I have a minor confession to make. I really like train journeys. I don’t really like long tube journeys, because they’re just short enough to not let you really relax and think but they’re always too long to just stare, unblinking, at the door – because of course accidental eye contact on the tube is the absolute worst thing that could happen to you.
Whereas proper train journeys are great. You just plug yourself into an mp3 player (stops people thinking you want to touch up their necklace or even, heaven forbid, talk to them) and away you go. If it’s a journey you don’t take very often there’s some merit to just looking out of the window and drinking in the scenery. Look! In every house is a family, every car has someone inside, all those pedestrians have their own lives, and your life will probably never intersect with any of them. Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t it astounding that there can be so many people so close to you who you will never meet or even talk to? Even on the train itself – if you’re feeling brave – there’s the opportunity for some surreptitious people watching. Like the man sitting with a group of his friends (they all got on together) but not talking to any of them. Why? Or the man who fell over in the toilet and is now harassing the guard for a free ticket on his connection train – isn’t that weird?
Of course, if you’re on a familiar journey that’s where things start to get interesting. You could take the opportunity to read a book. I always like reading on trains because it feels like I’m being productive without having to do anything – I’m reading, but I’m actually going somewhere at top speed. Or you could have a quick meditate. Admittedly, this might work better if you’re in the quiet carriage but I’m sure you could pull it off if you were determined. Another option, and my favourite, is to put on a playlist, unbuckle my imagination and just drift off into my own head for half an hour. I may look like I’m sitting in a seat on a train, but I’m actually wrestling a dragon, or negotiating a peace treaty with aliens, or in a cafe meeting my future imaginary spouse.
Sometimes I’m even disappointed when the train pulls into York.