March 12th, 2003.

Tickets please.

I wonder why it is that I always feel inspired to write when I'm on a plane, train, or some other form of public transport? I suppose it could be due to the lack of anything else to do with my time. Having said that though I can do all manner of things on this laptop (a 12" PowerBook G4 for those who might be interested) from watching a movie to creating one!

I quite like watching movies on my laptop because the show-off part of me thinks that's cool. I plug in some headphones and viola! I have my very own 'in-flight' entertainment. All things considered though, it's probably better not to be flash.

Unlike those people with polymorphic mobile phone ring tones or whatever they are called! How annoying are they! I mean at what point does it seem like a good idea to have a full-on CD-quality second-hand rendition of some music as a ring tone? Those are probably more annoying than the 'usual' chirpy tunes annoying remastered into ring tones.

So anyway, I am on a train.

Okay, let me see. What shall I say? What shall I comment on? Hmm, I could say that I feel there is a better class of trolley dolly on a plane, but that wouldn't be very 'PC' now would it? I shouldn't be so shallow, should I? I'm sure this balding guy is a real catch in his own unique way! And after all, he isn't really a 'trolley dolly' anyway. He's the guy who clips tickets and... err... well, I think that is all he does?

So where am I? Nuneaton, or thereabouts. We just passed a house that looked like the kind of place that attracts dawn raids by the Police. "Welcome home Gordo!" was scrawled in paint above the front door presumably by a decorator friend who perhaps found himself without a pen and paper? My first impressions of Nuneaton have now been somewhat tarnished. I'm not sure that I'd want to run into 'Gordo' or his friend for that matter. I'm sure there is a lot more to Nuneaton than 'Gordo' and his mates though.

There goes our ticket inspector. I've re-titled him now. Calling him a trolley dolly was a little unfair and completely inaccurate. He's once again wandering through the train inspecting tickets. And I was wrong, he's not clipping them. No, our friendly balding ticket inspector has a thingy whatsit with flashing lights and stuff that allows him to give each ticket a very official-looking rubber stamp. There is clearly more to his job than I gave him credit for.

I hope we don't crash! My Mom would say "Simon, don't say that." As if saying it somehow heightens our chances of disaster. But the thought does occasionally cross my mind. I feel safer in a car if only for the seat belt. I mean if we were to hit something now I'd be wildly flung all over the place and I'm pretty damn sure it would hurt!

Moving on.

I wish this train had a first-class section. The snob in me would have paid the upgrade fee. However, there is no first-class section so my inner snob is here, slumming it with me and the other normal people.

Water Orton. That's where we are now. Who thinks of these names? I had a friend who lived in a place near Manchester called Broadbottom! Somewhere near Birmingham, I am sure I passed a place once called 'Licky End' and in Essex, I remember a place called Fingringhoe. I dread to think how those places got their names!

We're going past Fort Dunlop now. I remember passing this place on the highway when I was a kid. I was on a bus with all my classmates, heading to an 'adventure holiday' on the Isle of Anglesey in North Wales. Mr. Jeavons, the headmaster of our school, stood up on the bus and announced to all of us that we needed to look at this huge building because that's where they made Dunlop tires. It was a landmark on what had already been a long journey for a young boy from Essex, so we looked out the window at the big building where they "once made Dunlop tires". It's one of those memories that stuck in my mind for no reason, and I'm always reminded of it every time I drive past it on the M6.

Birmingham New Street Station. That's where we are now. I've been here many times in the past. The station is a good reflection of the city itself in my opinion. It's dirty, big, and ugly. Maybe I'm being unfair, maybe Birmingham has something wonderful to offer the visitor, but to be frank, if it has I've yet to learn what that is.

We continue North, passing industrial units, warehouses, factories, and what looks like a place where refrigerators go to die. I've never seen so many old refrigerators in one place! More factories, more industrial units. Through Wolverhampton and under a bridge whereupon Darren has declared undying love -4- Kelly. Past more warehouses and factories, and now the 'Night Inn' which looks like the kind of place our old friend 'Gordo' from Nuneaton would probably enjoy along with Darren and Kelly no doubt, although the chances of Darren and Kelly still being locked in the kind of passion that makes a man vandalize a bridge have probably faded much like the paint he used.

The train is bursting at the seams. It's rush hour and people are standing in the aisle. The heated air is thick with the sound of rustling newspapers, conversations, and frequent mobile phone intrusions. I'm one of many people using a laptop, a sign of the times I suppose. The guy across the table from me catches me reading the reverse of his newspaper. His phone rings, he answers it, it's Mike. "Hi, Mike".

We're approaching Stafford now. My old friend Mark went to University here and lived in a house that backed right on to these very tracks. I see it as we slow down to stop at the station. I wonder who lives there now?

A lot of people leave the train and are not replaced. A very trusting woman in the seat across the aisle from me has disappeared leaving behind her laptop, briefcase, bags, and coat.

At a deserted end of one of the platforms, two girls are kissing each other. At first, I thought it was a guy and a girl, but as our train began to move off they turned to look at us looking at them. They laughed, I smiled. I think their youthful exhibition was more for the thrill of it rather than the sentiment.

It's pitch black outside now and staring into the darkness all I can see is my reflection. With the lack of things to look at I think I might get out the scruffy paperback, I brought along for use in exactly this kind of situation.

I'm not much of a book reader, I never have been. But I have just one chapter left to read and it'll be good to finish it, although unless something enlightening happens in the final pages I shall remain blissfully unaware of what the heck it was all about. I don't mind though, I've enjoyed reading it.

Crewe station. The train loses nearly all it's passengers. A tattooed man and an old lady board. Fate rather than friendship looks like it has momentarily united this unlikely couple. They're talking loudly in broad Liverpool accents, the kind of non-conversation you have with passing strangers. Eventually, we pull away from the station and their conversation fades into the noise of the train as it clatters over the tracks below us. The train is colder now with fewer people aboard and I haven't seen our friendly ticket inspector in a long while now.

Runcorn. The train stops at the barely inhabited station. No one gets off, no one gets on. We continue.

Next stop, Mossley Hill. I've waited for trains myself at this very station. Actually, as coincidence would have it, the train I used to catch was probably this one. I remember how relieved I used to be when it arrived. At this time of a winters evening, the trains are infrequent and the dimly lit platforms emanate the feeling you get when watching a suspense or horror movie knowing that the next scene is surely going to be gruesome in some way.

Outside I can now see into the windows of old terrace houses built bone rattlingly close to the tracks. I see a lady washing dishes gazing at her own reflection in the window, a couple sitting in front of the obvious glow of a television and a man painting a bathroom bright yellow. I see a boy sitting on a top bunk playing some video game, a few more people watching TV, someone working on a PC in a small upstairs room and a huge poster on a bedroom wall of a beautiful sunset that could be a lifetime from here.

We're passing a park and a few local shops with teenagers hanging around scaring older people who probably think that this used to be a nicer area at one time and that the youth of today have no respect. There are some tennis courts lit so brightly you would swear that these must be visible from space. More houses, a gas station, a run-down old Church that could very well do with being touched by the hand of God, and a double-decker bus with barely enough passengers to make its journey worthwhile. Everywhere seems quiet, people are at home now I suppose.

The train slowly rolls into Liverpool Lime Street station. The few passengers left to make their way to the doors and leave, disappearing into the orange tungsten glow of the city's dark hours. The train stands still, it's not going any further, this is the end of the line, the end of this journey and I suppose the end of this meanwhile.

I'll be home shortly.