pm with the various disparate individuals seeking transportation home. Those running late at the office making apologetic phone calls home. Young guys wtih guitars. Groups of girls with shopping bags. People like me after food and drinks with the guys from work.

Tara St. is like a little floating island of a train station, struggling under the weight of the load it’s asked to carry. The platforms shake as the commuter trains trundle past with their diesel engines roaring.

Today I feel cold. The first day I feel properly cold. As if autumn was only playing with change in the seasons till now. I’m looking forwad to my seat. To settling down in the corner of an empty carriage with my copy of Hauerwas. I like the isolation. I like the loneliness.


Sometimes I worry that I drift off up my own arse in introspection and isolation. I liked Into the Wild because it appealed to me not because i thought it was right. But look at me getting all self-referential. You didn’t come here for the first person did you?

Commuter Love – #9













All that effort all year to grow and be green and then in one spectacular week it changes colour in an act of superfluous beauty at it’s best. Helps me get the difference between that which is good and that which is beautiful that I struggled with earlier.

Commuter love – #7

Winter has arrived. Even if it’s only early autumn I feel the change so abruptly that I over dramatise it. I have draft proofed the house and added a curtain over the front door. I’m thinking of retrieving the slippers out of the cupboard

Sitting on the train platform I feel the gust blow down by neck and I feel cold. Cold in a way I haven’t felt for 6 months or so. I zip up the top of my fleece and pull the collar of the jacket around me.

Maybe I should take up smoking. It makes sense shivering on a platform and inhaling warm air/smoke. It seems like a good idea despite the obvious limitations if I think about thermodynamics. Best not to think.

I like the cold. When it’s a passing experience, when I know there’s a train coming or a warm house at the end.

My bag will get even heavier. Not just the book, the laptop, the coffee and my lunch. Now I’ll he carrying around hat and scarf. Like a snail carrying his house on his back. Though it’s more akin to a snail carrying his home entertainment system on his back. And a snail would never do anything that silly.

Commuter love – #6

Are the folk on the train listening to music with their DJ cans on carrying Bose CD players tucked inside their denims? If they’re listening to 128 Kbps mp3s on their iPod then it’s a bit like drinking 2.99 Tesco Chardonnay from a crystal goblet.

Or maybe they just think they look cool. Blimey I should probably let them know they don’t.

Commuter love – #5

No one wants to sit beside me today. Not that any one ever wants to sit beside anybody on the train, it’s more the sacrifice that has to be made just to get the weight off their feet.

But I feel it more today. Because I’m one of those guilt ridden souls that feels the need to keep the seat next to me as open as possible, moving bags and coats out of the way so that people can feel free to sit down with minimal embarrassment.

So people see me as the easy option to sit beside.

But not today. I imagine it’s the repeated mucousy noises emitted from my upper airways. No one wants to get a puffy eyed, flowing mucous disease for a few days. I imagine back when we had real coughing diseases like TB that they were ostracized in a similar way.

Wow I just compared having the cold to TB. That’s a new narcissistic high/low for me.

Commuter love – #4

The metro herald is about my only exposure to popular culture these days (he says with gross exaggeration). Newstalk keeps me about as informed as Newstalk can. The lack of a tv or a spouse interested in such things means I’m somewhat out of the loop as to which of the beautiful people are sleeping with who.

I always get an immensely friendly greeting from the girl handing them out in her shiny yellow jacket at the top of the road.

And if my greatest fear ever comes about – finding myself on a train for 45 minutes with nothing to occupy my mind apart from my own thoughts or even worse engaging in contact with my fellow human beings – then at least I’ll be guaranteed to find one stuffed in the folding tray table on the 0936 after rush hour.

Commuter love – #3

I always feel like I’m approaching some kind of epiphany when I’m on the train.

As if the sleepy, hungover crowds of humanity surrounding me are leading me into some kind of deeper understanding of the unbearable lightness of being a pretentious twat… Or something like that.

I heard Keller preach about how people talk about the sacrifice it takes to pursue a ministry in the city where you’re surrounded by concrete and lots of horrible ignorant people and ways of life. He declares that all that is nonsense because in the cities we find ourselves surrounded by the most beautiful part of all god’s creation – human beings.

Since hearing that I find myself watching people on the train with slightly less of the pictured attitude and more thinking about the jokes they tell and the parent that loved them and the child that adores them and all the happiness and joy that surrounds their lives. No doubt there’s plenty of pain and misery and regrets in there but even that makes them more human than anonymous commuting will.

[Picture Via XKCD (of course)]

Commuter love – #2

If you stand in the same place at the same time often enough on regular occaisons you start noticing other people doing the same thing.

Other people for whom the regular occupancy of this piece of platform at this time is a long repeated pattern.

You get to know their faces and dress codes. You get to thinking about what they do that has them there everyday.

I notice their books. I notice the progress they make and I try to judge whether they only read the book while commuting or if it makes it to bed with them each night before they fall asleep.

If this was a party of a friend you’d go up to them and say frendly ice breaking things like “how do you know so” and “what do you do with yourself most of the time.”

But you don’t do that in railway stations. The only reason people do that is to distract them while someone steals something out of their bag. Either that or you must be attracted to them and you’re making some kind of move.

We’re deeply uncomfortable with ‘idle’ chat. I know I am. As much as I’d like not to be.

I think it must be some hangover from stranger danger mantra that was drummed into me at a young age.

If I get over myself I’ll just go up to them and say “well what did you think of the book?”

Commuter Love – # 1

People who do this do it not quite for a living but it is part of what they do. They know the train timetables inside out.

They know that to get a seat on 1638 you need to be standing along the yellow line when the 1635 arrives.

That way when the 1638 arrives you’re in a prime spot. You can look at people’s faces and watch as they calculate the rate of deceleration as the train pulls into the station. Each person making tiny adjustments to their position to give them the best chance of being in front of the sliding doors when the train stops.

There’s a surge forward as the doors open, terrifying the daunted commuters trying to dismount the carriage. A few kind souls make way for the dismounting passengers but positionally this is a fatal move. The scrum invades the carriage and these poor kindly folk will be standing the whole journey.

Inside the carriage swords are drawn, ears are cut off and tiny gasps of victory and dissappointment are heard as the cushioned bounty is snapped up.

Papers are opened iPods are turned up in volume and some seem to be asleep even before the doors have closed

The rest of us poor sods content ourselves with findingthe best pole to lean against while some venture to stand along side the priviledge seaters in case one gets off at an early stop and they can claim their seat.

Just before the doors close there’s the frantic arrival of those guys who always leave it to the last minute. Like indiana jones they turn back at the last minute to tuck the end of their scarf between the closing doors.

They look around for admiration and only find subdued boredom and they realise that arriving sweaty to a tin can of soon to be sweaty humans is bad form.

I shift from foot to foot and open my book.


July 2020