Caledonian Dreams

Euston station, a few minutes shy of eight o’clock. The station’s bustling concourse is slowly quietening as rush hour City workers have already made their way home. Still, passengers conglomerate here and there in groupuscules of 2 or 3 echoing the ‘cinema seat’ theory. The cinema seat was a metaphor used by my 10th-grade Physics teacher to teach his daft students how atoms’ electrons would settle around their nucleus. Firstly individually, then in pairs…
I’m on my way to one of the Northernmost cities of the United Kingdom. Only hours ago, I could gaze out the fifth floor of my office building and just about make out Port of Felixstowe’s cranes swarming down on newly arrived cargo ships. Now, as I look up from the Britannia, a typical train station pub perched high up on the second floor of the station, I can glance across the station hallway and watch travelers make their way to their trains. Outside, the grisly January day has made way for a pitch-black night.
I am off to Inverness to be a judge on a children’s IT competition (see here). The train – the Caledonian Sleeper – is one of the perks of the trip. It is possibly the longest and lengthiest passenger train in the United Kingdom. Leaving London Euston shortly after nine PM, it reaches the outskirts of Inverness well after 8 a.m. and trawls its way through England and the Highlands in no less than eleven-odd hours. A bit of googling has taught me the way is scenic. Well, not sure how scenic it will be on January 26th by night. I sure won’t be spotting any black bear on a black background at midnight. Inverness will be my last trip of the month, but rest assured, more is to come.
In the meantime, I sip a half-pint of Chiswick, a local English ale, in a reference to a small ‘village’ in Western London where Laurine lived for the better part of 2008. It is relaxing to not have to run about, change trains, jump on a tube, or struggle past turnstiles. Speaking of which, Euston’s toilet facilities (washrooms if you please) are heavily guarded by a long row of mastodonic turnstiles kindly inviting the traveler to deposit 30p into a slot before being granted access to toilets – far from being the cleanest of all England. But it won’t dispute the title of the worst toilet in Scotland branded in Irvine Welsh’s ‘Trainspotting’. Thank God for my sudden natural urge, I did have 30p on me in change and managed to dash through the turnstile to deposit the contents of my discontent bowels.
It is now eight sharp. Vincent, a fellow Frenchman friend & Londoner is about to join me for a pint, an au revoir before I embark on a journey that may well see me face-to-face with Britain’s favorite monster, Nessie.
Until then, I bid you farewell.