So, a blog post begun offline "sitting at a railway station thinking about my destination." As it happens it's Warrington Bank Quay not Widnes, but I don't suppose that is ultimately relevant. I am 'homeward bound' and recorded announcement tells us that the train to Glasgow (not the one I'm booked to travel on) is delayed by 'the unfortunate action of vandals.'
I listen incredulously, I'm sure such action isn't unfortunate: I can't imagine some poor innocent scallie accidentally did damage to whatever it was, I'm fairly confident it was deliberate. But there you go, waiting for my train there is time to type, to read, time to wonder whether to walk to the other platform where there is a coffee shop or to stay put in the quiet and comfort of the waiting room (protected by CCTV, presumably in case any other poor unfortunate vandals accidentally draw on the walls or find themselves compelled to rip out the seats...). Maybe I've just spent too much time in the company of academics the last few days!!
University summer school usually features in my list of things to be endured rather than enjoyed. It is good to meet up with the other students and hear what they have, or have not, been up to. Beyond that I usually end up groaning and thinking 'not again please' as someone tells me about journaling, the pastoral cycle or one of a whole range of topics I'm equally qualified to teach. I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised when this year's guest speaker, Jane Leach from Wesley College Cambridge took us through a three-fold exploration of 'what is truth?' from the perspective of a practical theologian. I loved having my brain stretched and although most of what was said has already passed into my subconscious, it was fun. I'm always slightly envious of those who can ask intelligent questions at the end of a talk, but it was good simply to soak it up and to hear some of my own questions echoed in her work.
My paper, an experimental piece on reading aloud within a community of interpretation, seemed to be well received, with several people saying they'd found it interesting and enjoyable as well as two expressing interest in talking some more about the subject matter. Wow! It's probably me, but I always assume other people are infinitely cleverer than I am (despite the qualifications that suggest otherwise) and that they will instantly spot all the holes on my arguments as well as how much it's all really blagging. Maybe doctoral research is actually a qualification in advanced blagging?!
What always intrigues me is how the connections cross research fields – someone working on a British Sign Lnaguage version of the Bible (so what is 'hearing' in a deaf context?) and someone working with new expressions of embedded faith communities (so how do we tell our story, what history do we connect to and how?) and even someone working with people in care homes where story telling (personal stories, storied remembered from before age or illness took its toll, stories read aloud). Lots of by-paths to explore if I ever find the time, and have done what I've contracted to do first.
It was good, too, and a pleasant surprise, to discover another Baptist is now in this weird programme, and that he serves a church not so far from me in Scotland. Not only this, but he did his training placement at the Gathering Place, of which he spoke fondly. To my shame I didn't recognise him as someone who'd heard – and remembered on detail – a paper I gave at a conference in Manchester two years ago. So, one lunch time one of the tutors (David Lyall) asked is he could join the 'west of Scotland' contingent... we allowed him to ;-)
Another recorded announcement tells us that the next Glasgow-bound train will be delayed 'due to a fault on an earlier train.' Is there a conspiracy afoot? I conclude that means it is time to go and buy a cup of tea... my train is still an hour off (one disadvantage of cheap tickets: you can't leap on the earlier train which is delayed). Still, I have a soft spot for Warrington, and there are plenty of worse places to be stranded for a couple of hours...
Continued on the 12:27 ex-Warrington Bank Quay to Glasgow.
Refreshed (??) with junk food I return to the waiting room in time to hear that the 12:15 to Glasgow is also delayed due to 'an obstruction on the line.' Was this, I ask myself, the faulty train I heard about earlier? Or the unfortunate work of the vandals? Or even, could it have been both?! In the end the 12:15 pendalino departs at 12:24 leaving a platform full of people clutching tickets for the 12:27 and dreading the next announcement. Amazingly it is this: 'the next train to arrive at platform 3 will be the 12:27 to Glasgow Central.' We may have to queue to get into Platform 2 (or go instead to some other platform) due to the train 3 minutes ahead of us, but we are on our way and on time.
It's good to be heading home. The jolly Scots train manager, Kenny, announces our arrival at 'lovely Preston' and then as we enter Lancaster, and I'm beginning this very sentence, that 'we are approaching Lancaster.... don't forget to your pots and pans and prams... your raincoats... and especially don't forget your kids today.' All of which reminds me of a favourite childhood poem 'The Train to Glasgow' with its guard from Donibristle who would
Wave his flag ands blow his whistle
To tell the driver,
To start the train to Glasgow.
The poor unfortunate vandals will be off wreaking havoc elsewhere no doubt, and I find, to my surprise, I am sorry for them after all. Sorry that they, for whatever reason, feel compelled to destroy and disrupt rather than to create and enjoy. Sorry that they can't smile at the antics of the train manager, have their brains stretched by interesting lecturers or enjoy memories of other times and other places.
Posting... I'm back home in the comfort of my living room, amazingly my train was in 6 minutes early (according to Kenny and he must know these things) have checked the emails, read the other blogs and am ready to sleep. Nowhere near bedtime yet, and as Chester managed neither TV nor wifi, I am about to use I-player to watch the end of The Silence. Overall a good, if tiring, few days. And a V-E-R-Y long post.