I have always lived near transport links. My earliest memory is of the kalang kalang of a railway barrier, slowly but surely reclining its black and yellow arms to come down across the road so that the people on bicycles and feet would stop. Trains tore passed – kalang kalang whoosh judder kalang ROAR.
I think I thought, in my tiny confused state that we were on the move. Or about to move. I mean to be fair, we did move quite a lot. 13 times in my lifetime so far, and I think I stopped counting at 16.
But as a baby on my bed I could hear the trains on the tracks. That faraway kalang kalang was like birdsong to me but more regular and constant, like a woodpecker maybe. I liked hearing it in the distance burgeoning as I got closer (this is when I had grown older and larger) taking it as given that I could walk to the shops alone, head thrust skyward.
Stations I feel comfortable in are in the middle of nowhere. Like that two-storey flat we lived in overlooking a dank railway bridge made of muddy coloured brick with all the vines and weeds sprouting from the top of it. Placed between deep countryside and a Green Belt that station was a lone platform. Tickets £2 in to town, return.
In the autumnal red and golden brown, I’d cross the bridge with keys jangling in frost-bitten hands to fumble with the lock. Sunset. Bedroom under heaped-on covers I could feel the tremors from the cargo trains as they passed under through the dead of night. I liked vampires back then so maybe there were bats under there or a gothic station master waiting for the red signal that never came.
Imagination never stopped with train stations and all that waiting. The trains went past with regularity and that gave me hope because I knew people were travelling places and I could sit still and be there to listen. Is that strange? I never felt tempted to board one or to escape because that noise of transience made me feel at home.
Amazing stillness, forethought and possibility at stations when everyone else is moving rushing on ahead. I think I’ll wait for the next train. There’ll probably be another one.