Seasoned British-rail travellers that we now were, the trip back to London was a cinch. We knew to keep an eye out for our station, since time on a train goes faster than you think and you can whiz past your destination with a glazed eye and a sandwich in your hand, and not know you’ve done so til the sea hoves into sight and the sea was not on your itinerary.
We knew to watch out for the stairs at Charing Cross and to have our tickets in Robert’s pocket for when the ticket man came to scribble on them.
Robin deposited us at a station that was not Headcorn, but worked just as well. At Charing Cross we left via street level – no stairs – and caught a cab to Liverpool Street station, where we milled around with the milling crowd and soaked up the ghosts that populated the place.
You could stand for hours in Liverpool Street station and watch the mass of humanity that pours through it, as it has for more than a hundred years. Their faces are in varying stages of emotion – some harried, some happy, all purposeful. It’s a place of purpose.
It echoes to the sounds of their voices mixed with the screeching of train wheels, the constant calling of doves, engines, motors, footfalls and phones. It’s filled with hopes and expectations, happy reunions, sad goodbyes. It vibrates with ghostly scenes from cinema screens – fur-collared ladies in a halo of smoke waving handkerchiefs at wooden carriages from which beautiful young soldiers hang out and wave.
You could stand for hours in front of the flower stall and still not fully absorb the riot of colours and shapes and smells all waiting for someone to claim them and take them home.
You could stand forlornly on the wrong side of the turnstile that requires 30p before it will give you admittance to the loo.
Robert and I did all that, and managed to get ourselves on to the 3.34 train to Norwich. We accidentally got into the right carriage, and accidentally sat in the wrong seats. We were soon set straight. The trip passed uneventfully but, as usual, through amazing scenery. It mostly went like clockwork. The only thing that didn’t was the British Rail WiFi for which I paid $8 on my credit card. It didn’t work. But then again, it could have been me. It often is, with WiFi.