Ouse Valley Viaduct

I drop my bags, one by one, up Trafalgar Street, like Hansel.   Hoping that later, by Fanta-light, I’ll find my way through the vomit splashes, pick up my belongings, and make it home.

But, in the meantime, there’s a train waiting for me on platform 4.  Ali Smith and Jackie Kay have bought me a coffee and saved me a seat.  It’s a slam-door with a corridor and, as we pull away, Margaret Rutherford pops her head into our compartment, rolls her eyes, offers us humbugs and intrigue.

“My dears, have you seen her?”

And I have – because no lady vanishes on my train.

In every compartment there’s someone to love and I can add carriages at Wivelsfield.  At Balcombe or Redhill.

Up in first class, Vita and Violet are rolling with the train – stocking tops – strong hands clutching at the antimacassars.  Virginia’s in the corner, hutching up a bit, turning a page.

Back in the corridor, by the open window, hazel leaves have blown in.  Sylvia Pankhurst is deep in conversation with Alice Walker – heads together, hands moving.  Sylvia catches my arm as I pass.

“Here, Allie, Kier Hardie’s cap.  He thought you might like a lend.”

Down in the buffet car the Indigo Girls are playing an endless set – generously covering for Amanda Palmer who hasn’t shown yet.  I find her in the toilet.  The door doesn’t lock but she braces her feet against it and I kneel on the piss-soaked floor and don’t care.

Afterwards, I remember I promised Ali Smith a packet of crisps and a new-washed metaphor for commitment.  I get her cheese and onion and, as the fields drop around me, I offer her the Ouse Valley Viaduct.


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