Monday, 23 January 2012

London via Ely

After morning at university, I drive back and hop on the train to London. I prefer to go Kings Cross via Cambridge now rather than down to Liverpool Street, one good reason being that the route goes right past Ely Cathedral which looks ethereal whatever the weather, even in bright sunshine. You approach it on the right, its great choir of delicate verticals looking to ease away from the earth as if the whole building were some medieval vertical-take-off machine powered entirely by angels. As the train slows into the station the cathedral manoeuvres itself into position behind the marina. The huddle of small white boats offers a brilliant visual response to the cathedral. The cathedral points up, the boats point towards the horizon. It is the most perfect view you could wish for.

Then you're past the cathedral in the glooms of Ely Station where once on a freezing winter's night I spent a miserable forty minutes having just returned from Germany via Stansted, exhausted, to find everything locked, toilets, waiting room, everything, the wind roaring through and the rain looking to eat up anything in its way. That's when the two drunk hog-roast men arrived, cheerful and fresh from buying hog-roast equipment from Preston, Lancs, and asked me to play Scrabble on the train, thereby cheering me up too.

This time I was going to meet S in the Museum Tavern opposite the BM and talk about a US edition of the poems, or at least some of them. I arrived early, ordered my Jameson's, sat, read and listened half-attentively to the general conversation. S arrived when he said he would, a little later than arranged, a tall, distinguished looking man of about 80. I asked what he'd like to drink and he asked for a half, then fancied some 'bangers', a word that sounds odd in an American mouth. OI ordered some sausages and chips. We talked intensely for an hour and half about everything and parted eventually with some kind of understanding as to what kind of book we were considering. I dashed across Russell Square and just made the train home.

On the second leg of the return journey three older Norfolk women a few seats in front of me were having a loud conversation. Their language was rich and sweary and I wondered at it for a minute then reminded myself that when I say older, I actually mean about my own age. Their mothers wouldn't have sworn on a train, but to them it's not swearing anymore, it's just talk. At one point they'd got onto one of their fellow workers.

- She gone online
- Everybody gone online nowdays.
- Yea but she gone on that Facebook thing
- What she bloody done that for, she never speaks to anyone anyway?

They talked about looking after the old ones and what presents they got their relatives, and what Montreux was like for the holiday ('Not that cold').


I thought they were probably very nice women, kindly, rough tongued. You'd trust them


havantaclu said...

George - a lovely description of a beautiful cathedral.

There's something reassuring about cathedrals, isn't there? Something that provides a thread in the interconnection of past and present. We don't really have a full understanding of the mind-sets of the medieval cathedral builders, but there the outcomes are, providing the only real script for our comprehension.

I've seen many of the English cathedrals - we lived in Cambriddge, so visited Ely quite often, and I used to provide a free guide for American tourists around Hereford cathedral, on some days in long-ago university vacations, before the Mappa Mundi was moved from its old dark corner in the north aisle to its new shining residence in a purpose-adapted building.

Old ladies - they have such character and often so much wisdom. But being a crone myself, I would think so, would I not?

Thanks for your blogs, George.

looby said...

Montreux. I wonder if they were there for the jazz festival? Probably not.

BTW, if you have any German (I don't), the latest edition of OstEuropa is all about Hungary.


looby said...


Dafydd John said...

I remember being delayed at Ely Station for a rather long time on a cold, beautiful snowy day with a group of friends. Tantalizing glimpses of the great cathedral, but no announcements as to how long we would be there for. So we amused ourselves on the train, not daring to walk into the city and visit the cathedral.

We had one announcement on the tannoy, however:

"Do not be alarmed if this train moves."

Or was that another trip and another station...?