Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Chester to Manchester

A good day. I went to Manchester. The trip takes about an hour on the train via Warrington and Runcorn. The carriage was crowded.

Character 1, a businessman in his late fifties on his phone:

'You got the report yet? No? She's probably lost it, you know what she's like. Look, can you see if the flight on Monday is transferable? I might want to come back a day early, see.'

'Brenda? Hello sweetheart. You got the report? Yes, thought you had. These young ones, you know what they're like. Impatient. On my back. You'll send it? Good. Bye now, sweetheart.'

'Marjorie? OK. the flight is booked. I'll be back Sunday...'

Character 2: Silent. I look once and she is in her thirties. I look again and she is older. Her mouth moves saying something to herself emphatically. Her head nods. Yes, that is what I'll say. When I arrive. I'll tell him straight. This time I will. Definitely.
Our eyes meet. We smile. Sometimes I see myself reflected.

Characters 3 & 4: Two men board the train together in matching waterproofs with council logos. Both young, one freshly out of university, I decide, the other one a couple of years older. The older one taps his computer screen describing the site they are ging to visit: the entrances, the possible use, how long it will take them to walk around. Then the other joins in, uselessly; a quiet voice that emphasises all the sibilants. 'What about that entrance there?' 'Won't that be a change of use?' His companion dismisses each one.

Gradually the carriage grows quiet. Red brick replaces fields and then tower blocks replaces the rows of houses. Manchester, Oxford Road. It is raining.


Blogger Patry Francis said...

Oh, this was wonderful. Character 2 could be the beginning of a novel. In fact, they all could.

Tue Oct 10, 12:59:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes I was just thinking the exact same thing - Patry beat me to it. It's actually a short short story Clare - love. love . love it.

Tue Oct 10, 05:41:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you both. I think I was pretty lucky with that carriage yesterday.

Tue Oct 10, 08:34:00 am  
Blogger Debi said...

This is a perfect illustration of what it's like to be a writer! Everywhere and everything is potential nourishment for the pen.

People often ask how much of a writer's work is autobiographical. Incidents and characters like these are not exactly part of YOUR story, but they spark off inspiration so in a way they are.

I'm rambling ... sorry!

Tue Oct 10, 10:34:00 am  
Blogger Jan said...

Character 1 says it all through dialogue. Character 2 says it all through her stillness. Characters 3/4: I think Ive seen them on the same train...( well, possibly?)
I like the adverb "uselessly" and you only use adverbs where necessary... USELESSNESS is one of the worst of feelings, one of the unkindest feelings you can give someone..
And I like:" Sometimes I see myself reflected.."
Maeve Binchy would link up all these characters so that their lives entwined..

Tue Oct 10, 12:48:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Debi: Not rambling at all - thanks for your comment.

Thanks Jan! You're very kind. But it was the people round me doing all this, not me. I just remembered it.

Tue Oct 10, 03:34:00 pm  
Blogger Marly Youmans said...

Trains are such wonderful places for eavesdropping... And the towns go by with interesting names like Runcorn, and the whole thing feels somehow magnified, like a metaphor for that big journey, life.

Tue Oct 10, 04:22:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very pertinent post, Clare, particularly enjoyable when taken in juxtaposition with your previous one on feminism.....

much appreciated by someone who has to travel on the train twice a a day and lacks your powers of observation.

Tue Oct 10, 08:10:00 pm  

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