England, June 2021
It’s our first short train ride in a year, across the viaduct to the next village, for my eighty-six-year-old mother and me. Both eager to get out, almost back to normality, we set off gaily chatting on a cloudy day with the greatest optimism, for it is a journey that my mother now seldom makes alone.
She takes a seat, muscling into the narrow shelter with her walking aid and watches while I navigate the digitized panel and cashless touch screen collection of two simple tickets. Times have changed! My elderly mother has no idea how to buy her fare, even after studying the screen carefully. Befuddled by the complexities of on-line requests, half blind, deaf and her understanding now slowing, nothing is as simple anymore as jumping on a train and asking the conductor to do it for you. She reminisces the old ways, “Why can’t they sell you a ticket on the train like they used to?” The independence of the elderly to make their own way is fast eroding. If she cannot comply, more than a slap on the legs- a fine will be issued!
The train glides in, a smooth and modern transition from the yesteryear loud engine, trundling rickety carriages behind, with windows that had to be lowered and leaned out of to open a swinging door. The portal now slides apart at the push of an illuminated green button and the kind conductor leaps off, to help heave my mother over the gap and up the step, as I lift the cumbersome walker and the stinky, spoiled poodle (much lighter!) that is the only full-time companion she has left in life. How modern and smart we are that we solved the bugbear of noise and doors! Pollution reduction now tops our transport agenda, and electrical trains do appear much cleaner; of course, we have two giant power stations close by!
A small viaduct liberates us from our village, and it’s good to be free! My Mum chatters, happy to be going on a day out, a different view, new faces, fresh air. Two young ladies, wheel-chair users, share the carriage, friends chilling out, having fun. The dog’s nervous ears twitch at each unknown, she lives for routine, but routine without breaks is no life for us humans, forever uneventful is as an early death to me!
Flowers parade their vibrant colours along the esplanade, where we disembark. Tiny deep oranges, summer pinks and…