“Durham, Darlington, York, Doncaster, Grantham, Peterborough, Stevenage, London Kings Cross,” monotoned the voice from the ceiling arches. I hoisted my bags slowly (I had packed for an English summer: open-toed sandals and long-sleeved tops, shorts and a waterproof jacket) and joined the orderly queue waiting for the doors to slide open.
Over the river we began to pick up speed. A red telephone box and the Cathedral at Durham, the train tilting as we came across the bridge, rainclouds and wheat fields, the Medieval walls at York, smoke stacks at Ferrybridge, leaving Doncaster behind, joining a line that had trees growing out of an adjacent track, changing platforms at Grantham, Thatcher, Thatcher, Thatcher. After Ukraine everything looked small, neatly-packaged, and malleable. I sat reading, tuning in and out to the voices nearby. “Is there anything on the telly, do you know?”, “How far’s London?”, “Yeah, she murdered that Charlie, the one that came back from Canada. Or Australia - one of them,” “I’m on the train,” “Leeds are winning Hartlepool. Oooh, that’s good.”
There was a bus stop in front of Nottingham Station and a woman talking loudly on her phone as she looked through the timetable. “Are you from round here?” “Is that a Geordie accent? I used to go out with a sailor from Newcastle.”