Hola! Hope you're smiling :)
After a long, emotional hug with Julia on Liverpool station’s platform no:3, I proceeded to platform no:1 as that’s where my train to Carlisle would be.
This is a HUGE MOMENT.
I AM TRAVELLING ALONE IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY.
I wasn’t alone until then. My brother Feroze was with me from India to London and Julia from London to here but this is a time when I am truly on my own. I can’t tell you how I longed for this day, this moment. How many afternoons were spent in coffee shops, flipping through travel magazines, dreaming of this time. There’s no telling what deep longing I felt each time I watched ‘Lonely Planet’ and wished to travel alone.
On June 19th, I travelled alone for the first time – went from Liverpool to Carlisle and that wasn’t an ordinary journey.
I checked the tickets and the platform several times and thought nothing can go wrong. I soon found myself on platform no: 1 and saw that the train was about to leave! The inspector on the platform asked me where I was going and I said Blackpool instead of Carlisle, that’s because I my first train was from Liverpool to Blackpool and I had to get off at Wigan North West. ‘This is your train,’ he said. By now I trust everyone in England more than I trust myself. So I got on the train with my mighty backpack.
In the train I found a great seat and settled down. Left my backpack in an empty corner but soon realized that it was a space meant for wheelchairs. I was stupid to think it’s unlikely that there will be someone in need of that space. Soon a wheelchair was brought in with a young guy on it, his leg in a bandage, along with two other young men. I struggled with the backpack, trying to moving it to another place but he said I could leave it there, he didn’t mind. He said sorry for he couldn’t help me with it! He was a beautiful looking man, kind and spoke gently. I thought I should try speaking with him a little later, a casual conversation maybe.
I took a seat right opposite a man with an iPad and in formal, business clothes. I checked my watch 2:07 pm. But my train to Blackpool was at 2:12. I was stupid to not pay attention to English precision. If my train’s at 2:12, there’s no way it would leave the station at 2:07, that doesn’t happen in England.
Me: ‘Excuse me Sir, I have a bad feeling about this. I am trying to get to Carlisle and these are my tickets. I think I am on the wrong train. What do you think?’
The Co-Passenger: ‘I am afraid you are. This is not the train to Wigan North West.’
Me: ‘What do you suggest I do?’
Co-P: ‘I’d get off at the next station, go back to Liverpool and take the next train to Wigan and then a train to Carlisle from there.’
Me: ‘But my tickets?’
Co-P: ‘I am sure they will let you take any train. Let me check the schedule here (on the iPad).
As he did that, the train halted.
Co-P: ‘I’d get off here you know.’
Me: ‘Okay, then I will!’
I quickly collected my backpack which lay near the wheelchair and the man on it. I smiled at him. If there’s anything called ‘soul language’ – I spoke to him in it to say ‘I hope our paths cross again,’ before dashing out of the train as its doors closed.
The train zoomed past. And I was standing alone under a grey sky, on a random station called ‘Broad Green.’ Alone. Unable to stop smiling.
And with that smile I reached the ticket counter in Broad Green. If I read minds, I could tell that the two middle aged men at the counter thought ‘What a stupid girl!’ when I told them, giggling uncontrollably, that I got on a wrong train.
There was a train to Wigan in 5 minutes which I took. Reached Wigan and from there, took a train to Glasgow with a stop in Carlisle. This train to Glasgow wasn’t my original train so I didn’t have a seat.
I stood for the next two hours, with great joy in my heart as I watched the beautiful Lake District from the window and didn’t have to be all composed and hide my smiles for I stood alone in between compartments. It was raining and hence not so bright. I saw vast expanses of beautiful green hills like from a painting, livestock, sheep and horses. Horses! The most beautiful image I captured in my head is that of a new born foal in the middle of a farm with an entire family of horses around it. I saw brooks flowing into forests, large rivers with old trees lining them and lovely little villages – every scene a picture postcard in my memory. I listened to Enya on my phone.
Me: ‘Sorry, I missed my connecting train and the lady at Wigan’s ticket counter said I could take this one. I am very sorry about the inconvenience.’
Ticket Inspector: ‘Oh that’s not a problem, just that you have no seat and have to stand the next two hours.’
Me: ‘I am happier standing.’
Ticket Inspector: In silent language – ‘stupid girl’ but in human language ‘Cheers.’
And I reached Carlisle. Found a cab to take me to The Fauld, Longtown with an Indian driver who gave me a 3 pound discount 🙂
Now let’s see who this Artur is.