This train …
“Big wheels roll through fields where sunlight streams
Meet me in a land of Hope and dreams
Well, I will provide for you
And I’ll stand by your side
You’ll need a good companion now
For this part of the ride”
These words from one of our favourite Springsteen songs were going round in my head (as they often do since Hope was born, and since years ago now I went on a train for the last time with my father down to London one bright summer day), as we boarded the train on platform 2 of Cambridge Station this afternoon to head up to London.
Hope’s first train journey.
As ever, I was more excited than she was as we settled down in the lovely big empty carriage with our backs to the front of the train looking out of the window. By then Hope had heard all about the endless commutes I’d done on that line, and how her wonderful Grandfather used to travel up and down to work and how I’d wave at the trains heading to London from the track at the bottom of the lane and shout (in manner of Jenny Agguter in The Railway Children), “Send my love to father”. She’d heard how her Grandmother used to take us up and sit us in the buffet car for supper after wonderful day trips to London museums, and she’d had to put up with me grumbling about the state of the car parking facilities in Cambridge. So, there we were settled into a huge double empty seat and happily looking out of the window when a lady came up and sat opposite us, I felt quite indignant as the whole rest of the carriage was empty, however, everything happens for a reason and she turned out to be quite lovely and took photos of the momentous occasion for us and chatted all the way to London and we parted the best of friends.
The train pulled out, and despite my encouraging her to look out of the window, Hope seemed more interested in her stripy tights, but then she suddenly looked up (I think I had actually dripped some orange juice down her back) and looked out of the window and did a huge double take as she tried to follow the rapidly changing view… her little head shook from side to side so fast I was quite concerned, and she grinned and waved her arms and then just sat transfixed. It was great fun to watch her absorption. When she became bored with the view she was equally entranced by her feet so all in all what with Hope’s pleasure and my lovely other new travelling companion it was huge fun.
I don’t yet have a push chair (I know I must get round to it soon), so I had carried Hope in the front carrying pouch and lugged her huge changing bag full of different outfits and clean nappies over my shoulder. It was a bit unwieldy but we managed in the end, and several people stopped to offer help … I think I also need to invest in a back pack for a changing bag … much more practical.
We pulled into Kings Cross station and said a fond farewell to our new friend and then I just stood and stared. The whole station had totally transformed since the last time in early December when I’d been on a train to there. Lots of gleamy white flooring, spacious high ceilings and all manner of fancy shops … and you still have to pay 30p for the loo!
We went across the road into quite the most beautiful in London (alongside the Houses of Parliament and the Natural History Museum) St Pancras station – well not actually the station but the incredibly beautiful hotel above it. Beautiful but absurdly expensive and a little lacking in atmosphere inside if the lobby lounge is anything to go by. We sat on a shiny white sofa and got glared at by various beautiful thin waitresses and ordered a bottle of fizzy water (which turned out to be £5 (how much??). Hope dozed on the sofa and then woke up and started shouting at the waitresses and the men in suits having smarmy looking meetings around us. I thought I’d better change her so we set off to find somewhere and were directed to the ladies .. very beautifully decorated but with no baby changing facilities… I expected more from such a lovely hotel so immediately tweeted my irritation. We went back to our white leather perch and my friends arrived.
What a thrill to see old friends. They’ve recently moved to Zambia to make their project #colalife http://www.colalife.org a reality, and they are two of the most magical and inspiring people you could ever hope to meet. They are also Hope’s un-God parents (she is being christened later in May and will have normal Godparents too but these wonderful people agreed to be her un-Godparents). We quickly decided that shiny white leather wasn’t quite our thing and headed out into the upper station ‘terrace’ and found a pleasing corner table (I do like being in corners … I know that Mr Swayze said, “no one puts Baby in the corner” … well I do.. quite often) and while Jane and I chatted, Simon took Hope off for a wonderful walk around the station, they looked at trains, the building and at all the people rushing around. She sat bolt upright in his arms and took in every last detail and grinned at everyone she passed, it was wonderful to watch. I’ve harped on many times about the huge importance of friends, and the joy it gives me to see the pleasure they get from meeting my girl… today was no different and it made me feel very emotional.
All too quickly they had to go and Hope and I were left sitting in our corner watching the world. I fed her, and very differently to the reaction from the staff in the neighbouring posh hotel, the lovely Italian waiters were friendly and accepting of Hope’s dining. We had a cup of frothy milky coffee and a bowl of cauliflower soup (weird combination but it worked) and then asked about changing facilities. Carluccios succeeded where the St |Pancras hotel failed and I managed to change Hope AND repack the nappy bag before stumbling, like a donkey at Blackpool beach with a heavy load, back round to platform 3 at Kings Cross where the train home was waiting.
We flopped down in our seat, Hope shouted a hello to the fellow passengers who were not impressed by her cheery but fairly loud greeting. She gave up trying to be sociable and fell into a very deep sleep, all wrapped up in her pink swaddle blanket from America, she was warm, safe and cosy. She slept a blissful heavy lovely sleep all the way back in my arms (apart from when the train door in Letchworth slammed) and before she’d even blinked she was back in her little car seat and then back in the snug comfort of her Granby’s house. I let her doze a little longer and then took her out and changed her. She woke up in a lovely mood and just grinned and gurgled while I changed her and is now absolutely deeply asleep with a happy smile dreaming of her first train journey and wondering who were the saints, and who were the sinners, who were the whores and who were the gamblers, who were the losers and who were the winners and who on earth were the lost souls on her train (I refer you, of course, to the lyrics of Springsteen’s Land of Hope and Dreams again).
What a happy afternoon, she is definitely a good companion, actually no she isn’t, she’s a GREAT companion..