The guy opposite – thoughts on the train. An old intro page.

Anyone who writes will tell you that they have a favourite place where the writing comes easier than any other place.

For some this might be a study, or an office, or the local coffee shop. Other’s prefer to curl up on their bed with a big A4 legal pad and churn out the pages long hand. I’ve come to the conclusion that the place chooses you, and not the other way around.

In my case, the place happens to be any window seat facing in the opposite direction of travel, on the train to and from London Fenchurch Street. This has turned out to be extremely convenient on my occasional commute to the big smoke, not so convenient on the days when I’m at home and set some time aside to write, and nothing’s coming forth!

Last night on my journey home, I’d just sat myself down and got out my hi-tech writing paraphernalia when a chap sat down before me. He’d clearly been running to catch the train and whilst the rest of us passengers sat in our coats and jackets, waiting for the doors to slide closed and protect us from the chill coming from the platform, the man opposite loosened his tie and undid his top buttons. He lay back against his chair and took a few deep breaths. But this wasn’t just a man who was relieved to catch the train, this was a man who right now was thanking whatever gods there might be that he’d made it through the day. Forty five minutes from now, he’d be home, and it would all be over.

I guess he must have been thinking something like this when he took his mobile phone out of his pocket and called home. I watched a smile appear on his face as someone he cared for at the other end answered, and without thinking he used his free hand to brush his hair back whilst he spoke to her. Which is when he asked her about her day.

The expression changed: His face fell. He closed his eyes, and his free hand moved to his face and he rubbed the bridge of his nose with his fingers.
“Right,” he said. “Right.” And a few seconds later, “Yes. Ok. Right.” His shoulders fell, and his hand fell back into his lap.
“Uh huh. Ok. Ok. Ok.” He sighed, deeply. “Ok,” he said again.
Eventually, after a few more affirmative statements he muttered something about “seeing her soon”, and shut the phone off.

Gone was the relief. Instead his face was grey and expressionless. Like stone. And as the train pulled out the station he just stared out the window, and probably wondered why he hadn’t stayed at the office, and worked late, or gone for that drink or two that the guys in finance had invited him to.

Somewhere, not forty five minutes from us, someone put down their phone having just off loaded a day full of problems. Whoever they were, I sincerely hope that they felt better, unburdened somehow, because it came at a price, paid for by the gentleman opposite, and it would be sad to think it was all for nothing.

It’s little events like these that make the train such an easy place to write. Something happens, and it sparks a thought. The thought in turn sparks some writing, and one hundred and eighty odd train journeys later you have twenty seven chapters of your first novel written. At least in first draft. You’ll find a couple of those chapters on this website, and as ever I’d value any comments you might have.

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