Trains and reality

Trains are bloody marvelous but hell they’re expensive. How can they justify charging £106.20 for an off peak day return from London to Leeds? It’s not my expense account that suffers, it comes out of Teach First. But Teach First is hardly made of money. It seems excessive. It’s why I prefer to have a car. I’m in a train heading back from some work for Baz training teachers. It’s been a lovely day.

I like to look out of the window and watch the world go by on trains. Oh England etc. On a day like this you get flashes of beauty and question, too quick. “What’s that, on the hill?” “I can’t see it.” “Well it’s gone now.”


The evening is perfect though so all the unrecognisable things look briefly beautiful, and this train is fast. Not £106.20 fast but fast. Cathedrals, corn fields and violets. Little stone towns and big concrete blots on the landscape. Angry graffiti and cows and pylons.

I somehow seem to get into relationships with women who have entirely unusual relationships with trains. It’s changed my perception of the things. One old flame just loved them. Loved them. Oh how she loved being on trains. If I’d been doing well financially back then I’d have got her birthday tickets for the Trans-Siberian or the Oriental Express or both and then I’d have died of a heart attack with a smile on my face. Probably best I couldn’t, but mmmm…

Another wonderful woman who ran alongside me for a while had a childhood fear that she could never quite shake. She suspected that there was only one place in the world, and it was where she was. It’s the pathology that led to The Truman Show. When she got in a train, the doors would close, and the windows were large video screens. They then played videos of a pretend journey while armies of people ran around swapping Leeds for London. Other people had the job of rocking the train and making weird noises. Actors had conversations on the train to further authenticate. Then she would exit to find all the workers pretending to be normal people. It was a child’s narcissistic paranoia, but she couldn’t quite shake it. I found it hilarious and worrying. Mostly hilarious.

Maybe she was right. Nowadays one of the theories de jour is that we are all living in a simulation. I’ve had moments in the past where I’ve spotted what could’ve been a glitch in the matrix. I suspect we all have. Things not quite adding up. But that could be as much about our brain hallucinating reality than that we are conscious simulations. Right now I’m pretty convinced I’m on a train that is moving from London to Leeds. I think this is the real world. But a few days ago I saw that policeman move.

I can see the appeal of simulation theories, and narcissistic constructions, but I don’t like anything that takes away consequence. If I throw a stone I want there to be a ripple.

I’m off into a field tomorrow to be with a load of people picking at the layers of reality via varying levels of substance abuse. I’m on antibiotics which will mean I have to be careful what I put into myself. I’ll probably limit it to food and care. But I’ll still be living in a field for a few days and jumping in a lake every morning to swim. Ok I’ll be doing it in the company of 30 thousand stoned people talking about quinoa. But I’ll put my hippy hat on. I may or may not be able to write about it. There’s a strong chance my phone will run out and I’ll have no reception. So we might have a service interruption. I hope not, but it seems worryingly possible. Like simulation theory.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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