Ian McMillan: One track mind that went off rails on way home

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I’m on the train on the way back from London to Doncaster; I’ve been in The Big City since early morning and I’m looking forward to getting home so that I can do a sideways Yorkshire nod to men who will call me Flower or Cocker or Love. I’m sitting on the left side of the train and I’m counting down the landmarks after Retford so that I’ll know when to pick my briefcase up and shuffle to the door. There’s that house where the upstairs light’s always on, even in summer. There’s Tickhill, where I used to run a writing workshop. There’s that wood I once got lost in. There’s that bird-hide hidden in the trees. Soon it’ll be time to click my pen and put my notebook away. I’ve been travelling on trains so long that I reckon I wouldn’t have to have any kind of induction training if I became a driver; there are some routes I know better than the engines do.

Wait a minute. Perhaps I don’t know as much about the network as I thought I did. I don’t recognise that back garden. I don’t know where that bus-stop is and I’ve never seen that pub before. Or, actually, maybe I have, vaguely, somewhere. And the back garden, and the bus stop. But where? In a dream?

Ah, here’s the station. Maybe there’s been some kind of diversion and we’ve come in on a different line. Here we go. Get the bag. Stand up. Except Doncaster doesn’t start with a W. Or end with an E. Yes, you guessed it, and I didn’t, I’m at Wakefield Westgate. I’ve slept past my stop. On a light evening in spring, way before my bedtime, I’ve slept past my stop. I thought I was wide awake but suddenly sleep has coshed me and glued me to my seat and left me for dead, snoring and probably dribbling, my glasses at a comedy angle on my chubby face.

I get off the train, disorientated, bamboozled, discombobulated, all of a kerfuffle. It’s not as though I don’t know where I am: I’ve been to Wakefield lots of times because I’m a man of the world. It’s just that I wasn’t expecting Wakefield, I was expecting Doncaster. It’s like getting tea when you’re expecting coffee. You know what to do but you didn’t think you’d have to do it.

Not only that, Wakefield Westgate station has changed; they seem to have moved it quite a long way down the track towards Doncaster and they have turned it into a cross between a mini-shopping mall and the set of science fiction film. It looks good but not when you’re expecting somewhere else.

I stumble out into the night. I’m reminded of my college mate Dave who thought it would be a laugh to go to a town and try to find your way around with a map from another town. He bought a map of York and said we should try and find our way round Hull with it. It’s the kind of thing you find funny as a student, and we never got round to trying it, and I’m glad.

Leave me there, wandering round the front of Wakefield Westgate station like I’ve been blindfolded. Oh Mr Porter, what shall I do? I wanted to go to Donny and I’m at Wakey, Platform Two.