One Hundred Miles: Collecting Detail

Picture courtesy of Lovinchelle

I moved to Birmingham in 2001, just under one hundred miles away from where I grew up in Bolton, My mother still lives there and every few months I will travel ‘Oop North’ to visit her. As I don’t drive (long story, but perhaps best saved for another time) I get the train. The average journey lasts about two hours and I often amuse myself by writing about the details in my surroundings – fellow passengers, the scenery, interesting events – the passing of time seems to fly by and before I know it I’m at my destination. Here are some of my recent observations – I apologise if you may have read some of this before.

Sometimes, the journey is entertaining even before it begins.

I’m not a morning person. In an ideal world, the very early hours of the morning are when I would be at my most productive, but I’m resigned to the fact that any sort of focus at work would be impossible if I don’t have a minimum of eight hours sleep every night.


However, the journey to the station proved to be quite an interesting one. Even at 6am there were still lots of people walking around in their clubbing outfits from the night before and some had obviously started to feel the effects of consuming their entire bodyweight in alcohol. One particular girl was stumbling around outside the station in a dress that was so short it barely covered her bottom. She had taken her enormously high shoes off and had made the intelligent decision not to bring a coat on one of the coldest nights of the year so she was shivering violently. She was alone and looked miserable, so I asked her if she was ok and was she able to get home. She looked at me with a death stare and replied:

“Yeah. F*ck off and mind your own business.”

Nice. As I started to walk away a car pulled up and I heard the girl yelling, “Where the f*ck have you been? I’m freezing my f*cking t*ts off here!”

Classy bird.

Waiting on the platform can be miserable.


Bolton train station on a cold Sunday morning

Small train stations are miserable places in the UK, particularly when the weather is cold and windy. The platform is quiet and the air is punctuated by the sound of a screaming child and the occasional announcement over the tannoy system by a woman who clearly lost her passion for her job years ago. There’s a man that has been hovering near me for the last ten minutes. I know what’s coming next: he’s going to sit next to me, ask me what my name is, where I am going and them ask me if I smoke and can he have a cigarette. I don’t mind talking to people – I’ve had lots of different conversations during train journeys and I always find them really interesting, but I always attract the cigarette hunters, despite the fact that I don’t smoke that often and rarely have them on me…

Nope, I was wrong. He wanted 20 pence. I’m not quite sure why he wanted such a small amount, but gave it him anyway.

The passengers can be very interesting, or not.

It’s currently 7.00am and I am on the train up to Manchester to go and visit my mum. It’s still dark outside, there’s a heavy mist in the air and there are just three of us in this particular carriage. The other two are having a deep and meaningful discussion about life and keep quoting motivational phrases at each other. Normally, I like these sorts of thoughts and must have thousands of inspirational messages saved onto my computer, but at this time in a morning I would rather they shut up, or at least conduct their discussion at a normal volume – Brian Blessed would be proud of their current efforts.

The Motivational Speakers and I have been joined by a young Asian woman, who has promptly fallen asleep in the chair opposite mine. Her expression is hilarious – her head is almost on the arm of the seat and her mouth is wide open. She isn’t dribbling yet, but it’s only a matter of time…

The views can be somewhat surprising.

Up until five minutes ago I was happily immersed in the WordPress world, completely oblivious to my surroundings. The carriage on the train is fairly empty and most passengers are asleep, so I’ve had a lovely journey. Suddenly, someone said,

“Wow! Look at that!”

I glanced out of the window and saw this:


A beautiful sunset

How stunning. I almost missed it!

And the eternal mystery… Mr Sushi!

I was quietly minding my own business, attempting to take photographs of the scenery outside. In the seats opposite were a young male and female and judging by their conversation they had only just met. He was slightly older than her and a little rough around the edges, while she was quite well spoken and demure. As the journey continued it became evident that there was a mutual attraction – he joked and teased her about the car that she drove, she giggled at his silly jokes and in between a few awkward silences they both tried to ask each other questions about each others lives without appearing too desperate. He said he was 24, she claimed that she was 20 (although she looked a little younger), she explained where she had been the night before, he appeared interested and listened intently… It was very sweet.


Houses near Stockport

About an hour into the journey the man pulled out the biggest box of sushi I’ve ever seen, proclaiming that he ate large amounts of it. I was a little confused by this – his efforts to impress may have been thwarted by the smell that permeated from it, but the girl seemed unfazed and the light flirting continued. Mr Sushi was obviously beginning to gain in confidence – he made a few derogatory comments about himself, thus giving her the opportunity to compliment him and then made a statement about ‘not being able to chat up a girl properly.’ Her response was, again, to giggle.

As nosey as I may sound, their conversation kept me entertained all the way to Birmingham New Street Station. Just as the train arrived and I got up to leave, I heard Mr Sushi ask for her phone number. Unfortunately, there was a huge queue of people behind me that forced me to walk off the train, and I didn’t get to hear her answer.


Thus is the eternal mystery that I will never know the answer to. Did Mr Sushi get the girl’s phone number????

In my little world, I hope he did. Despite the sushi.

Written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge.