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To Tibet on the Train
Al Camino Rides Again


And off we go, 27/3/15 6.37am: Morpeth to Kings Cross
Start as you mean to go on! I intend to keep a journal of sorts. It's not going to be obessessive but it should record some of the details that time will sluice away and that the camera just can't capture. So here goes.

Dawn was beginning to stir and the cock pheasants making quite a din as I wandered out to look for the taxi to the station. It seemed like I'd overdone the departue time; really it was no different from going to the shops. A couple of hours sleep was all I'd managed and had been up well before the alarm at 5.00.

The taxi was a magnificent Teslar electric car, 76,00 worth of high-voltage sexy sleeknes, faster than a Porsche Carrera, apprently. The dash was more like a long-screen TV, smothered in icons, maps and impossible controls. It felt more like we setting off for Mars rather than Morpeth.

And the driver, Will, was no less of a surprise. Twenty five years in the army, 5 tours in Afghanistan, 3 in Iraq not to mention Belize and Northern Ireland.Only one year out and still trying to come to terms with the lack of morality, social responsibility and selflessness in civilian life. He gave me a taste of the Teslar's power on the straight out of Scot's Gap. That trip to Mars seemed on; gravity didn't stand a chance!

On the platform at Morpeth, I had time to get my ticketin order but I'm such a fumbler. How long does it take a normal human being to put a sheet of A4 into a plastic wallet? I'd need to improve...

Then, there on the platform, I met a bodyguard for the Abu Dhabi Royal Family. She had two princesses in her charge: one 17, the other a more tricky 28.As she described her duties, "close protection" often sounded more like maid. Her life was at the whim of these two spoilt young women with endless supplies of money and a sinister streak of selfishness.

Then, onto the first of many trains. The magnitude of what I was going to do assumed megalithic proportions. I must have been stupid to have embarked on such folly at such short notice. First time in first class as well. All these firsts! How will I cope? But, of course, first class UK train style is anything that Welcome Break didn't aspire to in the 1970s. The microwaved tomatoes were the firsst indication of that. Let's face it, tinned mushrooms and filter coffee wouldn't make it onto the breakfast trays on Necker Island, so why was Richard Branson insulting my intelligence by calling it First Class? Two star, perhaps, even with the free fascist rag.

But, at least till York, it was sparsely populated and I could pretend that I was doing important things on my laptop. At York we got an Archdeacon and a couple of spivs whose expressions suggested they'd been losing heavily on the horses for many years.

Here's a piece of wisdom. There's no point in being on a train if you don't look out of the window. Unless it's night time, obviously.

At Kings Cross I met Tessa, former TV location manager and sometime trapeze artist. Tied to a cycle post outside the station was a young Harris hawk. At first I couldn't see the line that prevented it from fllying off and thought it looked like it was patiently waiting for a train. You see Harris hawks in eastern Mexico sitting in trees overlooking lakes, occasionally swooping down for fish. This one was, however, gainfully employed by Kings Cross station to scare the bejesus out of any pigeon that had the effrontery to enter the building.

Tessa, as a native of those parts, gave me a guided tour of the incredible makeover of the Kings Cross and St. Pancras area. Usually I only associate that level of quality and style with countries other than England. Here, however, nothing had been done cheaply; careful human-centred planning had been at the cornerstone of huge infrastructure projects and it was wonderful to see. Victorian grandeur and ostentation brought into the 21st century. Plus the sun was shining. And everything looks better in the sun.




Lapsang Shoeshine
On a train somewhere
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Email: lapsang@alcamino.co.uk
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