London to Eastbourne, UK

The next station is Clapham Junction. It’s 17th June 2006. The Venusians have gone for a while. People speak German. Two women. A man eats something that smells, rustling paper. We are now approaching Clapham Junction. Please mind the gap between the platform and the train.

Crossing Wandsworth Common. A lone chimney, then Balham. The backs of terraced houses. Washing hanging out in gardens. Faded graffiti along the walls of the cutting. A track curves off to the right. I was dreaming about the train set I had as a child last night. Could never decide on the track layout – used to keep changing it. It was on a green 8′ x 4′ board up in the loft. Birds would get into the loft and shit on the board, thinking it was grass perhaps. Shit would get onto the tracks and cause the trains to derail.

Larger houses now, but still terraces, as we approach Croydon. The train wobbles, making it hard to write. The sign at the station says Welcome to East Croydon, Home of Nestlé UK.

Fairfield Halls car park. (I once worked there.) Houses more spread out, with green between them. They’re building a road just past Purley.

In an emergency it is usually safest to remain in the train. A diagram of a carriage indicating the locations of the alarms and the doors. Outside the window are warehouses. Below the window a sign saying PLEASE KEEP FEET OFF SEATS. A picture of soles of feet resting on a white line.

Water streams down the window. Something on the roof must be leaking. It’s not raining. It’s sunny. Just a few clouds in the sky. We’re at Gatwick now. People getting on, talking, asking which direction the train goes.

The orange tail of an EasyJet plane. One with a blue tail waits at the end of the runway. The car park on the south of the airport looks empty. Perhaps people are staying at home to watch the World Cup.

It’s cold in the carriage. They have the air conditioning on. It looks warm outside. I didn’t bring a jacket.

Now fields and horses. An elderly couple who got on at Gatwick rustle sweet papers and rustle them some more whilst talking. This is where they split the train, says the man. We’re at Haywards Heath. The sign shows where the train is going. I guess if this comes up we know we’re in the right carriage, says the woman. More rustling. What time’s it get to Eastbourne? One thirteen. Quite a way to go yet. More rustling. Plastic bags. It’s a funny time to arrive in Eastbourne. It’s not before lunch and it’s not after lunch.

The train whirrs. Whistles. An announcement by a recorded voice. Newly converted flats for sale, says a sign as we pull out of Haywards Heath.

Tickets please. The conductor watches me write down the word tickets. I then have to search in my bag of many pockets for the ticket I bought from the machine in Victoria. Conductors on trains haven’t been automated yet.

The door between the carriages keeps opening by itself, then closing a few seconds later.

The South Downs. Open fields bordered by bushes.

We are now approaching Plumpton. Would customers please note that you cannot alight from the last carriage as this station has a short platform. Please ensure you are travelling in the right part of the train.

Tress of different shapes and sizes. Fields with different crops. Farm buildings. Telephone cables. A level crossing. A stream below. Chalky cliffs. Clumps of houses. Tree branches lying on the ground, on the steep slope of the cutting. Then a tunnel. The lights are on in the carriage.

Someone speaks on a mobile: Hello. Yeah. Just on the train. I’m at Lewes. I’ll have a cup of tea when I get in. Yeah. Put it on.

Self storage space: You store it – You lock it – You keep the keys. An old brick building. Looks like a school, but I can see a box of Pampers through one of the windows.

Electricity. A seagull. A running track. Road over a river. Cows around a pylon. White flowered bushes. Flat ploughed fields, hills behind. A long queue at a level crossing. There’s a level crossing around here that’s supposed to be the busiest in the country. The one at Hampden Park I think, just before Eastbourne.

Hedges.

The train goes around the hills. They’re over to the West now. Picking up speed. Shaking a lot. A winding stream. A building with a shiny roof. A caravan. Horses. Fences. Sheep beyond a busy road. A tit-shaped grain storage building. A level crossing. Flats with washing hanging out. Polegate. Man who looks like a railway employee standing on the opposite platform holding his jacket over his shoulder.

Semi-detached houses. An England flag. Squeaking wheels as we go round a corner. Metal things by the side of the tracks like small trees with three branches, regularly spaced about one meter apart.

Detached houses. A Somerfield warehouse. Comet. Flyover. Sheep. A lake. Swans. Cows. Gravel. A path. Carriage washers. Graffitied railway architecture. The conductor announces things. Could I remind you to take all your personal belongings with you.

2 Comments

  1. fairtradetrousers · 18 July 2006

    your experience is well documented. what about your aspirations?

  2. Mbashta · 24 July 2006

    I am most confused by your blog. Please to explain why an ‘A’ level is crossing and why the A stream is below. Surely the A stream is the pick of the creme, as Mausie (peace be upon her) might contend.