I used to catch the train from Preston to Welshpool every week for work. I had to change at Wolverhampton to pick up the Mid Wales line that runs to the coast at Aberystwyth and in the summer it was always packed with seaside trippers. I stood on the station one particularly promising sunny morning and watched a lone father trying desperately to herd cats. They weren’t really cats. They were four excited little girls aged from about two to seven but he might have had more success with cats. He looked relieved when the train finally drew into the station, blocking off the fall to the line and reducing the number of immediate dangers to his brood by one.
They all pushed and shoved to be first on the train and ran to make first claims on window seats leaving Dad to manage a ridiculous assortment of beach based paraphernalia on his own. By the time he had stowed everything on the overhead luggage racks the girls had demolished most of their picnic sandwiches and pop. At the rate they were going they would need a Red Cross parcel before they ever caught sight of the sea. He looked a little stressed but was actually doing a remarkable job of keeping control of what amounted to a powder keg of excitement. I was watching all this and contemplating their return trip later in the day, tired, sunburnt and grumpy. For once I was rather looking forward to my uneventful day in the office.
The train lurched forward, one of the girls let out a dramatic high pitched scream, and we began to move laboriously out of the station and the scream was replaced by hysterical squeals of delight. The last carriage of the train had just cleared the platform when a very small, but surprisingly loud voice cried out in desperation; “are we nearly there yet Dad?” A ripple of suppressed laughter could be heard passing through the carriage and I swear I saw the poor father eyeing the largest spade above him with evil intent in his eye.
This lovely little story has been on my mind today because I’m feeling a certain empathy with that little girl right now. To be so close to something really exciting. Something that you have been looking forward to for nearly nine months and which is now only nine days away is almost too much to bear. It’s really difficult to slow down and savour the final build up and anticipation. I am in danger of wishing away what should be a lovely journey just as she wanted to.
Still, ten more sleeps. Seven more days in this house. Three more social events. One Easter Bank Holiday weekend and eighteen more Weetabix and we’ll be off on the ultimate trip to the seaside.
“Are we nearly there yet?”