I woke up at 5am, even though I could have slept til 8. Back in Devon my son woke up at the same time. Looks like we are psychically connected and I will never get to rest again - until he is a teenager when I will be able to sleep til 2pm.
It was a long wait for my train, but somehow I was pulling into Barnstaple station (unfortunately shortened to BNP on my ticket - also unnecessarily surely? Loads of letters they could have pulled out there) not long after midday. The slow train from Exeter to the land of the BNP looked ancient and was somewhat rickety, but I was filled with nostalgia as we passed through the old West Country stations on the way. None of them were ones that I would have visited as a teenager, but they were all little living museums to rail travel and gave my heart a Proustian rush of joy.
And having come from horrible busy London, it was great to be immersed into the slower but friendlier world of the Country of the West. An elderly couple next to me gently asked the young female conductor why there was such a chilly draught in the train and she said it was due to there being no door between the two carriages, but said it would ne less draughty a little further up the train and helped the pair move themselves and things up to somewhere warmer. She was very friendly and attentive and made my heart glow with pride for the general area in which I grew up. You wouldn’t get this service in London for sure, but people have time for each other here. It’s the best place in the world.
As I wallowed in my idyll of times past the train stopped and another man got on the train and sat in the seats the older people had vacated. He was twitching and belching and unshaven and even though I didn’t look directly at him I could sense he was trouble. He was making enough noise for me to realise he wanted people to look round at him so the the could start something with them. He had his feet up on the seats and was moaning gently and exuded trouble through his very pores.
I didn’t really like the fact that he was sitting behind me, so that if he kicked off I’d be unprepared for whatever was coming at me.
The belching continued and then suddenly he vacated his seat and made for the toilet and then noisily and copiously threw up.
Perhaps the West Country is not quite as idyllic as I remembered. Just as the stations reminded me of that golden time of solo travel and the potential of the world, this man was the other side of my youth, frightening strangers, high on something or coming down from something who were ready to punch you in the head for looking at them the wrong way.
Whilst he puked I moved to another carriage to be away from him and pretend that the West Country was all wild flowers and honey bees and a Karimor backpack filled to the brim as I set off on adventures that never quite came to anything.