“Should we talk about the weather? Should we talk about the government?” REM, Pop Song ’89
Freezing temperatures overnight meant that yesterday’s snow stuck tight this morning. On the news last night, tales of traffic chaos, gridlock on the M25, school closures, the usual UK winter headline grabbers. For the next few days it would seem entirely excusable that this blog should become a rant about the weather and our collective inability to cope with its more extreme moods. However, today’s experience has been, thus far, strangely sweet.
Just as yesterday, the bicycle proved to be the only way to get into town, with bad weather, road-works and just too many damned cars making it a sad procession. Resurrectio sailed resolutely past them all, her fat, gripsome tyres tenacious on the tarmac, her full-length mudguards keeping me clean and dry. I sailed down to the railway station, using the main roads to avoid the really slippery stuff. Once at the station, a fair amount of chaos ensued. The arrival and departures board flashed maniacally with words like ‘cancelled’ and ‘delayed’, written in angry orange letters. However, my usual train was running and on time, a veritable ‘Little Train That Could’, today full of poor folk whose trains were cancelled. I got to the train first, just as the inbound passengers were pouring onto the platform. I stowed the bike and found a table seat, plugged in the earphones and listened to Fleet Foxes as the wintry landscape slipped by the window.
Around me, people chatted, sharing their ‘we’re going her; where are you going?’ stories, thrown together on this packed train by a combination of fate and meteorological circumstance. Some were off to lectures, others weddings, others visiting relatives. I was happy to sit back and be a spectator to the scene. Funny how complaining about the weather and bad transport planning gives people such pleasure. At this point it struck me how much more social and convivial my travelling arrangements are than the auto-traveller. A stretch of my regular rail journey passes close to the M602 motorway into Manchester. The contrast between the tense, miserable faces behind the wheel and the relaxed folk on the train could not be more extreme than today. My fellow travellers are talking, reading, sleeping, working. Me? I’m listening to music, sipping a coffee, writing this blog piece, watching the fields pass, surrounded by the gentle murmur of strangers’ conversations.