A Mind's Journey On The LNER

Colette takes us on an nostalgic train journey and the tears are not to do with strikes and delays.
Colette Kaines Lang
August 30, 2023

I’m always slightly teary on the LNER train.

London Kings Cross to Berwick upon Tweed.

Berwick upon Tweed to London Kings Cross.

A journey I have taken countless times.

The journeys mark moments for me.

The in between.

Sometimes I take the train knowing it’s the closing of a chapter or the opening of a new one.

Mostly it just represents a pause of the motions of my life.

A time I’m immersed in sentiments from times before and what will be.

As the train picks up pace from Kings Cross heading north, I always smile as a blurry Finsbury Park reveals itself through the window.

I think of how different life would be if when I was nine my family hadn’t moved hundreds of miles away from there.

Perhaps once it was a thought that had longing attached. Yet, now I feel impartial.

And like that its gone with fields replacing the flats which stood over the tracks as if cheering the train along.

I always had so many questions for the people in those flats.

Can they hear my train? Do they shut their curtains every time they change outfits? Do they ever sit on those balconies or are they solely the home for bikes and washing?

At this point I look inwards playing guess the commuter.

I look at the people in suits hunkered over laptops and phones wondering if that is what this train will become for me?

Merely a commute for meetings and work.

My headphones are placed on and a podcast distracts me from my thoughts.

The headphones blur a couple telling their listeners what they’ve been arguing about and the funny bits of their week.

I smile to myself, immersed in their life, feeling that at episode 200 I know them personally.

My mind wanders, it asks me if I would ever fight with a partner over that or would I, If I had children, raise them like that?

The voices become annoying in my ear. They’re no longer funny. They’re talking too loudly and bickering too much.

I hit pause and check the time.

I have only been on the train for 30 minutes.

I knew I should have downloaded some TV. I think this every time and never do.

Hours and hours go by.

I have invented a whole story for the couple I can see on the seats with the table.

What would people think of me? They’re probably not thinking of you at all.

The train pulls into York meaning the journey has yet to get to the two-hour mark.

I peer down the aisle as a potential commotion begins. A ticket is thrust in the face of someone sat down. Words are exchanged that I imagine start with ‘my’ and end with ‘seat’.

The person reluctantly gets up, I can see their eyes wandering for a green light above a seat in the carriage. Red, red, red, red, red, red, red, red - it doesn’t look likely.

I find myself hoping they’re not on the train for too long, as they make their way to sit by the toilet. Knowing they will have to battle against toilet fumes and the annoying automatic doors which always seem to shut at the most inconvenient times.

A LNER Azuma with Bamburgh Castle

Finally, as the train leaves Newcastle, my focus returns to the window.

I have looked out at this stretch of coast for well over a decade. Each time the anticipation of going home or leaving, a little bit different.

I have done this journey grieving. Sometimes grieving years on from what had happened.

A grief that lies unexpressed and unnoticed until you quietly look out of a moving train.

I had done this journey guilty as I left ill family behind.

Thinking the worst. What if that was my last goodbye?

I had done the journey furious, annoyed at the version of myself I had reverted to in the presence of my family. A feeling that often outweighed the actual annoyance my family had caused me. Battling whether to accept or change those parts of myself.

I had used flashcards, written essays and applications gazing at the sea, counting the days until I had nothing to do.

I had sat staring out of the window with nothing to do, counting down the days for when my life regained structure.

I tear up as my little town reveals itself meeting the sea.

It looks perfect. Truly the best view along this railway track.

No flaws in sight. All you can see is its beautiful walls and houses scattered by the sea. With one building venturing further than the rest, painted red and white. I’m always drawn to the lighthouse in this final view. Perhaps I feel the effects of it guiding me to some sort of safety.

I don’t think of a particular memory. More just overcome with the sense of how many memories this place holds.

As Berwick railway bridge guides us into the station, a new sadness builds knowing that in a few days I’ll do the same journey the other way. Craning my neck to see the town for as long as I can. Sad to say goodbye, a little relieved maybe, and excited for where I’m going next. Teary all over again.

Header Image: The Royal Border Bridge, Berwick - Michael Fraser

Image 2: LNER