Sitting in a railway station, got a ticket for my destination. But I am not Homeward Bound. I’m going the other way, to work.
Home would be a 50-minute trek back past banked up snowy ditches, through cheekbone-chilling snowflake swirls and threading my careful, muffled way on cunningly iced paths.
I’ve just completed this journey the other way, braving the Beast from the East — and Storm Emma is not yet a puff of snow-flecked wind.
My train has been delayed — for a second time — and my right Thinsulate glove is off as I scrawl these thoughts with numbed red fingers gripping my feisty old blue Bic biro.
My words actually started out as invisible indentations and I had to scribble wantonly like a two-year-old for a moment until the blue ink finally seeped into the veins of my letters, and the word was made fresh.
The sporadic snowflakes skittering across the slushy cold steel rail tracks have sent for reinforcements, and they are multiplying now and blanketing the platform, which grows whiter and whiter, until the full dazzling polar bear hide of snow has been fully woven.
The biting wind is woo-wooing louder, then softer, occasionally making to raise the roof of my shelter, abating, and repeating.
This caustic wind is ruffling my eyebrows and reddening the bits of my ears not covered by my matching Thinsulate hat.
A crow is cawing and pecking away in a raised triangle of snow on the platform to my left.
It’s survival first, maintaining his very existence in this unforgiving time and place. He quits and he dies. Not a matter of choice really.
How he can find sustenance in this forlorn, mysterious landscape amazes me.
I feel an unlikely kinship with this hardy creature. He is foraging for food, for himself, and maybe for his family. I am foraging too, going to work on this bleakest of days, with the threat of heavier snow and all travel possibilities being reduced to a lottery.
I am a freelance forager and no show means no dough. I’m travelling, boss! I can’t quit either.
I am alone but others have been here before me, all shapes and sizes of boots and shoes imprinted in the frosted snow at my feet. My own hiking boots are etched heavily there too. Each of us going our own way, on our own snowy odyssey, alone or accompanied.
This visitation of variegated white has transformed this familiar landscape into something approximating the snowy wilderness I have sometimes marvelled at on Discovery Channel documentaries.
It’s Christmas card magical only with added cold, wind and sleeting snow.
And there is a weird excitement too in contemplating what has befallen us, and what is to come, the unknowingness engendered by weather that is changing hourly. There is adventure too in this zero-degrees — and falling — Arctic air.
Already there are tales on my phone of supermarket shelves being swept clean of bread, of all things. In this Facebook age, the funny memes and gifs are being tapped out and sent across the icy ether in increasing flurries. Manna from internet heaven for Generation Snowflake.
These amusing vignettes of drunken snowmen, hitch-hiking polar bears, slipping dupes crashing to the icy ground, and armed deliveries of precious bread, bring a smile and solidarity to us pilgrims adrift in this snowy wasteland.
And there are the tales of unexpected positive encounters and many collegiate acts of uplifting kindness. Neighbours who barely speak chatting vivaciously outside as their offspring slip and slide in yelping delerium.
A phone call home paints a cosy picture of a blazing briquette fire, synchronised Snapchat and networked games, while Daddy is gone a hunting.
If and when his train comes. It’s been delayed a second time. Another twenty minutes. And the train will not be going past my stop due to severe flooding at the next station.
O and K have been out pelting snowballs and sliding on improvised toboggans, and now they are indoors again, snuggling down now for endless hours of sanctioned indolence.
Across the tracks in the shelter opposite me, there is a huge glossy poster for a building development at a nearby seaside town.
These things are tweaked to unattainable perfection at the best of times, but now the three sun-dappled children in the photograph, in their skimpy T-shirts and shorts, splashing up to their ankles in the sparkling sea look positively strange.
Foraging for fun, those kids, in this eternal vista of digital perfection.
But I know the town in this poster is far from the seaside paradise being sold in the picture. I think of the lack of proper green spaces in overcrowded estates quickly built in an unlikely boom time of plenty by speculators and builders with little but profit in mind. And a light-touch regulatory approach by the local council to facilitate this disastrous binge. No Photoshopped vistas snapped around there.
The result? Gangs of kids being moved off wisps of public open space and congregating in boredom on street corners, from where the bigger ones begin to menace neighbours and visitors. And are castigated for it, rightly perhaps, but with little real effort to wonder why, and do something positive about it.
Better bring despairing thoughts back to the sleeting wind and blurring snow, and tighten my scarf another notch. Specks of snow are now landing on my notebook, dotting my is, crossing my ts, and punctuating my red-fingered prose with darkening blobs of melted snow. The tannoy rings out and the train has arrived. Only 40 minuteslate.
The real adventure is only beginning.
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