“The signal is red,” the announcement echoed in the quiet underground train. I was in a tube train which was waiting at West Brompton Station in London on the early morning of March 20. It was at around 6:30 a.m. There were a few passengers in the carriage. The door kept opening and the train showed no sign of starting. That announcement was probably two or three minutes after I got on. I thought, “You were right, Ricky,” when I heard the message.
I was supposed to take a rail train which left King’s Cross at 8:00. Ricky, who is an English teacher in Japan, had advised me, “You should take the underground at least at 6:30 because they often stop.” The tube train left West Brompton Station about five minutes later, but it stopped in the dark tunnel before reaching Earl’s Court, the next station. After a while, there was an announcement: “The signal is red. “You were right, Ricky,” I thought that again.
I changed train at Earl’s Court Station to the Piccadilly Line from the District Line. King’s Cross is the 12th station from Earl’s Court. It would be a nearly 30-minute ride. There were many abandoned Metro, the newspapers, on the floor and seats of the train. So I picked one and began reading it: William Roach, a famous actor in U.K. had provoked fury by claiming that the victims of sexual abuse brought it on themselves because of their sins in their past lives….Uh-oh…
At King’s Cross Station I went to the restroom. It was my first experience to use a pay toilet. It cost 30 pence. I had 30 pence, but I did not have 10 and 20 pence coins. The gate just accepts the two types of coins. So, I had to exchange at the machine nearby. At 7:45 the train I was supposed to ride started boarding. My coach was E. The train was filled with passengers. Most of them took out their computers and papers from their bags and started to work as soon as they sat in their seats. I was doing nothing but seeing changing scenery from the window.
Vast meadows were spreading outside. I sometimes saw some small brick houses, sheep and horses there. The train was heading north toward Edinburgh, passing through fields covered with white snow. My destination was York, where I was supposed to see a friend of mine. She is a Japanese student at the University of Hull. The monotonous landscapes and the rhythm of the train made me sleepy.
“Anything for your refreshment?” A voice of a spirited and cheerful man echoed in the carriage. He was pushing a trolley loaded with drinks and snacks. Many of the passengers stopped moving their hands on the keyboard or scattered papers before them and called out. “Coffee.” “Orange juice.” “Coffee and chocolate.” I was thinking of the word of “refreshment” while hearing their verbal exchange. I was trying to find a proper translation into Japanese. But I could not find a good one. “Refreshment” is a nice word.
More than an hour had already passed since I got on the train. There are six stations between King’s Cross and York…I thought that. But the train had not stopped once yet. Probably it was an express. The first station it stopped was York. Some of the passengers in my coach also got off the train there. They did not look like tourists but business people. Alighting, they rapidly disappeared from the station. I was the only person who was left behind on the platform.
“Yuko-riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin!” I waved to my friend who had been waiting for me near the entrance of the station. I was relieved to see her smile. Yes, I had arrived at York!
Actually I was going to write about the town this time. But I’ve already written quite a lot. I’ll tell you about York next time.