Tag Archives: journeys

A tale of two journeys

Last week (and wow, how has it only been a week?) you may recall I went to a ceilidh. Go back one entry. Tada!

On my way out I was running late. I had been faffing around as usual, and was just about on time for being fashionably late when I made the mistake of texting an acquaintance and inviting them to dinner (I was feeling brave and empowered possibly because I had a razor in my hand ready to get my legs all smooth and womanly). Then I swanned off into the shower. On my return, with one eye on the clock, I checked my messages and had this rambling spiel from the guy spelling out FRIEND. OH GOD, FRIEND in massive neon letters. So I had to ramble back, with some wit and some half-truths, to save myself a little embarrassment. That meant that when the ceilidh started I was sat half-naked on my bed with a damp towel wrapped around me and a tablet computer in my slightly sweaty hands, frantically tapping out a carefree, it-was-just-a-suggestion-calm-yourself message. So I went to action stations.

Luckily, I already knew what I was wearing, and since I don’t wear make up anyway and my hair was going to be left down, I was ready pretty quickly. I also thought I knew where I was going. I left my room looking like a hurricane in Dorothy Perkins and off I went. It was dark and the roads were quiet, though the next round of major roadworks was getting set up so there was a bit of a hold up on the bridge and a bit of impatient steering wheel tapping. The sky was littered with lilac fluffy clouds. I had a hairy moment on a large roundabout because the idiots round here have no concept of lane discipline (there are no roundabouts on farms) and then I was up in the estate, looking for a village hall. I found it, exactly where I expected it to be. An old man in a spectacularly patterned piece of knitwear came out and helped me to reverse park (without me asking him to, and without me needing him to) further making me think I was in the right place. I wasn’t. I was exactly where I expected to be but that wasn’t where I was supposed to be. There are two community halls in that estate and I was in the wrong one.

I was flustered, I was even more late, and I was now following sketchy instructions that I was trying to remember as I drove down roads I’d never been down before. Every time a car got close behind me I got more frustrated because I didn’t want to be that driver who makes sudden turns or crawls along clearly lost and gets in everyone’s way. I found the place, eventually, after having done a circuit of the one-way system, and parked up. Then I couldn’t find the door of the place. I was seconds away from going home. I could see through the window a whole host of people I didn’t know and if I’d been in the wrong place again I think I would have had a breakdown. Luckily it was the right party. I crept in, searching for anyone I recognised, an hour late, sweaty and anxious, cross, embarrassed and tired. No wonder I had trouble getting a dance partner.

The way home was different. I gave some guests a lift home through the roughest estate in the top end of the town, and hoped I could find my way back out again. Once I was back on the main road, and homeward bound, I felt myself relax. The clouds had cleared and as I turned off the main road and trundled along the Firth, I was the only person around. Above me, Orion was striding across the sky leading me back to the village. I found myself grinning. I sang along to the radio and rode the curves of the tarmac. I saw no other moving vehicle. It was the witching hour and everyone sensible was in bed, where I wanted to be. The village was deserted and the street lights were urging me into a parking space. I was almost too tired to climb the stairs but after one last look at the stars I closed our rickety front door and made it to my room.

I very nearly just crawled into the pile of stuff and slept there.

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Go! Go! Go!

A late post today, since my paid job isn’t blogging, and I thought I should do what I’m paid for for a change. To be fair, I actually was quite busy today with only a half hour break between 8:45 and 3:45. That’s like slave labour for me. Every Tuesday is going to be like this now…

I’m taking a break from fantasy and reading The Racketeer by John Grisham. If you check my next five TBR list on Fantasy Faction, you’ll see that this book does not feature. But I can explain! I went to Shropshire at the weekend and took Best Served Cold with me (that one is on my TBR list! Yay!) which I read in chunks over the train journey. The problem was, when I got back to Inverness on Sunday evening, I had to wait two hours for the train out again. I had to wait TWO HOURS to go ONE STOP up the line. So I finished BSC and needed something new to read to pass the time. The Grisham was the best of a bad selection at Morrisons, assuming I didn’t want to read erotica with grey covers (I didn’t).

I read mainly fantasy, but I will read pretty much anything if it stands still long enough, as I think I’ve mentioned before. I have read some of the weightier, classic Grishams like The Firm and The Testament, so I felt a little let down by this very slim volume in comparison to such tomes. It’s ticking along quite nicely so far though, and I might read a bit more before bed tonight.

Oh goodness, I’ve just remembered all the train drama. I always seem to have adventures on trains, have you noticed? First there were two pensioner brothers who had very foghorny voices who insisted on blaring out their Scrabble scores in the QUIET COACH. Fair play for bringing something to keep you entertained (they were going from Pitlochry to London) but I consider random number shouting to be “unnecessary noise” and in the Quiet Coach; DAS IST VERBOTEN. An even older man got on in Perth and tried to turf one of the Foghorns out of his seat, claiming it was his. It turned out he had indeed booked that seat number in that carriage…

Foghorn 1: “Gosh, that is the same seat number; you’re right.”

Foghorn 2: “Well, just sit here and wait for the conductor and ask him about it.”

Foghorn 1: “Where are you heading, anyway?”

Old boy: “Inverness.”

Me: “Ah, well that’s your problem: this is the southbound train.”

Old boy: “Oh. Shit.”

When I changed at Edinburgh, chaos ensued. Apparently, while we’d been hurtling southward, half of Scotrail had imploded somehow. There were three trains’ worth of extra people on our train due to cancellations and breakdowns. So it was somewhat crowded. The conductor was trying his best, and taking all the unused reservations off to try and find seats and alternative trains for people, and the majority of passengers were just getting on with it. On arrival at Preston a very rude woman appeared. She had four children and a male friend? Brother? Partner? (I don’t want to assume but they looked like typical Prestonians and I say that having lived there for 20 years) and immediately set about conquering the reserved seats in the name of bolshiness.

She fair barrelled up the gangway and began displacing people with the extremely rude “You’re gonna have to move!” No preamble. No “Excuse me”. I mean, they were her booked seats. They genuinely were. But she didn’t give anyone the opportunity to move, and in some cases they wanted to move but couldn’t because of all the other passengers going up and down the carriage. She ousted the final two in this way, then proceeded to make snidey comments to her man like “I can’t believe people would sit in someone else’s reserved seats!” “Some people are so rude!” and so on. While she was still standing and someone needed to get past, she smiled and apologised to them claiming “Sorry, I know I’m in the way but there are people sitting in my seats and I’m just waiting for them to move!” all sweetness and passive-aggressive light. The two men in her seats were only too happy to move, but made the mistake of trying to explain. They said the train was really busy and they had only been sat there until someone came to claim the seats, and that they did have reserved seats elsewhere but hadn’t been able to get to them because of the crowd. The rude lady then snapped “Well I don’t care! Go find them then! Why are you in my seats? You’re gonna have to move!” All of us who had been crammed in since Edinburgh just couldn’t believe it. I mean, she was obviously entitled to sit in her reserved seats, but you at least start with “Excuse me”, and look apologetic. You don’t start in with bolshy. I would have offered one of the men my seat in compensation, but I had been wedged in myself by then.  I later had a lovely vestibule conversation with a lad from Wem, who had been skiing in Manchester (indoor) on my way to Shrewsbury on a packed rush hour train with only two carriages. It was quite warm.

Sorry, blogging interrupted by a new series of The Great British Bake Off. It’s going to be a crazy series, I think. I was just discussing the early favourites with a friend on Facebook when my best friend chipped in “…I used to think you guys were cool.” How rude! It’s funny how serious it gets, though, and then you take a step back and remember it’s only cake.

Anyway, I’m still commenting on the Locke Lamora read along, and frankly I’m a bit disappointed by the number of comments so far. People were so up for it on the forum, but they’re not taking part in discussion and I really feel for Marc who is writing really detailed summaries and bringing some great discussion points.

RIGHT. I am determined to get to be at a reasonable time. See you Friday, folks.

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Saturday Scrapes (Bonus post!) – WARNING, contains pics of blood

Dear readers, it may surprise you to learn that at times I can be stunningly useless at being a person. My epic tale begins at 5:20am on a Saturday.

Yes. On a Saturday, my brain likes to wake me an hour earlier than I would normally get up for work, refreshed and ready to go. Well, screw you, brain! I rolled over and resisted the urge to leap out of bed until my alarm went off at six.

Alright, I was still getting up earlier than I would for work, but that’s what you do when you’re having an ADVENTURE. The adventure prep was simple: shower, breakfast, dishes, check contents of bag, flail in a panic, make sure there’s no breakfast all over my face, DEPART.

I did all those things, readers, and also had time to stick a load of washing on and watch half of Britain’s Biggest Hoarders. So far, so high-functioning. The trouble is, I get massively paranoid about missing trains. I am happy to turn up to the station half an hour before my train is due to leave and sit on a cold, uncomfortable metal perch and wait. And still feel, even though I’m at the station and I can see the clock and it is telling me the time is still way before the departure time, that somehow I will fail to get on the train. I think it has to do with my need for a Plan (moreso, the need for said plan to actually unfold as planned).

Neatly dovetailed into this transport paranoia is a sudden inability to estimate how long it will take to get anywhere. I live a ten to fifteen minute walk from the station (time dependent on footwear, luggage, weather). I set out twenty five minutes before I the train time in the sunshine and flat shoes and carrying only a handbag. I didn’t even have a coat, hoping to minimise wind resistance. I was running late, actually; I’d planned to be out the door five to ten minutes earlier. I know how ridiculous this is, even as I’m writing it, but yes, I felt that I needed a good half an hour to do a ten minute journey.

This is because I needed to pick up my ticket from the machine and I am always terrified that there’ll be a huge queue, or some moron who is picking up tickets in advance for a journey he isn’t making for another week, and I’ll be hopping nervously in line behind them, watching the clock turn and turn and turn and get easily within eight minutes of the departure time. Just thinking about cutting it that close makes me feel anxious.

So, I’m on the way, and even though I do know that I will have plenty of time and that every time I have the same panic and still get to the station with ten to fifteen minutes to spare, I panicked. What does the body do in panic? Fight or flight reponse, readers, I hope you know where this is going.

I started to run. I was intending to Scout’s Pace for a bit, just to get a bit closer to my planned timeline (I was hoping to catch up to the parallel universe me who had set out on time). However, my graceful feline lope was cut off in its prime as I tripped and flew forwards. There was nothing to trip on. I’m just that feckless. So I flung my hands out and hadouken’ed the pavement. I actually slid, such was my momentum.

Well, that was embarrassing, I thought, pretending that I was not at all injured, and that tripping was somehow part of the plan. I got up, and immediately saw that I had a golf ball sized hole in the right knee of my jeans. Oh, and my palms were grazed and bleeding from where the heels of my hands had hit the ground first. But mainly I was annoyed at ripping my best jeans. Y’see, I was on my way to an ADVENTURE, by which I should explain I mean I was going to have lunch with my lovely friend. An epic quest, I’m sure you’ll agree.

So I dusted myself off and carried on running. Not only did I still have a train to catch, but now I’d delayed myself further by being so stupid as to fall down! I got into town and checked the time. I was two minutes from the station with fifteen minutes to spare. I allowed myself to use a cash machine and checked my hands. There was blood welling up in the main scrapes but I wasn’t dripping all over the place. Tell you what, though, they stung like hell.

Right Hand

Second hand down


Left Hand

First hand down (I’m an alt hand to leg runner)

In the station, to my horror, there were two foreign tourists using the ticket machine. One of them was consulting a piece of A4 paper. Oh, no, I thought, they’ve got a massive itinerary. I’ll never make it! (there were still twelve and a half whole minutes to spare at this point). Luckily they were already printing tickets and they were done within a minute of my starting a queue behind them. Now came the tricky part. I needed to reach into the pocket of my jeans to get my phone so I could see the reference number for the ticket, without brushing the harsh denim against my stinging, weeping palms.

Somehow, readers, I survived. I got my ticket and made it to the train. I found my seat and set about wondering how I was going to clean my wounds. I knew the conductor would be along fairly soon, and I wasn’t about to faint or bleed out, so I just found some tissue from my handbag and did a little recon swabbing. Only then did I think to check my knee. Obviously I knew my jeans had taken the brunt, but I assumed my knee was probably skinned or a little bit grazed. It didn’t hurt at all. I looked down. There was a stiff, dry patch of blood on my jeans. Not a spot or two, but a noticeable spread. Ah. I could see through the rip that my leg was a bit red.

Oooh, what's lurking under here?

What’s lurking beneath? – The brownish patch on my jeans is the blood stain

Upon rolling up my jeans leg, I was greeted with slightly more than a graze. A wet papertowel would not soothe this savage beast. To be fair, it looked a lot worse than it was. The actual gouge is about the size of a thumbnail (I was going to say ‘was’, but I’m not Wolverine!) but the area of blood was a lot wider, where it had seeped out during my run. The centre was the colour of jam in a doughnut; thick, crimson and gently oozing. The dried and drying bloodstain around the edge was a delicate pink. I did what any sane person would do. I took pictures of my injuries on my phone, already thinking about writing this post.

Mmm, jammy.

Mmm, jammy.

Then I found more tissue and did the old spit-and-scrub to try and clean the edges as best I could. A lovely lady passenger asked if I was alright and I recounted my fall in the style of an Anglo-Saxon saga poem, just to make it sound a bit less embarrassing. The best part was, it still wasn’t even nine in the morning. I kept my jeans rolled up and kept dabbing.

The train moved off and after the usual announcements, the conductor came through. I asked if there was a first aid kit I could use, or even just a couple of wet wipes and a plaster, or something. The conductor asked if I had fallen in the station and I said no. With hindsight I could have lied and maybe got a bit more urgency from the rail staff, but a. that didn’t occur to me, b. even if it had, I’m far too honest about this sort of thing and c. I wasn’t really that injured.

My knee was really starting to hurt. I guess it’s true that you don’t always feel pain if you don’t notice you’re injured. I mean, losing a limb or something I think you wouldn’t be able to ignore, but a graze like mine that I hadn’t even thought about, that’s fairly standard. As the journey went on and I bumped my elbow on the window, I discovered that was grazed, too. Just a scrape. I got a wet wipe and a big plaster from the conductor and steeled myself to lift the thick lump of wrinkled skin on my knee to check for trapped grit etc. That part was actually pretty painless. I was expecting the agony of having an amputation stump cauterised, but on that score I was disappointed.

More passengers got on and expressed concern, and their own shame at not having wet wipes or plasters to give me. Faith in humanity (and British self-deprecation) restored. With my knee safely protected from prying eyes and jeans fluff, I settled in for the rest of my journey.

Now, I had been planning (if you saw my Tweet) to work on a WIP on the train. This story (Murder Express) is currently in hand-written form. Not only was I now jammed in on the train next to a nice old man (who didn’t have any tissue to offer me and he was very apologetic about it) with two still open wounds – I felt like I’d bothered the conductor enough and really it was my knee that was the problem – but holding a pen and writing while scuffing my palms on the paper did not appeal.

So I listened to Under Milk Wood instead.

I texted my lovely friend and asked him to bring medical supplies to the station, explaining my idiocy. I felt like I had ruined the whole day. Gone were all attempts at looking like I’d made an effort and like a real person. I stepped off the train feeling like a schoolchild who’d fallen in the playground. We fixed up my hands and went in search of better dressing for my knee, eventually settling for some of those massive square pads with sticky edges.

It was a nice day, once I’d been triaged. The sun was shining and we had coffee, then lunch, then spent half an hour in the SciFi-Fantasy section (they aren’t the same thing, dammit!) at Waterstone’s loudly discussing, recommending, denouncing and holding forth about various books and series until we thought we’d better either buy something or leave. So we bought, and we decided to go sit in the sun and read for a bit. Maybe get ice cream.

A lazy afternoon followed, with tea and cake, and then beer, and dinner, and then I got back on the train.

I then had another mini-adventure. I know! What more could happen in one day?! This one was a battle of wits. A nice man opposite me saw me poking my knee and changing the dressing (yes, in public on the train) and inquired after my injury. He, unfortunately for me, was speaking Doric, the Scots dialect of the North-East. We had a lovely conversation, I think, as I tried my best to understand what the hell he was saying. I caught one or two words per sentence and filled in what I could based on his facial expression and most likely question/response. Before things could go beyond polite passenger chit chat, he got off. If he’d started discussing the philosophy of Descartes or something, I’d have been in trouble.

I made it home without further incident, I’m sure you’ll be glad to know. My knee dried out nicely overnight and is now mostly brown and scabby. My palms are still stinging, because I can’t stop using my hands, but they’re scabbing up, too. Do you think I can get a day off, tomorrow? (We don’t get the end of May Bank Hol). I am hideously injured, after all.

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