Sunday, 18 December 2011

Glasgow to Edinburgh via a notebook

I have always found the train journey from Glasgow to Edinburgh rather inspiring. Living in a rather urban area of Glasgow, I forget that Scotland really is a beautiful country. It's one of the few journeys I make that takes longer than my usual commute of twenty minutes. I tend to have a purpose when going through to Edinburgh: visiting a friend, going to a gig, work related events. It's not a city I target for a day out, wandering aimlessly around its streets.

One benefit to the journey is that is seems to inspire me to put pen to paper. Over the past year I have some scribblings from the forty-five minute journey that may turn into a bigger story. The structure appeals to me. So here's the first of one of my notebook scribblings. I suspect this was written in early summer when I was popping through to the capital to visit friends.

Notebook Ramblings One 

The train speed through the Scottish countryside. Watching the green of the land blur and merge into the colour of the seats then nohing made her feel sick so she stopped looking out the window. Her hand trembled against the glass of the window; the coolness felt re-assuring. It had been a chaotic day.


In the aisle the bored Scotrail employee pulled a metal trolley along, asking if anyone wanted tea or coffee. When asked, she acknowledged the tea attendant with a gentle shake of the head. She had had enough coffee for one day. The caffine was causing the shakes but there was something more.

The rhythm of her stomach matched the pounding, churning noise the wheels made as they thundered along the track. How could her fellow travellers remain so calm, so composed as they flew through the air at over a hundred miles per hour? In the seat opposite a women with a crisply ironed white shirt and sculpted hair to match.  The woman occupied a table meant for four, she had claimed the space by spreading out her work papers, laptop and a Starbucks coffee cup standing guard. The woman’s debris screamed I’m busy and very important! The problem was that no-one seemed to care. The flashing red light of the woman’s Blackberry kept catching Cassandra’s eye. An ominous red glow that burned her eyes. Cassandra decided the easiest course of action would be to close her eyes. All around the perils of modern living were attacking her. She needed to think. The train had left its last stop before Queen Street, giving her just under thirty minutes to make her decision.

Today had started off in a boring manner. She had boarded the train mid-morning, coffee cup in hand, her Kindle tucked under her arm. After a moment’s hesitation she selected a two seater sans table and plugged into her headphones. The warm tones of Jenni Murray, guardian of Woman’s Hour, soothed her ears as the discussion panels tackled female genital mutilation, slut walks and the importance of choosing the right lipstick. All worthy causes for the modern day feminist to consider.

Cassandra was not sure she considered herself a modern feminist. Today’s brand of feminism seemed concerned with women exercising the right to flaunt their bodies at will. As she listened to tales of the slutwalk, Cassandra wondered if she could have attended one wearing a baggy jeans and t-shirt. Slutwalks jarred with the statistics that a woman was more likely to be raped by someone she knew than a complete stranger. Luckily the conversation moved on onto the virtues of pastille pink verses rich red. Cassandra smiled. Woman’s Hour reminded her of her own mother and her contradicting views on being a woman. ‘Pretty not tarty,’ Mother would whisper as Cassandra shoved yet another load of baggy clothes into the washing machine.

The train juddered to a stop at Falkirk High. Cassandra had no strong desire to visit Falkirk or its misleading train station name. 

3 comments:

John Michael Cummings said...

re: book review request by award-winning author

Dear Opinionated Reader:

I'm an award-winning author with a new book of fiction out this fall. Ugly To Start With is a series of thirteen interrelated stories about childhood published by West Virginia University Press.

Can I interest you in reviewing it?

If you write me back at johnmcummings@aol.com, I can email you a PDF of my book. If you require a bound copy, please ask, and I will forward your reply to my publisher. Or you can write directly to Abby Freeland at:

Abby.Freeland@mail.wvu.edu

My publisher, I should add, can also offer your readers a free excerpt of my book through a link from your blog to my publisher's website:
http://wvupressonline.com/cummings_ugly_to_start_with_9781935978084

Here’s what Jacob Appel, celebrated author of
Dyads and The Vermin Episode, says about my new collection: "In Ugly to Start With, set in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, Cummings tackles the challenges of boyhood adventure and family conflict in a taut, crystalline style that captures the triumphs and tribulations of small-town life. He has a gift for transcending the particular experiences to his characters to capture the universal truths of human affection and suffering--emotional truths that the members of his audience will recognize from their own experiences of childhood and adolescence.”

My short stories have appeared in more than seventy-five literary journals, including North American Review, The Kenyon Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and The Chattahoochee Review. Twice I have been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. My short story "The Scratchboard Project" received an honorable mention in The Best American Short Stories 2007.

I am also the author of the nationally acclaimed coming-of-age novel The Night I Freed John Brown (Philomel Books, Penguin Group, 2009), winner of The Paterson Prize for Books for Young Readers (Grades 7-12) and one of ten books recommended by USA TODAY.

For more information about me, please visit:
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Thank you very much, and I look forward to hearing back from you.

Kindly,

John Michael Cummings

Vikki said...

Just stumbled across your blog....you kept that quiet ;o)

Really enjoyed the notebook rambling.....can't wait to read some more ;o)

Xxx

(Female) Opinionated Reader said...

@Vikki - Lovely to see you on here! I'm rummaging through my old notebooks to find some more ramblings. I hope they become something of a regular feature :)