‘Is this the train for Cambridge’ I asked a man as both he and I boarded. ‘I think so’ he replied. I asked another girl in the carriage: ‘Is this train stopping at Cambridge?’ ‘I’m not sure – it’s going to Kings Lynn though ’. She replied.
We all took our seats. I put my luggage up on the rack and looked down at the elderly couple I was to sit beside. ‘We’ve been waiting for you’ he said smiling. ‘Well, he has’, she added. I laughed and settled down to read.
20 minutes later a girl approached me: ‘Does this train stop at Cambridge?’ she said. ‘Yes’ I replied. She went back to her seat. The elderly man leaned over towards me and whispered with a raised eyebrow ‘Bit late to be asking that now’. We chuckled and started talking.
‘We live along The Wash coastline, between two nature reserves’, he said as his wife read the paper. ‘It’s a wonderful place’ he mused as he gazed into the distance, ‘In the winter thousands of geese come. They make a beautiful sound – it’s really very emotive’.
‘But, you wouldn’t want to shoot one and eat it’ he continued.’ They’re really horrible to eat. Do you know the best way to cook one?’ ‘No idea’ I said. ‘Well, you dig a hole in the ground, bury the goose and then forget where you put it’. We both giggled.
My phone rang. ‘Excuse me, I need to answer this’. He tut tutted. When I finished talking: ‘I was going to give you bonus points for not using it; do you know the other day a girl talked on her phone all the way from Kings Lynn to Kings Cross about absolutely nothing. Most extraordinary’.
As we sped past fields of wheat and barley, I said ‘I guess they’ll be harvesting that soon’. ‘They are already. Of course it’s all done by contractors using GPS now – the machines are huge, that’s why they’ve got rid of so many hedges – so that they can get them in there’ he replied. ‘That’s sad’ I said, ‘Where’s the connection between man and the land?’. ‘Oh, the farmer’s still got it, don’t worry’ he said smiling as he looked at me.
I told him I lived in London. ‘I feel sorry for you. My son does too; so many people. I rang him up one day and said “We’re going fishing in Scotland – bring robust clothing”. He came with a friend who’d never been out of London before. Imagine! He’d never seen a tree, a lake, fields. I looked at his shoes – flimsy with a Velcro strap “You’d better not let the gillie see those”. Sure enough, as we trampled over hills and through water, he cried out “I’ve lost my shoe” ‘. We chuckled.
As we approached Cambridge and the driver announced the train would be dividing there, a bloke swigging out of a beer can called over ‘Do you know which carriage I need to be in for Kings Lynn?’. My new friend and I looked at each other. You need to know the carriage numbers – and be telepathic – to work that one out, we concluded.