02 January 2008

Passing Ghosts

Rail adhesion problems coming over the Cotswolds have made the train a few minutes late this morning, although this accounts only for the late arrival at Didcot, not the slow running now. A "newsletter" for "customers" is available from racks in the carriages, and I don't recall seeing it before Christmas: it forewarns me of the engineering works at Airport Junction. Or it would, if I'd seen it in time.
New Year's Eve was a strange day. Everyone I spoke to seemed to want 2007 consigned to history as soon as possible. One colleague in particular surprised me by the vehemence of her feelings about it, Charon posted a depressing comment on his blog (but his 2007 has been pretty dire, from what I've heard) and then on the train home I fell into conversation with the young lady sitting beside me and it seemed she felt similarly.
I had been sitting quietly listening to Stackridge and reading RSS feeds on my Blackberry when she had taken the empty seat next to me, and something inside me had reacted badly to this invasion of my personal space. Perhaps it was because, though I couldn't see to judge it, there was no lack of empty seats on this service. The train left some ten minutes late, and a few minutes into the journey she interrupted my listening to ask if I could tell her when we'd arrive at Reading. I told her it should be 25 minutes, she called someone on her mobile to impart this intelligence to them, and I went back to Huntingdon Hall.
The unseasonal grumpiness that seemed to be afflicting me evaporated and a little later I removed my earphones and volunteered the advice that our speed indicated a later arrival at Reading than had seemed likely when she had asked. Before I knew it she was enquiring whether I had any New Year Resolutions, and I realised this was going to be one of those rare encounters that, over the years, have made travelling by rail a far, far better experience than the train operators can be bothered to deliver.
No, I told her, I hadn't made any resolutions. What about her? She rattled off three, which (her anonymity being assured by the fact that I don't know her name, as she discovered she was out of business cards when we reached her stop) were learning to dance, doing voluntary work and (slightly disconcertingly, though she stressed that she regarded this as merely optional) marriage. The first of these prompted me to reclassify as a New Year's Resolution my partly-formed intention to enter the Shakespeare Marathon, which I have now done: I suppose I must resolve also to train properly for it, or (which amounts to the same thing) to aim for 3:30:00. Actually, to aim for under that, remembering that Roger Bannister was not the first to run a four minute mile but the first to run a sub-four minute mile (and who remembers the guy who ran four minutes exactly shortly before that?).
Resolutions count for little in the face of hard reality. On arriving home I learnt that New Year's Day was now set aside for laying a new floor in my mother-in-law's bathroom, at the expense of the club New Year's run (though as it transpired the weather was wet and miserable). As for seeing in the New Year, the rest of the family was either out, abroad or asleep, so as usual it didn't happen: anyway, 2007 had left me too tired to welcome its succesor.

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