i have to go when the whistle blows

January 31, 2011 § 3 Comments

early morning at new cross station by chrisphin

I spend a lot of time on trains. No, really. Between living four hours away from my boyfriend when I’m not at university (and he lives a train-ride away from the nearest big town anyway), and visiting London a lot from both places I live, and the business of just going home and back again… it comes up a lot. A lot of people seem to be able to work on trains – commuters and Busy Men get out their laptops/ipads and try their hardest to look like yes, they are Busy Men – while it seems fairly common to read, too. I don’t often get much done, no matter how long the journey. I enter some kind of train stupor, stare out of the window listlessly, listen to music/a podcast and just think, aimlessly. For hours. Riding the train feels like nothing else. I like it a lot – possibly because my Dad’s really into steam trains so I spent a large portion of my childhood (well, my life, really) riding on steam trains like they were the coolest thing ever. Our holidays revolve around them. Or possibly because, for me, they are a space to just sit and think and listen and look. Nobody expects you to do much. That’s great. It’s what I need. Especially when you add the anticipating that builds up of where you’re going, who you’re going to see, what you’re going to do when the journey’s over and you’re stood on the platform, holding a case that’s too heavy and peering around through grey platform rain.

Here are some songs.

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born on a train

This even sounds sleepy, kind of sedated. It sounds like trains have made him tired, have made him slow down and think about it all. It sounds like he’s still going strong, it’s not his station yet, it’s the night and he keeps seeing car lights but he’s on the train, it’s not a sleeper but he’s almost asleep anyway, who knows, whatever.

*

lua

this song starts with the taxis all turning off their lights; when they’re hailed by the wrong people, they don’t want to know. but then they’re on a train, and there’s not much else to do, and it’s cold and they’re drinking, but it’s okay. or, it’s not okay, but at least they’re inside and they’re sitting together. there’s that.

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ghost train

Sometimes the train just does what it does. It takes people away, then they come back, and it happens all over again. If you catch the one that comes first, it might be too slow. You’ll be waiting forever as it stops at all these tiny stations whose signs you can’t even read normally – Maryland, Seven Sisters, Stratford, Stevenage. It doesn’t make it any easier for you, but probably for somebody else. Right? And this song even starts with the sound of a train moving, leaving. Sometimes the journeys just don’t end.

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teignmouth


Then there are other times. The other songs here are about train journeys, too – but this one is about the night train, starting as the other journeys end. You know you’re going home – or somewhere better than the place you were. It’s like, when you’ve been in London for too long. When you look out of the window and it’s dark but between the stations there is nothing much, not much at all. And you’re going somewhere where it gets dark, where you can sleep and walk and not have to see everything, all night, all day.

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my my metrocard

Sometimes you just want to get somewhere fast.

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