I couldn’t let this day pass without writing something on here.
A year ago today is when it all began. I can’t remember exactly but around this time a year ago I think I was hurtling towards London Euston station on a Virgin ‘sauna train’ and about to be mistaken for a terrorist in the Kings Cross branch of Nandos. This evening I would board the Caledonian Sleeper and spend a night being buffeted by diesels before awaking under bright blue skies in glorious, snow-covered, Inverness.
It’s strange to think that only a year ago I had no first-hand experience of the stunning beauty of the Scottish Highlands, the remarkable architecture of the city if of Edinburgh, or the bone-grating, soul-destroying monotony of three-and-a-half hours on the unwanted bastard offspring of a bus and pneumatic drill. (Even after all this elapsed time I’m still firmly of the opinion that the ride I had on that Pacer would have been much more comfortable if they hadn’t bothered with the rail conversion and had just driven the damn thing over the sleepers.)
It was a remarkable week. The breadth of experiences I had and variety of different places I visited made it feel like a year in itself. I was lucky with the weather (with one notable exception) and was only once consciously affected by a delayed train (something strange happened on the Night Riverera sleeper but I was half-asleep as most of that unfolded so it doesn’t really count).
I still have several pages of notes from that week that never even made it onto this blog. Like with the recent visit to the United States I will try and formulate these into something substantive when time allows me to. It may be this doesn’t happen until I decide to retire from my current line of work but who knows, maybe the time-travel experiments will start to yield some more positive results soon.
It’s funny how, as you go through life, certain events will cause you to subconsciously drop a marker in the sand. You don’t realise this until an object, sight or smell triggers the neurons in your mind and, suddenly, you’re thrown headlong back into a moment from many years ago. An example of this for me would be whenever I’m somewhere that’s freezing cold. Despite having done my time in Northern Canada (in winter), being very cold always mentally links me back to a certain night of a holiday I took to Poland in the winter of 2010; don’t ask me why – it just does. Even if I’m walking on a mountain in sub-zero temperatures with a wind that’s blowing a gale I will make a little mental note that, while it may be quite cold, it’s nowhere near what I experienced that night in Poland. For some reason, this helps take a little bit of the bite out of the wind.
Ever since the trip I took this time last year I’ve found that I’ve now got another of these markers in the sand:
Imagine a dark winter night. It’s not particularly cold but the rain is lashing down and a gusting wind is ensuring that you’re getting completely soaked. You’re walking through a city centre in these conditions. It must be very early in the morning because there’s no-one else around. All the shops are shut. Most of them are boarded-up or have metal shutters jammed half the way down which are rattling in the breeze. It’s close to Christmas but all the lights have been turned out. Over the houling wind you can just make out the sound of a rabid dog barking itself insane. Your eyes dart about searching for something, anything that proves that the place you’re in is still inhabited. All you see is darkness and decay. But what’s that? A hunched figure in the distance dragging itself across the road towards you. It points in your direction and starts cackling. You start it panic. Your pulse rises and you consider running blindly into the night…
But you pause.
A flag springs up in your mind.
“This may be a pretty bad situation” you think to yourself, “but at least it’s not Blackpool”.