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A Potter's Moll: The Train Takes The Strain

…There was a lively, noisy party of Poles with two yappy dogs in pet-carriers, there was a magnificent kilted Scot, a very jolly old lady in a wheel chair. You do see life, I thought as I sat next to a young man who was reading about the Punic Wars and opposite a young woman who was studying The Complete Handbook of Clinical Medicine…

Liz Robison observes, and for the most part enjoys, both scenery and passengers on a series of train journeys, though she concludes “I do hate to be forced to listen to one half of mobile phone calls. As Old Amos, the cartoon character in The Dalesman magazine says: ‘Some folk don’t have much to say but tha’s to listen to them a long time to find out!’’’

Do read more of Liz’s appetising columns by click on A Potter’s Moll in the menu on this page. And visit the Web site of Liz’s husband, internationally-renowned potter Jim Robison http://www.jimrobison.co.uk/

‘Let the train take the strain.’ Do you remember that old British Rail advert? Well, this last weekend, I decided to do just that. My husband, Jim, is away at an annual ceramics conference in Louisville, Kentucky. He’s away for two weeks as he also takes the opportunity to visit his mother and other family in Independence, Missouri.

So, I’m a pottery widow for a while. Knowing we have very reliable help in our Gallery on Saturday and Sunday, I decided to take the chance to go away for a weekend, by train, to visit my brother who lives at Moreton in Marsh, in the Cotswolds, knowing that there is a railway station in that town.

It was an adventure! I had to change three times in each direction, but every train was bang on time and I enjoyed the freedom to sit and relax and watch the country go by. It’s years since I made such a journey, so here are some observations, both positive and negative.

I noticed the Tesco-isation of Britain and the terrible congestion on major roads we crossed or travelled alongside. I also realised how many trees had been uprooted in the recent storms. You can’t help seeing the squalor and dereliction alongside many railway areas, especially in big cities, as you pass scrap yards, builders’ yards, workshops and depots, but the overall impression I have is of the amazing vision of the 19th century railway builders and the legacy of that in the architecture of stations, bridges, viaducts and tunnels.

I enjoyed the way our relationship with the landscape changed according to whether we were at ground level or up above looking down on five-storey mills or warehouses. As the sun was shining, water in the landscape was especially noticeable and I appreciated the views of rivers, canals, lakes and reservoirs as well as areas of standing floodwater in many fields, As always, I love the ‘rightness’ of rural landscapes where the church tower or steeple is the tallest edifice.

There were bright splashes of daffodils as we sped along and once a quick panorama of several teams of school kids playing football in red shirts. As we travelled further south the countryside was definitely beginning to ‘green up’ with willows looking verdant and hedgerows showing signs of hawthorn blossom.

As we passed a mobile phone mast masquerading as a tree, my attention turned to the inside of the train. On the outward journey I chose a Quiet Zone coach – it was amusing that two people who did talk on mobile phones did so very quietly for a change.

There was a lively, noisy party of Poles with two yappy dogs in pet-carriers, there was a magnificent kilted Scot, a very jolly old lady in a wheel chair. You do see life, I thought as I sat next to a young man who was reading about the Punic Wars and opposite a young woman who was studying The Complete Handbook of Clinical Medicine. They’re not all completely grown up though: the student across the aisle was sucking her thumb and stroking a furry monkey for most of the journey from Hereford to Manchester.

Altogether a very enjoyable jaunt, though I do hate to be forced to listen to one half of mobile phone calls. As Old Amos, the cartoon character in The Dalesman magazine says: ‘Some folk don’t have much to say but tha’s to listen to them a long time to find out!’

*

The Welsh Society St David’s Day dinner and choir entertainment was a huge success. I’ll end this column with a story that went down well with the audience there.

A well-known orchestra was going on a Gala concert tour of Europe. Unfortunately the conductor fell ill just before they left. The orchestra manager decided to use one of the percussionists as a stand-in and he conducted concerts in several cities. Just before the final concert in Vienna there came news that the famous conductor was better and he would fly out to conduct the final concert. The percussionist was thanked and returned to his place at the back of the orchestra. One of his fellow percussionists looked up and said: ‘Hello, where have you been?’

More from me in a fortnight.

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