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The Train Journey

by Anne-Marie Kearns

The station concourse is crowded with people. Commuters, students, tourists, collectively making the raucous noise echoing around the station. I feel a tug on my coat sleeve beckoning me to quicken my pace. My other hand grips tightly around the handle of my stick and I wince from the pain coming from my right side. I knew I should have taken stronger painkillers this morning, but I was so caught up in the excitement of it all. We both were. First time out of the neighbourhood since my op and you didn't want us to miss the train. We couldn't miss the train. Plus, the community nurse did tell me to try and get out of the house, to strengthen my muscles, to keep well.

Your face is fixed on the platform ahead as you help navigate me through the throngs of people. We board our train and I wait patiently as you scan the carriage ahead. You find us several empty seats near the rear. I gingerly take my place, with you sat next to the window of course. You look at your watch and excitedly tell me it won't be long. Exactly thirteen minutes. I smile back and feel glad about this trip. It's good to get out.

As the train pulls away, you immediately lean forward and turn to face the window. That’s the new office block, you say. Its eco-friendly – only the second to be built in Europe. It uses rapeseed oil to provide electricity and heat. I nod silently as I reach for the packet of pills in my knapsack.

As the train moves on, you point out more landmarks. Look! There's City's ground. I turn to catch a glimpse but the back of your head is blocking the view. That was built in 1952, you continue. But when they built the new tier in 1998 they had to use Utd's ground for 6 months. Bet they loved that, I say, laughing. But you're not listening. I let you carry on. Billy Graham scored 42 goals in the 1965-66 season. 14 of those were headers, 4 were penalties and 3 were overhead kicks. Really, I reply, staring at the headrest in front of me. The stadium soon disappears behind us.

I watch you frantically looking for other buildings you recognise. The old power station, you exclaim. They're knocking that down next week and replacing it with flats. Fourteen with three bedrooms, ten with two and eight with one. Nice, I reply. Perhaps, we could buy one together, you ask, turning around and looking me in the eye for the first time that day. Oh, we'll see, I say smiling back.

Our conversation is abruptly interrupted by the train inspector checking our tickets. You immediately turn to face the window again, whilst I fish around in my coat pocket for the evidence. The inspector glances at the stubs. Nice weather for a day out in Linton, he says. Oh, we won't be spending the day there, I reply. The inspector gives me a quizzical look. We'll be getting off, and turning around to come back the other way, I explain. I give a knowing wink in the direction of my son. Oh, right, replies the inspector smiling. Well, have a nice day, anyway. And he continues with his journey down the carriage, whistling as he passes us by.

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