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.