Saturday, January 14, 2012

Return to Grimsby - Darthly I Slept

I was on my way back to Grimsby via train just five hours after leaving Cleethorpes via car.  I somehow left behind my CPAP at Ginnies Guesthouse and I needed it to sleep through the night.  I took the Overground from Hackney Wick station to Highbury & Islington station, change to the Victoria Underground Line to King's Cross / St. Pancras station, then up to King's Cross railway station for the train to Leeds, changing in Doncaster and then onto Grimsby Town station.

This was my first time to traverse the Underground/Overground system alone.  Without a map, I might say.  All I had were the printed maps on the inside walls of the trains.  In a short time and without a hitch, I arrived at King's Cross railway station, made my way through some construction at the station to the ticket counter and bought the least expensive return ticket.  

It was not like I was in a country where a foreign language was spoken.  For the most part we were speaking the same language, English.  Well my English and their English sounded different, but they were close.  When I asked questions there seemed to be some time lapse before an answer was delivered.  Maybe those queried didn't understand me.  Maybe they couldn't believe I was so dumb to be asking such a question and had to take a second to qualify my level of seriousness before being played a fool.  Or maybe their civil servant attitude was like those here in the US and they need to keep up an appearance of disdain.  For whatever reason, it took sometime for me to ascertain which train to take and at which station I would change trains for Grimsby.  Once I had my answers, I needed to find the track number for my departing train.

King's Cross Station Departure Board

King's Cross station was busy.  It was Sunday evening, the school break was over and students were headed back to school.  I found the departure board that showed the trains, their platforms and if they were running on time.  I wanted to get to Grimsby as soon as possible, so I chose to take the next train out, the 20:35 to Leeds.  There was no track number on the board when I first joined the crowd watching the departure board, ten minutes before the train departed.

As I stood in the crowd, I just knew they all were waiting for the same track number reveal, I decided I needed to get my photojournalist face on.  I had my camera and the overnight bag that held the flash equipment I had forgotten the first time I was on my way to Grimsby.  I pulled the camera from its bag.  I captured the photograph above of he departure board.  I knew I would be writing about that moment and a picture was needed for the post.  The track number was announced and I needed to get on the train to Leeds.  I immediately put away my camera along with my photojournalist face.  

I was now alone.  Just me, myself and I.  My movements were not hampered by any dependents.  On the platform, I moved like a cat, quietly, quickly, sure-footedly sidestepping platform hogs, passing slow moving couples and backpack carrying chattering students.  I took long strides at a quick pace.  I passed the last car which was the first car on the tracks for first class passengers.  Then past the dinning car and the next car and so on until I became afraid the train might leave without me.  I jumped onto the second car from the front of the train.  The signs on the windows declared it a quiet car.  Quite car?  I haven't been on a train since I went to the New York World's Fair in 1965.  I don't remember quite cars back then.  No, I am wrong.  I was on a steam locomotive powered train in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania for an eight mile round trip, maybe, twenty-five years ago.  There was no quite car on that trip, either.  The whistle and chugging made sure of that.  I looked around and decided that with most people reading, wearing headphones or ear buds, I should just sit back and relax.  I quietly enjoyed the reflection of the interior of the car in the window glass with its pitch black countryside backdrop interrupted by piercing lights of train stations and mall parking lots.

Being near the front of the train, it wasn't long before a train employee made her way to our car.  She was pushing a stainless steel cart like those flight attendants pushed in the aisles of airplanes.  This train attendant was hawking food.  Snacks, drinks, sandwiches.  I declined when she came along side and offered her wares.  I was kind of surprised by her appearance and at the start of the trip, wasn't ready to eat.

As the hours wore on, I heard a rumbling sound coming from my stomach.  I hadn't eaten since we stopped at the OK Diner north of Stamford on the A1.  I wasn't sure how many cars the food cart attendant had traversed but, now I was hungry.  I thought I might visit the dinning car.  I put that thought out of my head.  I didn't feel like collecting my belongings and bumping my way back three or four cars to a cellophane wrapped sandwich with one piece of meat and one piece of cheese between two pieces of bread at an inflated price.  So I just kept seated and took in the sights and sounds of the quiet car.

The car wasn't totally quiet.  There were two women talking behind me somewhere in the car.  Talking loudly enough that I knew one husband's name and that the other loved Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey.  I thought about leaving my seat and asking the women to lower their voices.  Then I visualized a fat, sixty year old, Yank bouncing off the seats on my way towards the sound of their voices.  I bruise easily and at my age, bones take a long time to heal, if they heal at all.  I wiped the vision out of my head.  I just listened to their inane conversation and waited for the announcement, "Doncaster, next stop."

At 22:00. I disembarked the Leeds train onto the Doncaster platform.  I thought I made a mistake telling Francis at Ginnies that I would be around to collect my CPAP once I arrived in Grimsby Town.  By the time I got to Ginnies it would be near mid-night.  I needed my machine to breath.  I needed it tonight.  I began to feel badly about my late arrival.

The train to Grimsby was more of a commuter train than the Leeds train.  It looked more like the Overground cars, fitted with side facing seats as well as seats facing forwards and rearwards.  This train moved slower.  The stations were closer.  The cars were noisier.  I was feeling tired.

The train arrived at a well lit Grimsby Town station.  Awaiting was my son's-in-law father.  I was comforted to find he had visited Ginnies soon after I called and collected my CPAP.  I was relieved I wouldn't be waking up the guests at Ginnies or keeping Francis awake past his bedtime.  Once at the house my son's-in-law father made me a sandwich which I washed down with a Carling beer.  I was shown to the guest bedroom where my son had slept the two nights before.  I plugged in the CPAP and I was asleep within a few minutes, breathing effortlessly, sounding like Darth Vader.

©Damyon T. Verbo - all rights reserved

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