Train stations are evocative places. I’m always reminded of journeys – departures and arrivals, hellos and goodbyes. I’m reminded of train travel with friends and family, those I have waved off and those I have welcomed home. I was stuck at Crewe one night waiting for a connection after a long journey where I failed to get a job – and this piece happened. A
Bruno Mars croons on the soundtrack and the play list is dancy but the floor and the bar in this windswept cafe are empty -all but cleared of Sunday travellers. There’s a Brief Encounter moment as a Virgin train hurtles through on the central tracks bound for Liverpool . Others trains are London-bound: T shaped lights in First class illuminate the snug, curved seats – All very Orient Express
Passing trains – for the Pennines, Manchester, Liverpool and branch lines are sucked out of the station into the neon spotted dark; each carriage conveying its own hopes and disappointments. In the bar the radio jangles – the voice of the presenter strikes a rough alto; blonde, estuary and flat – far from here; and her youth and vibrancy are almost alien.
The bar’s blue light reminds her of France – and the seedy pubs of her youth. Circular and neon its is almost violet on the curves as they reach infinity. Trolley cases rattle on the mottled concrete outside and the wind sweeps through the station again. This time a Pendolino hammers through the station, and her glass of Shiraz ripples. In the corner of the bar the woman scribbles – all green ink, green thoughts and travel- sick. She is lost in the LED neon space and it is as if the stars hide as she sways to the rhythm of the soundtrack while she writes.
A stranger walks in wearing straight legged bleached jeans. He is man-bagged and young – man and he fiddles with his lanyard, the red remnant reminder of a long day at a distant office. The woman is stuck – in Crewe – and the network sprawls around her and beyond. She is travelling home; on her way home, from home. She is a geographical contradiction of mountain, coast and river, that straddle North and South – a mishmash of accents.
The express trains still rush through and the branch lines and cafe vibrate. She thinks of the home she has left, the home she has created and the home she returns to now. Suddenly her dreams are all films: Brief Encounter, The Railway Children. She recalls long lost lines LMS GWR and thinks of her grandparents who once walked this station.Celia Johnson’s eyes and cut class accent follow her on to her connection and while she dozes, she sees picket fences, moonlight picnics, and hears Jenny Agutter’s shout in her dreams.