Five hours of uninterrupted reading, a constantly changing panorama and the gentle lull of the Pendolino - I love travelling by train. Tomorrow I have a conference in London and, as much as I hope it will be worthwhile, it's the journey I'm really looking forward to.
As the end of term approaches, the pace of everyday life quickens. There seems to be some kind of conspiracy to cram as many parents evenings, football matches and social events as possible into the final four days of term. There's book group, tag rugby and hockey tournaments and Don't Knock's annual airing. Then I have the stress of packing for my daughter's CCF camp. I wonder if all mothers displace their anxieties into a desire to constantly feed their children and pack for every possible contingency 'just in case'.
So you can see why five hours of calm appeal so much. But even this oasis has a to-do-list. Two hundred pages of The Shipping News to read before Wednesday evening, The Portrait of a Lady on audiobook and my OU textbook. The first of these won't be a chore. I can't understand why I've put off reading The Shipping News for so long. I'm only four chapters in, but now I've got used to the choppy style, it's shaping up very nicely.
There will still be time to watch the world go by, spotting pheasant and herons in the countryside. You see things differently from a train. The backs of houses for instance. House fronts are prim and proper, outward looking. It's the backs that show the real lives behind. The abandoned tricycles and trampolines, the lines of washing and the neatly trimmed stamps of green. Just a fleeting glimpse of so many lives and then all the time in the world to invent their stories.