DORSET TO SUSSEX BY TRAIN
Less than half a dozen hardy souls braved arctic weather on the platform at Gillingham Station to catch the 05.37 to London Waterloo. With blanket coverage on last nights media about heavy expected snowfall in the South and East, I wonder how many took this opportunity for family time at home a week to the day before Xmas.
One suited chap was wearing rubber boots. “Shoes are in my bag,” I heard him say to another wrapped-up commuter as they greeted then went their seperate ways. Something about last year, stepping off the train at Waterloo and going “flying”.
At this early-bird hour, I’m grateful for the electric signs which show forthcoming arrivals, then inform all stops en route to final destination in a strip-banner which moves across the screen from right to left. And the automated touch-screen ticket machine. It knows where I want to go, how I’m getting there, deciphers my bank details and takes my money in the most user-friendly of ways. How in the name of Crazy Mayhem does it all work!?
You could ask the same about trains. But right on cue, out of the early morning night, a string of people-carrying tubes came round a sweeping curve in the track, one headlight brighter than the other, to pick us up.
“SNOW DOWN THAT WAY,” the ticket man tells me as I sort out the outward portion of my three credit card-sized bits of paper-cum-cardboard between Tisbury and Salisbury.
“Is it?” I look up and ask.
“Yeah. Essex, Kent, Hertfordshire, Surrey.”
My journey is to Horsham. “Sussex?”
“Do things carry on as normal, or does it all grind to a halt?” is my next fair-enough question.
“It will be on the roads,” the ticket man say, “if there’s more than about this much.” He holds up one hand with thumb and first finger about 2 inches apart. “But on the trains we’re okay as long as it’s not more than 4 inches above the tracks.”
Standing and looking, in a line, on your own. Reading a book.
Feint footprints in patchy snow, mind how you go.
FOOT-TAPPING, SCARF-WEARING, mobile phone using, coffee-nursing, white-stuff kicking, woolly hat donning, (someone’s been shovelling) commuters at Three Bridges.
SUSSEX OAKS BETWEEN FAYGATE and Littlehaven look magnificent, wizened and craggy, all coated from one side in snow collected in their goblet forks and junctions. Harsh sounds and lines muffled. Machinery is rested, still and buckets down. Allotments full of sheds and standing crops, bare soil, last seasons bean poles, are a winter wonderland; deep, crisp, uneven.
STEPPING OFF THE TRAIN in Horsham, fallen and falling snow is already black and grey dirty roadside slush. Where we cross it’s compacted into ice. Folk tread with caution the pavements. There’s more wellies than usual going to work this morning. Vehicles slurp by, headlights on, more slowly than normal. But glance up, or over across the Park, and all is festive lovely.
Copyright, Joe Hashman www.dirtynails.co.uk