Monday, 12 January 2009

We were not moved by them

By means mysterious and enforced, I've been meditating a lot on the many station platforms and points failures of Greater Manchester in recent days.

A few years back, at Sandwell and Dudley, I recall watching as one businessman's good humour evaporated following a diversion away from New Street - he hurled his expensive briefcase onto the tracks in a torrent of anger. Helpfully, a man from Central Trains offered up insight aplenty: "your papers are all over the shop there, sir."

At best, the huffs and sighs are understandable. Situations of this sort can be stressful, but I'm fortunate that it doesn't happen to me often. Still, there's something I enjoy about the enforced slowness of it all - it's a bit like an involuntary version of lying in bed, staring at the ceiling.

So. I stared out at Manchester through the January gloom. The city seemed to lose its visual unity - or at least its long-standing mishmash of built coincidences - in the mist. The tall buildings were divorced from their skyline and stood about awkwardly as if blindfolded in an empty room.

Momentarily, I abandoned myself to the hypnotic reveries of urban winter fog, to mills named Daisy, and to oily canal bends. Nothing at all happened until the train began to whisper its way into the terminus.

An hour later, I hung around for another half an hour at Gatley station having run an errand at the end of my half day. Every few minutes, an airport express busied by, whipping up the drizzle and stirring a tumult of wrappers and polystyrene kebab trays.

I sniffed deeply, and resolved to polish my shoes. Enormous barques of cloud shifted silently over the M60. I listened to the gentle hum of the live wires, and thought about Kate and Sam. Good, glad thoughts - nothing deep, that's all.

Every waking second brings something to be neurotic about - one reason why I don't equip myself with ubiquitous computing capability. I think it's good to have time imposed on you, to allow yourself to daydream, and not to be bored by sweet nothings.

On that vaguest tangent, I've always loved these simple lines, which I'm quoting completely out of context here. They entered my head as I boarded my train home:

And the times that we all hoped would last
Like a train they have gone by so fast
And though we stood together
At the edge of the platform
We were not moved by them

Thanks, Billy. Meanwhile, here's a link to a long-forgotten version.

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