Sunday, 7 December 2008

My kingdom for a window seat


One of the things I erred briefly about when I left behind my last job in the Potteries commuterland to work "up Manchester way" was the travelling.

So it transpires, twelve months on, that driving can be a faff sometimes (and, oh, the guilt of a Guardian reader!) but mostly the train service is very solid indeed, if expensive. In fact, some mornings it's an unequivocal pleasure. At worst, it's still preferable to wearing some Londoner's armpit in lieu of space for a hat.

Hopping on at Stoke, I can almost always secure a window seat before the chattering hoardes besiege the Quiet Zone at Congleton. For these forty revolutions of the clock (sometimes fewer), reverie is mine, punctuated only by the prodding enquiries of a ticket collector or the sudden snagging of a curious conversation.

The recent bad weather has only heightened this waking daydream feeling, even if the permanent way was really made for anything but. Northbound, we've Mow Cop and Bosley's Cloud resplendent in teetering silver. An ethereal flash of wending canal. The Dane whispering and winding far below us.

Later, we're retracing our stealthy slide-path, this time all wrapped up in provincial shadows and with only pale reflections of ourselves for eye contact. There are blue-chip cellphone accents and pinched corporate letterheads, things that only ever pass through Stoke on fast trains.

There are heads-in-notebooks and 3G wireless cards blinking neurotically. There are four seats, four Windows desktops and barely a waking moment as we shoulder-charge the A500 at Longport.

One face - uplit as if with a child's torch - scrunches briefly as a door beeps and plunks, letting in the cold Staffordshire air:

"How long to Euston?"

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