Midnight and the Night Train to Glasgow
It's tuesday after finishing editing one documentary of a week long series called Terminates Here at Broadcasting House I go home to Hackney. The number 38 bus is dangerously intimate at rush hour so I gets home at about 7pm. And then leave at 8.45pm to central London again to meet with Philip Sellars at Euston station at 9.45. We are travelling the the night train from London to Glasgow, just as WH Auden did in his imagination seventy years ago in the poem captured in the landmark celluloid film Night Mail.
It’s just passed the witching hour and the train is swishing through the descending mists of night time. I am trawling the carriages, with the radio producer microphone in handand trying to catch the shoals of thoughts that swirl the minds of subdued passengers. It’s all very twin peaks, all very blue velvet, walking in a moving consciousness - this train - somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, between tomorrow and yesterday. as passengers prepare to lay the day to rest are lulled into the lullaby of clickety clack clickety clack dream time. I am moving along the train as the train moves along the tracks as the passengers move into sleep.
Streaks of light scour the darkness outside like white daubs of oil struck upon a black oil canvas. Or maybe they are screaming ghosts descending on the train. The countrysleeps as this sleeper snakes its slips and slides tilts and glides into tomorrow.There’s no ambient music and there are no loud announcements. Just the confident hum of wheels in revolution. Turning the day time thoughts into night. And this is why I’m here, sat now, watching, listening to the gentle tinker of glasses.
There’s something classic, something sepia about the stillness of the bar lounge. It’s a scene from an Agatha Christie novel. The lights are low and relaxed. Twelve round tables hug the windows of a carriage. Blood red curtains are folded back in concertina as night fills the window between. The carpet is the same colour. There’s a mysteriousness about the grey gentleman sipping red wine or the couple sat across from each other whose elbows are on the table allowing their four hands to make one moving sculpture between each others lips. All we need now, is a murder.
The series called Terminates Here is broadcast at 4.45pm on each day of the week of 25thmarch on BBC radio four – you can listen to it online.