So this is how it feels to be a ‘computer’. I’m on the 8.21 fast train, stopping only at Stevenage and Finsbury Park (where I get off). Looking around the train all the others seem accustomed to this. Of the seven people immediately surrounding me one is reading a book, one a kindle, one a glossy magazine and three are using mobile phones and appear to be playing games. At least one has well developed thumb muscles!
The remaining passenger of the seven intrigues me. She has a pink bag on her lap and clutches a small bottle of water. Her eyes are focused out of the window at infinity and periodically a frown passes across her face and then is gone again. My imagination is hooked – what is bothering her? What is the frown saying? Has she left a seriously ill child at home? Perhaps an elderly relative? Is she facing another tedious day at work? Dreading a meeting?
We are passing through the ‘greenbelt’ that surrounds London; rolling fields of green, rippling in the breeze. Blue sky of that soft blue before the heat starts.
For some reason I think of Skimbleshanks the railway cat, and find myself glad that T S Eliot was alive in a gentler day when trains chugged along slowly. I can’t imagine anyone being inspired by the rhythms of this train. Apart from the incessant white noise of the train on the tracks, the main variations are the ear popping thunder of a tunnel, or the slamming of doors as we pass another train.
Thus begins my first day in London. I think I can begin to understand London a little better. It is a whole world in a city. Everything is there in its ‘self-importance’. I keep remembering Andy Murray’s victory yesterday was a British victory and a scottish one. Definitely not English. But why do we in Scotland get so rattled by the south-east’s failure to understand that Scotland is different? Do we really in turn understand how different London is too?
And suddenly the brakes of the train squeal in anticipation, and we arrive at Finsbury Park. I join the others, facing east; they clearly know which way to turn.