A Trip On The Train
For the first time since I arrived in Scotland, this week I had the chance to take a wee break to the seaside. It's ridiculous that in a country pretty much surrounded by water, it's taken me this long. But work is work and I come from a long line of ‘First things first people’: Get your head down and focus on what needs to be put in place. Once that feels steady, take some time to rest, to lift your head up and have a look around.
So, day off in hand, I took a train to Gourock on the West Coast to meet up with Mark’s parents for lunch and then a good friend from college late afternoon.
I grew up using public transport and I like it. It's something I miss back in LA. Everything is too much about cars. Here in Scotland, the trains for the most part are magic, bus service is frequent and there's even a wee underground in Glasgow if you fancy traveling around and around.
Mark and I have agreed that at some point we'll take a trip together on the Orient Express, but for now with me in Scotland and Mark back in the Valley, a wee trip to the coast on Scotrail feels like a very close second.
The fact is there is nothing better than sitting on a half-empty train, cup of hot tea in hand, and having the time to just look out the window at the world going by.
Last week when I was starting the tour, those cows in that field were no doubt in that same field, maybe even in the same arrangement they are now. That half-constructed bungalow we pass along the way slightly less when I landed in August. Toys strewn around gardens were probably in the hands of kids yesterday who are now sitting behind desks at school. Because there's a whole world happening, when I have my head down. While I focus on my ‘first things first’ the rest of the world has their own firsts too.
There's such an understated beauty in the West Coast. It has a past that is both industrial and vacational. On the same small coastline where great ships were built: The Queen Mary, The Queen Elizabeth, my family and many others would spend two weeks in the Summer when we were kids, paddling in shallow waters, studying rockpools, out in little rowboats mackerel fishing.
The train stops at a town where Mark grew up, and journeyed from being a toddler taking his first steps, to being a teenager stepping out into the world. Years when I never knew him. Years I had no idea of his existence though he lived within 30 miles of me.
I'm on the verge of being overwhelmed by the magic of it all when I'm distracted by the smell of cooked bacon. A big guy who's dressed as a great homage to khaki has seated himself at the table across the aisle.
As the train leaves the station, he unwraps some combo of cooked breakfast. He doesn't notice me. He doesn't notice anyone. He is entirely focused on his prey of buttered rolls with bacon and a diet Coke.
I find myself wondering where he's going, and where he's been, and wondering how he manages to navigate such a wealth of saliva.
I am grateful that I have only 7 minutes of getting to hear the functionality of his digestive tract before the train pulls into Gourock. As soon as I step off onto the platform, the smell of bacon is replaced by the smell of the sea. It takes me back 50 years to visions of me on the beach with a bucket and spade and my Dad.
Mark’s parents are there to pick me up. Mark’s Mum has planned ahead and is very careful to make sure we eat at somewhere gluten-free and I am thrilled by the presentation of fish and chips. We have a lovely time talking and pottering around the shops. It's so calm and easy and I catch my breath when I consider that because these two people met and fell in love, they gave birth to a human who is the foundation of my whole world. Incredible really.
I consider how sometimes I'm so busy being on my own journey that I forget how amazing other people's journeys are too. It's so good to take a day off.
After meeting up with Mark’s parents, I go to hang out with Lou and Alec. Lou and I were at college together years ago, but talk like we just hung out yesterday. Alec was at school with Lou. They went off and had separate lives and then came back together again. We each of us have been in a billion different places and yet sit around the table in this beautiful little gallery talking easily with all we have in common. I feel lucky.
We sit and drink a wine called Ned and eat delicious cheese called Fat Cow and the names make us laugh freely, as does the ridiculousness of life and chance and the stories from the old days.
Their gallery is called Crow Cottage Arts and I show them pictures of the big fat crows that sit in our front yard back in the San Fernando Valley. Same kind of crows under the same sky 5000 miles apart.
All too soon it is time for me to take the train back. Lou walks me to the station. We laugh and we cuddle and we make plans to see each other again before another 40 years have passed. And I board the train grateful that the bacon man with excess saliva is nowhere to be seen. His digestive system is off on some other journey.
And as the train pulls out of the station, I marvel how we are each of us journeying somewhere, we just often forget to notice.
If your travels take you to Gourock, pop into Crow Cottage Arts. Say hello to Lou and Alec. And tell them Lynn from the Valley says Hi.
Till next week.
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Lovely to be back here in my wee NFTV
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