Silver linings

Grantham sunset

Second trip to Doncaster this week – feeling tired of travelling and so badly wanted to stay in my garden this morning, destroying more leylandii in the spring sunshine. But the training session I went for was good, a rare chance to get together with fellow trainee mediators; fun, informative and confidence-boosting. And later, while hanging around between trains on my way home, I watched the sunset and regretted the absence of my camera. Silly me – my iPad is also a camera – so here is that sunset sky over Grantham.

I love this sort of sky that looks as if painted by Turner – when you look at it full size, you can see the brush strokes.

Writing this on the little train. Back in lovely Heckington in a few minutes; too dark for gardening now. A quarter of a century ago, in my little garden in Brixton, I used to rig up lights so I could garden in the dark!

Landmarks in a flat country

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I’ve written before about my pleasure in being back in a landscape full of medieval churches. This one is in Folkingham, a village about ten miles away from us, with a nice campsite where we stayed in June and August 2012 while looking at houses in Heckington. We walked through cornfields, our route a triangle marked out by the churches of Pickworth, Walcot and Folkingham itself.

I think that soon I will be able to find my way around by the church towers I can see. Some have squat, square towers, others soaring, pointy ones. You can see them from miles away because the land is so flat. Driving back from putting daughter and family on train at Grantham yesterday, I stopped to take a picture of the church in Helpringham (below, in too little light at dusk) which I think particularly pretty. Then as soon as I leave that village, I can see in the distance Heckington’s own church, marking my home – though there are two more villages, two more churches to pass before my journey’s end.

Hundreds of years ago, other people would have seen these same towers, guiding them through the flatlands.

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Heckington, Grantham, Doncaster, Manchester…

Grantham

Four railway stations I’ll have visited between 10 o’clock and 5 o’clock today; each one bigger than the last. Tomorrow I’ll do the journey in reverse, together with daughter and family, coming for a few days visit – nice treat for me! Today I’ve been sat alone on trains, checking email and reading cheery documents about the likely impact of Universal Credit. Tomorrow I expect instead to be entertaining small grandchildren during the rigours of the journey. Only now do I remember that I meant to bring with me a new book called Maisie’s Train… Oh well.

The picture above is Grantham station, with the little train I get on at Heckington just pulling out on its way to Nottingham.

Last time I did this journey it was dark by the end of the afternoon. The year has moved on a little so today there’s light for me to see the Peak District between Sheffield and Manchester out of the train window; those smooth green hills stunning even under dark, lowering rainclouds. As at home, in that very different landscape, the green of the fields has a strange intensity as twilight falls.

Time passes and travel is such a strange thing: it seems only moments since I was looking out on those grassy, ancient slopes, but now it’s dark, I’m on the tram and Manchester is all shops and lights and rain.

Change at Cornbrook: a cold wind blowing as always, but worth it for the sunset over a city skyline.

Moonrise

Some of my best thinking has been done on trains in the past. Just now travel seems instead to interrupt thought and thus writing. I had another quick trip away last week, to London this time, for a mediation course. And as before, I came back with a jumbled mind and nothing to say.

For years I have felt that I needed travel to give me inspiration, ideas or stories; and have felt frustrated, angry, prevented from writing. Now ideas come at home; nothing earth-shattering perhaps, just the bits and pieces which end up on here, but so welcome. It’s such a relief to feel that openness and expansion from which thoughts bubble up, unforced, unanxious, surprising, like the best of good friends.

So perhaps, I think, it was space and light I was after, all these past years; space, light and this so-English landscape of field and hedgerow and water.

When the dogs and I came to the field yesterday afternoon, I mistook a smear of yellow light for the last of the sunset – even though, as we know, the sun sets behind the church, in the west and not the east. Then, a lovely thing, the moon appeared, a pale vast gold sphere, striped with cloud, hanging low over the fields. Found myself wondering if one can call the moon gold when traditionally she is silver; thought of Romeo and ‘yonder blessed moon… that tips with silver all these fruit tree tops.’

Today at twilight I was on my way to Grantham station. Driving due west, my way ahead was all black trees against a yellow sky fading to white; mile after mile into the dying of the light.

Collected partner off the train from happy jaunt to see Man United beat Fulham at Old Trafford. Home again in the dark, but all the way we had that moon again, huge and low and orange as a harvest moon; symbol of plenty in the depths of winter.

Of trains, work and people

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Over the past year I’ve been learning how to be a family mediator. Today is my first day back at my training placement since the move; so a new journey to work.

At 8 a.m. I was at Heckington station with the sun rising over the fens as I watched for the little train to arrive from Skegness, an hour away on the east coast. Now I’m writing this over a coffee at Grantham, waiting for a much posher train (East Coast Line, fast and pricey) to Doncaster.

I woke this morning feeling anxious. It’s an age since I did any mediating, or anything like work at all. But I opened my book on the train, looked down the index for something interesting to read (feelings, communication, questions, conflict…) and felt excited and pleased about sitting down to work with some real people again. It can be hard seeing how tough life and relationships are for so many of us, especially as times get harder; but still I get a buzz from encounters with people, seeing if, with a little help, they can work out something better for themselves and their children.

I love being on my own, out on my bike or walking, with empty fields stretching all around me and not a soul in sight. And since the move, this uplifting solitude is so near at hand, so everyday, so easy; not a struggle as it was in crowded Manchester. But other people are the stuff of life and I wouldn’t be without them all the time.

What’s the difference between solitude and isolation? Musing about this on the train; much more to explore another day.