Travelling Light

Morning train

These are last week’s pictures of my train journey to Doncaster: the train at Heckington in grey morning light and then the view of fields and the sun coming up, seen from the train window.

I had been feeling a bit lost and disconnected for a few days, worried about work and money, uncertain about the future: perhaps suffering from a sense of anti-climax after passing the first anniversary of moving here.

But my spirits rose waiting at the station in the half light. Then, travelling while the sun came up, noticing sunrise being a little earlier, I felt excited and full of hope, my steps lighter. Nothing had changed except the sun had risen, just as it does every morning, every dawn. But perhaps every new dawn has a bit of magic in it.

Sunrise on the tracks

Evening homecoming

evening train

A postscript to yesterday’s notes on travelling from Manchester: here is the ‘little train’ from Nottingham, on which I sat writing my way home. It has just deposited me at Heckington a little after 8 o’clock in the evening.

I’m alone under a luminous evening sky, watching the train pull out of the station. In the photo you can just see the lights of a train coming the other way, from Skegness and Boston.

Tuesday night bell-ringing is in full swing as I arrive home, filling the garden with sound. I try to capture the cheerful clamour with iPad video, though it may make for too strange a blog post – we shall see…

Bumpy way home

Peak District

I’ve mentioned before (Heckington, Grantham, Doncaster, Manchester) how the train from Manchester to Sheffield passes through lovely Derbyshire scenery. I captured a swift peek (no pun intended…) through the train window on my way home from sweet day with daughter and grandbabies. More rural England, but with bumps.

I’ve lost what little tolerance I once had for Manchester traffic. Out on a walk I was so happy once off the streets of Gorton and onto the Fallowfield Loop cycle track, surrounded by trees and birdsong instead of cars. It’s a pity there are so many disused railway lines, but lovely when, as with this one, they have become peaceful green corridors for bikes, dogs, grandmothers and toddlers.

And now I’m at Nottingham, safely on the little train to Heckington. Feels like home already; even though part of my heart is left behind, over the Pennines, in the smoke.

Trainspotting

Not the Irvine Walsh novel, nor yet the film; just yours truly at the end of a platform at Doncaster (en route to see daughter in Manchester), surrounded by serious blokes with cameras, all of us jockeying for best position to take pics of a steam train going past. It was a fine sight. I was too slow with the iPad to get a good view of the engine, but here’s the rest of her on her way out of the station.

My first video post – hope it works for you.

I have found a page about trainspotting with a picture of the same old train, I think, called ‘Queen of Scots’, taken in 1962. Have a look here – you have to scroll quite a way down the page – I liked reading about the amazing electric table lamps which I saw through the carriage windows and which you can just see in the video if you pay attention.

A train of contrasts

Mill and station

Here is Heckington station, early Friday morning, with Heckington Windmill behind it and the man opening the level crossing for the 6.27 to Nottingham. This is when I have to leave the village on rare days when I have an early appointment at my family mediation placement in Doncaster. This first train of the morning is only one carriage long; and station and train are both very quiet.

It was a very different picture on the way home, getting on the train at Grantham (see Of trains, work and people). There were two hen parties on their way to Skegness, one group of women already wearing pink fluffy ears. I have been on the train a few other times when it has been full of suitcases and people in holiday mood. Summer is here, in spirit if not weather.

Also at Grantham a small child watched the train pull in and said in amazement to her mother, ‘It’s little! It’s little!’

The Poacher Line, as it is called, is a community rail partnership. It is indeed little, but also local and lovely.

On my bike

River Slea

Weather cold, grey, grim; though they are promising spring by the weekend. Decided I must get out more, despite the chill.

The direct route to Sleaford, our nearest town, is along the very busy, very cyclist-unfriendly A17. So I go by the quiet, pretty back roads, a longer way round. It’s nice and flat, of course, but I’m not very fit and the seven or eight miles feels like plenty. So, after pottering around town, my bike and I go home to Heckington on the lovely train.

Above is a picture of the River Slea, not far from Cogglesford Water Mill (another working mill) where I get a cup of tea and a book of Lincolnshire Cycle Routes called On Your Bike!

In the week of Margaret Thatcher’s death, how can I not be reminded of her friend Tebbit’s famous exhortation to the nation’s unemployed? Echoing across the years, I hear that same cruelty and brisk scorn that ring through our politicians’ pronouncements about poverty today.

I arrive home glowing from my exercise and musing on our divided, unequal, materialistic world. A hapless courgette from today’s vegetable box becomes a focus for my frustration (wastefulness of transporting something mostly water around the world etc etc).

The courgette meanwhile gets on with doing what courgettes do best; it is delicious in an omelette, with tasty chard and potatoes.

p.s. It’s easy here to buy good, locally-grown vegetables, but the ones we get in the weekly box from Woodlands Organic Farm are particularly nice, maybe even as tasty as if we had picked them from our own garden. Highly recommended.

One more bit of railway…

Just a few more railway photos – with a promise my next post will be on something else! These are all of Heckington station, where I start my journeys, taken this Monday morning as I was setting off for Cambridge. I like the old buildings and character of the station, and that it is well-used and ordinary; bring on fewer cars and more (affordable) trains, I say.

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.

It’s cold outside

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The cold weather is frustrating in some ways as we would love to be getting stuck into the garden. There are leylandii hedges to be cut down – before birds start nesting in them – and much planning to be done, measuring of space for chicken run, costing of fantasy greenhouse and so on.

But the garden is very beautiful in the snow and ice. Everything is outlined in haw frost: great trees and small, the washing line, each twig or tiny leaf fallen on the ground become something distinct and extraordinary.

And the landscape from the train window yesterday (when on my weekly trip to Doncaster) was like a Christmas card: field after ploughed field striped with snow. The morning started badly, with train from Skegness nearly half hour late. Our picturesque local station is much too small for waiting room or coffee or anything warming like that. But I haven’t fallen out of love – still seems a miracle to be able to walk ten minutes down a village street and get on a train at all.

I think that if you tap on these images you can see them full size, which looks much nicer.

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