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With love from the UK



train

Sometime in October of 2017

There are really very few charming things about a desolate town in northern UK. It’s not the grim weather in early October, or the cement factory a few miles outside, certainly not the pub with two English men drinking their loneliness’ weight in pints.

There are really very few charming things about a desolate town in northern UK. It’s not the colder temperature – 3 degrees less than in London – because of its proximity to the sea, a proximity that steals degrees but that it’s not close enough to actually see the water. It’s not the row of beautiful English Victorian houses -the only ones in town – that belong to a dentist, to a doctor, to a paediatrician and so on every medical practice but houses where no one sits around a dining table to eat.

There are really very few charming things about a desolate town in northern UK. It’s not the parks with two lonesome swings and a blue slide with painting that’s chipping away. It’s not the one Spar shop in the town beside a Chinese takeaway shop with light that’s too bright and too white.

The grasslands, the countless sheep and the gloomy sunsets: the train ride back is one of the few charming things about a desolate town in northern UK.

A train ride with a vivid loneliness – different from the one of the English men in the pub in that it doesn’t linger (I hope) nor must it fade away with pints (my liver hopes).

The warm relief of knowing that you will make it back to London where you gain 3 degrees and where the cement factories are far enough to pretend they’re not really there.

There are quite a few charming things about London. The morning train ride from Hackney Downs to Chingford “stopping at Clapton. St James St, Walthamstow Central, Wood Street and Highmans Park”

It’s the bluest of blue skies on an autumn morning and where I can see people around a table inside that Victorian house. It’s also the fields beside the canal. And the boats on the canal. And the families on the boats in the canal. And the one or two men that look like pirates sailing around the canal.

There are quite a few charming things about London. And, ironically, much like the ride back from that desolate northern town, a lot of it is what happens in between here and there on a train ride. It’s the strangers who sometimes make eye contact but who mostly don’t. It’s the anonymity of being in-between your house and your next stop.

There are quite a few charming things about London. The poetics of looking out from a window in a moving train, the girl with the stripped pants holding her bike with one hand and the journal with the other one. The little girl with the tightest of hair buns and pinkest of sweaters and sweetest of voices who’s already commuting on her own.

There are quite a few charming things about London but it’s mostly the light that shines and blinds and breaks and makes shadows between trees that were green yesterday and today are red and the autumn blue sky because a sky that’s that blue deserves two mentions. T: Laura Steiner

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