It is a late, slightly muggy, summer afternoon and I am sitting at the window in the last carriage of a train waiting for it to leave Liverpool for London. So far, it has been a busy day with meetings in the morning at the University’s facility at Daresbury followed by a couple on the main campus before I walked down to Lime Street station. I stopped for a bite to eat as I travelled from Daresbury to Liverpool; but I am hungry again, so I have a sandwich that I bought in the station. However, I don’t like to unpack and start eating until the train starts moving, just in case I am on the wrong train or we have to change trains. Finally, the train starts to move and as it builds up speed I reach for my sandwich. Suddenly it stops. My carriage has not even reached the end of the platform. Station staff appear outside my window talking into their radios. What’s happened? Did the train hit someone? I thought there was a small thud just before we stopped. But the station staff seem unflustered. Wouldn’t there be more urgency about their movements if there was a casualty? We sit in silence for ten minutes before the train starts to move again and the train manager announces that someone pulled the emergency handle because they decided that wanted to get off the train. Why did they want to get off the train? Did they realise they were trapped on the train to London with someone who was pursuing them? Was it a police officer who realised that their quarry had jumped off the train just before it set off? Or, have I been reading too many Eric Ambler stories (see ‘The Mask of Dimitrios‘ or ‘Journey into Fear‘) involving train journeys across Europe? Maybe it was someone who just decided that they didn’t want to go London after all and didn’t care about inconveniencing several hundred people or paying the fine for improper use of the emergency handle. But that seems unlikely too or perhaps not… I contemplate these options as the train accelerates towards London and I munch my sandwich. It reminds me of a quote from Gillian Tett (in the FT Weekend on June 17/18, 2017) about people believing they have a ‘God-given right that they should be able to organise the world around their personal views and needs instead of quietly accepting pre-packaged options’.
I wonder if they got away.
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