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Monday, July 14, 2008

Train Story

hereford station_8704

Back on the train today, heading for Bristol to find some clothes that might be suitable for a wedding (our wedding). It’s been an interesting journey so far. Started in the musty waiting room on platform two - a forgotten waiting room. No matter how long the wait or how bad the weather, no one goes in there. The space just hangs, not moving, only nudged by the occasional tannoy announcement.

Attached to the wall of the forgotten waiting room are three glass-fronted notice boards: inside them a series of photos depicting the station as it has changed over time. Apparently, it was built as a temporary stop in the mid-1850s, serving as the terminal station for three different lines that ran on different gauges. I found it interesting that health and safety officials were active even back then - in the years after the station’s opening they demanded that the platforms be rearranged so as to prevent accidental deaths.

Looking at those photos of folks waiting for trains in the late 1800s and early 1900s made me wonder what life was like for them. They must have had very different concerns, and I’m sure lived much more in the present than we do now. I wonder how changes in circumstance have changed us in terms of fundamental beliefs and spiritual values, Were they more in tune with spirit back then than we are now? Have the distractions of modern life left us disconnected with source? Difficult to know. I guess I could go and take the Connection Test on to find out.

Boarding the train, I found an empty table and took a seat. I was listening to my iPod - an audiobook featuring the 81 verses of the Tao. I find it very calming. The message ‘none of this matters’ is repeated again and again, and helps me to let go of any stress I may have attached to my daily to-do list. It’s liberating to be reminded that it’s not really about achievement, success or possession. It’s just about being, now. Sometimes it’s difficult having that as a core belief when society dictates something else.

orcop from train_8703
The hill on which I live, as seen from the train

I was soon joined by a family of three: mum, dad and 17-year-old daughter Holly. They were on their way to an open day at Swansea University, which has lower entrance requirements that Birmingham (where Holly really should go because it has the best neuroscience department). Best to have a back-up plan in case Holly doesn’t get straight ‘A’s for her exams, but we know you’ll get those, won’t you Holly?

I sat next to them in silence for a long time, listening to mother doing enough talking for all three of them. It was clear that she was the boss. The exact opposite of her withdrawn husband, she had opinions on everything, and especially what Holly wants to do with her the rest of her life.

I wondered at what age Holly will rebel. She’s still at home, still under her mother’s spell at the moment. But when she gets to uni it will all change. She’ll give up Polo and take up drinking. She’ll decide that actually she hasn’t the slightest bit of interest in neuroscience, pack her bags and go travelling around India with her new boyfriend. One year later she’ll write home, a scribbled message on the back of a photo of her 4-week-old baby - she’s now in Malaysia where she’s set up a school for impoverished children.

We were ten minutes from my stop, a good time to start a conversation. I wasn’t so interested with what Mother had to say, I was more interested in what Holly really thought about uni. Looking Holly in the eye, I told her that I had a couple of friends who went to Swansea - they’d loved it. She was about to reply when Mother jumped in, and for the next ten minutes told me about her friend who had a problem with snails eating their vegetables.

That threw me. The monologue lasted ten minutes. I wished Holly well, said goodbye to mother and father, and alighted at Newport.

And here I am, on the train for Bristol (currently under the river Severn).

The plan today is to spend some quality time with Tim, Mel and Callum, and buy my wedding outfit. I have a good feeling about this.



Anonymous has rightly pointed out that I could have read Holly and her mum all wrong - (s)he has an alternative reading of the situation in the comments section.

This prompted me to take another look at Holly and her mother, and in this time, I found something very different...

"...Maybe, just maybe, her overbearing mother is actually a superhero, who is usually to be found leaping between tree tops in the Amazon in a bid to save the rainforest.

She lives on a diet of raw cocoa and hippo milk (the secret to her super powers) and does battle with illegal loggers who visit the region in order to supply Harrods with expensive furniture. Her greatest weapon is a sonic boom which she emits by saving her vocal cords for three days, releasing all the energy at once.

She has saved over 30,000 hectares of pristine forest in this way.

By day, she is mother to Holly."



Anonymous Anonymous said...

...or maybe, just maybe, despite her (from the sounds of it) somewhat overbearing mother, Holly really DOES love neuroscience. Maybe she's been fascinated by it for years. Maybe going to University to study a subject she loves will be a fantastic academic, as well as social, experience for her (as I'm sure, after four years at Sheffield, you can well testify).

Maybe her degree will set her on the path to the career she's always dreamed of...rather than running from responsibility in a adolescent display of "rebellion" and bumming around South East Asia "finding herself" (i.e. getting battered at Full Moon parties)...not because she's a "free spirit" but because she's just scared.

While I appreciate your imaginings were probably firmly tongue-in-cheek, you can always look at things in a different way Joseph...

14/7/08 13:46  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, your "re-imagining" of my post is hilarious, as always.

14/7/08 20:32  

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