Sunday morning, St. Pancras railway station. My train is scheduled to leave in an hour and a half. I nearly got the departure time wrong, but checked at the ticket sales counter and straightened it out. Good thing, too; I might have missed my train! What an awful beginning to the European leg of my journey that could have been. People-watching at the station is marvelous! So many stories to watch as they play out, I hardly want to write. Is it a spider that looks like a hairball or a hairball that looks like a spider skittering across this mottled floor?
Later. I’m in the “waiting room” – through check-in at the train station – and find that my train has been cancelled. Apparently, the one I was scheduled to take was one of those “add-ons” because of the volcano and the air traffic disruption, and it has now been cancelled. But without telling anyone. Even when I stopped at the ticket office to check on departure and arrival times, the clerk at the counter did not tell me the train had been cancelled. If I had actually checked in earlier (instead of sitting out on the concourse people-watching and journal-writing), I might have made the earlier train, which was just leaving as I walked through the check-in gates. The trains – at least the international ones here in London – have a baggage-screening process quite similar to that for airlines, except you don’t to have to take off your shoes. And they must be willing to pass a Swiss-army knife, because I have one in my tummy pack.
14:35. Now on the train to Brussels, and from there, I hope it’s an easy transfer to Koln. I’ll apparently arrive after 9:00 PM, and will have to stay the night in Koln. We’ll see what’s available there when I arrive.
The train is passing through the green English countryside: rolling hills and vast expanses of fields and pastures, sheep grazing in some of them, and now cows. A town, almost all newly built – townhouses squeezed together with tall, pointed roofs. Now we pass a huge power station. Trees and bushes brushed with shades of green, yellow, and orange, some trees laden with white blossoms. It’s amazing to see this extensive, thinly-populated countryside after the human density of London.
The train has passed through a long tunnel to Calais (France). Two military men with guns (rifles?) pointed downward stood on each end of the quay, reminding me of one of the chief differences between travel in the present and in the past (before 9/11/2001). Then travelers were expected to be ordinary people, not terrorists intent on disrupting a foreign (read feared and despised) culture that they could not – and would not try to – understand. If the 20th century can be considered the century of World Wars and the Cold War, this 21st century may be viewed by history as the century of Global Terror and Terrorists.
Fields, some green and some brown, are visible above the whitish limestone gravel along the railway embankment. Again, mostly empty fields, although here and there a canal – for barges or irrigation – reflects the sun with a silver glint.