I am currently in training, as Young Faris would doubtless tell you. If, that is, he wasn't so busy counting up the stickers he has been awarded by pre-school play group staff, rewards for doing what every other child
was doing automatically.
In short, I am on the train, hurtling towards Cardiff and a happy reunion with my (Not So Very Little) Welsh boys and their Mum and Dad. "Hurtle" is one word to describe it, though
the journey is long and a trifle tortuous. I will not arrive at my final destination until after 8 p.m. and the boys will all be in bed. Their mother, the Darling Daughter in Law, says she dare not leave them up to greet me as they would then be far too excited
to go to bed. It is gratifying, in the extreme, to think that my arrival would be so very exciting.
My Boy, father of the (Not So Little) Welsh Boys texts me to say that he is just about to go into a meeting
which isn't expected to end till 8 p.m. So that's two of us looking forward to, say, 9 p.m. when we will be catching up on all the news with (quite possibly) a glass of chilled white wine.
I am something of
an expert at long train journeys. I have a wheel-along case (my "Just In Case", you remember) which I have stowed in the luggage section, plus my "Train Bag", containing the newspaper, a book, the Us-Pad, a bottle of tap water and a packet of Werthers Originals.
I used to bring a flask of coffee but I have now organised a Coffee Timetable, making use of the Pumpkin Cafe at Fratton station and the on-board trolley service aboard the Cardiff train. This is what I mean about having become an expert in such matters.
I am travelling solo, having left Mr B Home Alone. It would be pleasant, indeed, to have his company but it would be more difficult to do things My Way. For a start, he would not be the least bit happy about the Just
In Case being left in the luggage compartment. He would be totally convinced that a would-be thief, surveying all the exciting luggage stored therein, would decide that the Just In Case definitely held the most promise. I point out that there is absolutely
nothing precious in the Just in Case, with the possible exceptions of Young James's birthday banner and the small teddy he left behind on his last visit to our house.
Aha! Mr B reminds me that on our return
from our last trip to Cardiff, someone made off with our green Cotton Traders rucksack. I retort that this was not left in the luggage compartment but on the platform at our home station. Like the Just in Case, it contained nothing of any value to anybody
but us: Mr B's medication, two pairs of extremely scruffy slippers and - the most significant loss - my prescription sunglasses which only a person with my peculiar eye-sight would be able to see through.
B would also be far less relaxed than I am on changing trains. I have this off to a fine art, working out to the exact minute how much time I have to locate the correct platform, toddle over the bridge between platforms, visit the Ladies and buy a medium skinny
latte from the Pumpkin Cafe or whatever. Mr B worries so much about missing our train that loo stops and coffee purchases are the cause of Just Too Much Stress. In vain do I explain that the train may be late but it won't leave before its allotted time. Mr
B sticks to his guns and insists that Being Prepared and Ready to Board the train when it arrives, is fundamentally the right thing to do, however long the wait.
My dear Mr B would also worry terribly about
Seat Allocation, as in: would anybody have the temerity to sit in our booked seats? When I phone him tonight to check all is okay, it will be the first thing he asks me: "Was anyone sitting in your seat?" I will be so pleased to reassure him that Seat 56 in
B carriage (a window seat with a table, facing forward) was waiting, emptily, for my arrival on the train. Actually, I won't be facing forwards for the entire journey as I know, from past experiences, that at Bristol Temple Meads the train will start travelling
backwards, at least as far as I am concerned. The first time it happened, it was a trifle discomfiting but, as I told you, I am now something of an expert on this particular journey and experts know exactly what to expect. Within reason, of course, I feel
bound to add. Just in Case.
Regular readers will know that this is one of my favourite rail journeys. Past Arundel, with its fairy-tale castle and magnificent Cathedral; past the White Horse galloping on the
hills above Westbury; past beautiful Bath Spa; and on into Wales where I know the warmest of welcomes will await me.
This is just a flying visit but tomorrow is Young James's birthday and, come Thursday, when
I am hurtling home again, i will be able to declare, in a phrase once coined by Max Boyce, that famous Welshman much admired by Mr B: "I was there!"