Friday, January 30, 2009


I'm home. And it is strange; a bizarre mixture of the familiar and the foreign. I have been away long enough that certain aspects are becoming more striking than they once were. The density of the towns, the wet, gritty nature of the streets. The accents seem thicker - strangely, particularly so for those of the South (where I spent most of my life, before moving abroad).

I arrived on Tuesday. We descended through the cloud cover toward Gatwick - clouds at 1000 feet or so, which were slowly diffusing in the frosted fire of the morning sun. The fields were still dotted with patches of fog, clinging to the sides of the little undulations in the Sussex terrain. Beautiful.

The railways are in their usual state of disarray; icy tracks early on, diversions due to engineering works on the fast line and a broken-down train near Barnham conspired to thwart my direct jouney to Pompy, and I ended up changing trains at my maternal hometown of Horsham. I asked there for details of connecting services. I was told by the Staionmaster: "You're going to hate me, mate, but there's a bus service replacing trains. It's stop-start all the way. But there's a train in 14 mintues which may or may not be running. It's your call, but I'd wait to see if the train arrives, if I were you." The guard on the train - an ex-army man, betrayed in stature and shoes before he even opened his mounth - also complained resignedly about the state of the railway system. "The train to Portsmouth Harbour is due in 13 minutes. It might run all the way, but they might turn it around at Fratton to try to get the up-service back on time. As usual, I'm the last to know." During the rail journey, he called in on his personal phone to try to get information on how various services where running to inform passengers where and when to change. The train terminated at Fratton, of course.

I'm growing more deeply in love with the British winter; the decay of one year becoming transfigured to the fuel of the next. A purging, a recharging, before growth begins again in the spring. A rebooting, if you will. Or if you won't. I don't care. Gazing from the train window I watched the fields pass - some flooded almost beyond recognition as arable land, all showing traces of frost in the shadows - stalwart bastions of the frigid night. The odd single bird, alone in a vast field, is startled by the passing train and takes flight. A pair of swans in a reed-lined fen are drifting lethargically in the icy water. The cold of winter reduces life's motion to a minumim; all movement costs.

I'm simultaneously excited and ill at ease.