We had gone up North, despite the railway strikes, for an important family funeral. But thanks to the railway strikes, we travelled early and had time to meet family members and to remember Sheila together, as well as to enjoy a few reflective walks. The restored Huddersfield Narrow Canal offers easy, dry-shod walking; we found warm accommodation in Greenfield village. On a day of showers and sunshine we turned a corner to witness this autumn scene: a watery sun shining through the golden leaves of the beech, the hedge behind it still hardly changed. Can spring be far behind?
Tag Archives: railway journey
‘They are French apricots today, and very good and juicy, so much better than the Spanish,’ said the stallholder in Canterbury market. I bought a pound – half a kilo – and she wrapped them in a brown paper bag.
As I said, ‘Thank you,’ the confluence of the warm sunshine, the brightly coloured fruit, the French text printed on the cardboard trays, the brown paper bag and the swing with which the lady sealed it with a twist, all together transported me back half a century. Almost without thinking I went on: ‘I remember when I was young, walking and hitch-hiking across France to visit a friend. I bought a kilo of apricots and a bottle of water, they kept me going through the mountains.’
‘You would remember that!’ she smiled: I did indeed.
Clement and I were in a group sharing an apartment in the seminary, and he was about to be ordained a missionary priest, I was summoning the courage to depart gracefully, but also to share the joy of his ordination. I was coming to the Massif Central from another ordination in Switzerland, travelling cross-country, a challenge then in France.
I hitched a lift to the border on a quiet road, and it was getting dark when I came upon a railway station that offered a slow train to the South Coast. En marche! as they say. I sat in a pull-down seat in the corridor, wrapped in a blanket, and slept fitfully as the kilometres went by. At Nîmes I slept on a bench until morning. The first bus in my direction was going as far as Alès, a market town, where I bought my kilo of apricots and walked on.
Lifts were few and far between but soon I was in the mountains under the blazing sun, eating my way through the apricots and replenishing the water bottle from wayside springs.
I met a cart drawn by two oxen, going the wrong way for me.
I kept on walking, accepting lifts of one or two kilometres until the bus from the morning overtook me, stopped and took me into Marvejols. The driver’s return journey began from there, but his drive from Alès was off timetable so I had a good ride for free. We shared the last apricots.
The driver showed me the famous statue of the Beast of Gevaudan, a man-eating monster from the time of Louis XV; he also showed me the road to my friend’s village where my arrival in a passing car was greeted by Clement’s family with congratulations and a warm welcome. A day later, two friends of his offered a lift to Paris which I gladly accepted.
This month Clement is celebrating his 50 years as a missionary priest.
Let’s give thanks for his faithful service in all that time, and pray that the Synod will point us to ways in which we may all become missionaries, steadfast in the heat of the day, on the hard road; ready to share what we have: apricots, a lift, or the Good News.
Today, Mrs T is gathering damaged apricots from our tree to make jam to share at Christmas time. The BEST apricot jam.
We can take a photograph on a mobile phone, adjust and enhance it on the same device, print it, and send it all around the world in seconds. All this without setting up a heavy camera with expensive film or glass plates, and only later using poisonous chemicals in a darkroom to develop, print and fix an image that might be blurred if the sitter could not keep still.
Personal photographs were keep-sakes, and portraits. Poor people might be hard-pressed to afford them. The better off were not always keen, perhaps not liking what they saw. Among the pioneers who became famous for their artistic images was Mrs Julia Margaret Cameron, a well-connected woman whose work is still appreciated today. On this day in 1867 William Allingham met her on a train in Hampshire.
Field-path to station, red campions and king-cups. Down train comes in with Mrs Cameron, queenly in a carriage by herself, surrounded by photographs. We go to Lymington together, she talking all the time. ‘I want to do a large photograph of Tennyson, and he objects! Says I make bags under his eyes — and Carlyle refuses to give me a sitting, says it’s a kind of Inferno! The greatest men of the age’ (with strong emphasis), ‘Sir John Herschel, Henry Taylor, Watts, say I have immortalised them — and these other men object !! What is one to do ——- Hm?’
This is a kind of interrogative interjection she often uses, but seldom waits for a reply.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then shall I know, even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. 1Corinthians 13:11-13
Perhaps the bags under his eyes were more difficult to ignore when Tennyson looked at himself in this needle-sharp portrait. Already seeing himself face to face, wrinkles, bags under the eyes, receding hairline, mortal. May I accept myself, imperfect image of God — and indeed of my own true self.
Royal battle fleets once anchored here, near the Cinque Ports of Rye and Winchelsea. It’s a peaceful scene today, sheep in green pastures. Behind us as we look towards the passing train, flow the quiet waters of the River Brede, draining the salt marsh which was under the sea in historical times. But why talk about distress here today?
When we walked along the River we found on a willow a memorial tribute to a woman found drowned here, may she rest in peace. It was a special spot for her in life.
The railway is an another place where those in despair end their lives, and as we have seen before, the railway companies have set about suicide prevention in earnest. Now Southern Railway who operate the train seen here have appointed Laura Campbell as suicide prevention officer, a job she describes an a necessity.
All staff are trained to identify someone in distress or vulnerable and how to intervene. She says that more than 300 of her staff have saved lives since 2019. Not every station is staffed, of course, but, she says, fellow passengers should not be afraid to step in and ask, are you OK, thus offering an opening to a different narrative in the distressed fellow traveller.
Half-way through May and this blog has no mention of Mary … not very Catholic! But here she is, in the midst of the Church, such as it was in those days after the Ascension. One of the team.
This picture, shot through clear stained-glass windows, shows us a glimpse, not only of the first Church receiving definitively the Holy Spirit, but also of the noisy, diverse corner of London that St Aloysius’ serves. The church itself stands above street level, an Upper Room, slightly removed from the noise of traffic.
Visitors from many parts call in, perhaps between trains at Euston or Saint Pancras terminals. Find out more about the church and parish here.
I am always happy when I find it open; some people feel uncomfortable in modern churches, but this was designed to celebrate the Vatican II liturgy and brings everyone close to the altar. If you have a few minutes between trains, you too may just find it open! And Mary, filled with the Spirit, ponders all these things in her heart, and unites her Son’s disciples in the Upper Room, be it in Jerusalem or Somers Town.
In recent years Mrs T and I have only seen Peterborough Cathedral from the train. Modern ticketing make it difficult to break a journey for a minipilgrimage or just to stretch your legs. So let’s join Cathedral guide Ann Reynolds as she tells the story of Saint Kyneburgha, who helped found the monastery on this site in AD 653. England and Wales had many redoubtable women church leaders in those times: surely the DNA is still in our women’s veins?
This way for Ann Reynolds’s article. It’s a good read.
I was looking for more poetry (What you might call ‘free verse’!) to read on my Kindle. Since we’ve used Joyce Kilmer a couple of times, I thought I’d look at some of his writing. This poem, The Twelve-forty-five seems appropriate coming up to Christmas. There were no motor cars on the road then, so people depended on the night train to get home late. Let’s pray for all travellers this Christmas, for those who would like to travel but cannot, and for all who will be apart when they would be together if they could; for those who have died and those left behind: the stars – the angels – are watchful over them.
Upon my crimson cushioned seat,
In manufactured light and heat,
I feel unnatural and mean.
Outside the towns are cool and clean;
Curtained awhile from sound and sight
They take God’s gracious gift of night.
The stars are watchful over them.
On Clifton as on Bethlehem
The angels, leaning down the sky,
Shed peace and gentle dreams. And I —
I ride, I blasphemously ride
Through all the silent countryside.
What Love commands the train fulfills,
And beautiful upon the hills
Are these our feet of burnished steel.
Subtly and certainly I feel
That Glen Rock welcomes us to her
And silent Ridgewood seems to stir
And smile, because she knows the train
Has brought her children back again.
We carry people home — and so
God speeds us, wheresoe’er we go.
The midnight train is slow and old
But of it let this thing be told,
To its high honor be it said
It carries people home to bed.
My cottage lamp shines white and clear.
God bless the train that brought me here.
(The Twelve-forty-five, from “Trees and Other Poems” by Joyce Kilmer)
When Mrs T and I were visiting Germany and Poland, we had to change trains in Cologne. Since the Cathedral is right by the railway station and we had two hours to spare, our plan was easily made. And efficiently undermined by a delay on the Eurostar, which led to arriving in Berlin 6 hours late. Jerome K Jerome did visit the Cathedral between trains in 1890. You don’t have to agree with every word he says, any more than I do, but he has some insight into silence.
There is little to be said about a cathedral. Except to the professional sightseer, one is very much like another. Their beauty to me lies, not in the paintings and sculpture they give houseroom to, nor in the bones and bric-à-brac piled up in their cellars, but in themselves—their echoing vastness, their deep silence. Above the little homes of men, above the noisy teeming streets, they rise like some soft strain of perfect music, cleaving its way amid the jangle of discordant notes. Here, where the voices of the world sound faint; here, where the city’s glamour comes not in, it is good to rest for a while—if only the pestering guides would leave one alone—and think.
There is much help in Silence. From its touch we gain renewed life. From contact with it we rise healed of our hurts and strengthened for the fight. Amid the babel of the schools we stand bewildered and affrighted. Silence gives us peace and hope. Silence teaches us no creed, only that God’s arms are around the universe.
How small and unimportant seem all our fretful troubles and ambitions when we stand with them in our hand before the great calm face of Silence! We smile at them ourselves, and are ashamed.
From “Diary of a Pilgrimage” by Jerome K. Jerome.
To be continued tomorrow.
It sounded like something Bottom would say in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: ‘Listen’, said our daughter, ‘and you’ll hear the daffodils open’. Was she going virally stir-crazy? No, we listened, and we heard a pop as one of these daffodils burst the brown sheaf of the bud as the petals expanded. Another Laudato Si moment!
I was reminded of sitting in the sunshine, waiting for a tube train at the then beautifully tended Boston Manor tube station, well above ground at this point, and hearing, in the quieter moments between Trident jets descending to Heathrow, the sound of broom pods clicking open in the sunshine. I must have been on my way to see her future mother on a Friday evening after work.
Not long before Christmas I took a railway journey across Manchester on one of the darkest days of the year. Since I was visiting my mother for her birthday, I resisted the temptation to continue towards Blackpool North (Pole), but the signaller’s humour was welcome on a bleak morning.
It was also good to see this note from Sam on behalf of the Samaritans, who are well aware that this season is not festive for everybody. Sadly, the railway is often a suffering soul’s chosen suicide spot. Sam’s message may persuade someone to ring them, as may the message on many train tickets.
By the time I was making my return journey, the weather had turned from a saturated mist to a greasy drizzle. Walking to Greenfield station with bright LED headlights shining in my face was no joy.
But Saddleworth Catholic church of the Sacred Heart already had their crib on display in the porch. A reminder of the hope that is in us.
Christian or not, we are given the virtue of hope to see us through the dark times. Christian or not, a helpless babe is not hopeless. He or she reaches out in trust. For those whose ability to trust has been eroded through others’ inhumanity, a word, a smile may make a difference. Few of us will ever find ourselves stepping in to prevent a suicide at the last moment, but we may, all unknowingly, help to do so before that.
From across the main road, my view of the crib was no better than in the photo, but I knew what I was looking at: even in the darkest, murkiest times, there is hope.