How can something as large as a train station be so invisible?
We confirmed the location of the Burnham train station and left with what we felt was plenty of time to get there, buy tickets and await the train. Problem was the station was nowhere to be found. We circled around, checked a side road to two, and finally I waylaid a passing pedestrian. He guided me back in the general direction from which I had come, and this time there were visible signs and the red logo of British Rail. Having missed our train we parked and waited for the next one.
As we waited, something rustled in the raspberry brambles across the track. My Dear One noticed it first. We watched and finally something small and brownish or grayish or grayish-brown crept out on a cane. A hedgehog? Sami, when I asked, wondered if it might be a weasel. According to the Internet, weasels and their cousin the stoat are strictly carnivorous. This wee beastie seemed to be picking at the last of the raspberries. A search of Wild England: an A-Z Compendium of England’s Native Wildlife makes us think that we were looking at a wood mouse.
I love English trains. They are so civilized. You sit and relax, watch the landscape whiz by or read or chat. At the other end, you step off the train and onto the Tube. About twenty minutes after we figured out what line we needed from Paddington, we were walking into the V&A. My first sense of England was that train ride from King’s Cross with Mrs. Grose, the matron at Princess Helena College, and her son Henry. I could hardly understand the gentleman at the ticket booth and the word “return” made no sense. Eventually I grasped the concept that a “single” was “one way.” In the compartment my voice sounded unnervingly loud no matter how I tried to modulate it. And my accent? Nasal and worse.
But we made it to the little train station in Hitchin. I don’t remember whether someone met us with a car or if we took a taxi to school. That train, and others to Oxford, Cambridge and Birmingham, became a regular feature of my life.
On this our final day in Merrie Olde, we made our only visit to London. I went to lunch with Sami and Tali at the Victoria and Albert Museum (and to see the Vatican tapestries reunited with Raphael’s cartoons). My Dear One explored the Museum of Science. The tapestries were magnificent but most of the time was spent gossiping over cups of tea and chocolate in the Morris Room, all Arts-and-Crafts ceramic tile and brilliant color. Had I found a gray cashmere coat in my room? Sami asked as she handed back the earrings I had left at Homewood? Somehow it was left behind after the wedding. It was very old and much cherished. No, I said, but I would certainly look. We reviewed the nuptials, we recalled the past. It could not have been better.
It was raining in London and drops puddled on the platforms at Paddington. The cars were half empty as we headed toward Burnham, and then filled at Broadway Ealing. When we disembarked, the wee beastie was gone, or perhaps hiding somewhere warm and dry, and we didn’t see any activity among the brambles. Baby Benz was right where we left her, and the ride back to Grovefield House via Sainsbury’s for bread, salami, fruit and a pastry, and the petrol station to top up the tank was uneventful.
Sami’s ancient coat suddenly turned up and messages were dispatched to Homewood. The last of the vodka was enjoyed with hefty chunks of lime and small splashes of tonic. Another old episode of Monarch of the Glen completed the ultimate evening.
And so goodnight.