On the York train.

It was going to be a full train. The woman, anxious, thin, well to do, wanted to get her frail, elderly mother settled. The journey was a worry. Her mother was saying nothing, letting her daughter sort things out for her, clutching her glittery stick.
“Is anyone sitting here?”
The young man, who had been absorbed in the blue light of his ipad, glanced to one side.
“No you’re fine”.
The woman’s body sagged with relief. She turned back to her mother.
“You sit here then. I’m going to leave these bags with you. Is that all right?”
Her mother sank into the seat silently and allowed the luggage to be placed around her feet. She had the long angular bones of someone who had been beautiful in her youth, now transformed into the fragility of dry twigs by old age.
“I’ll come and find you at York.”
The daughter disappeared off down the carriage and her mother stared quietly at the back of the seat in front of her. Slowly the rush died down. A rather pompous middle aged lady appeared at the last minute, clutching her ticket.
“I think that’s my seat.”
She waved her ticket at the young man, sure that he was sitting in her seat.
He looked at her mildly.
“The way it works is this. I should be sitting in the other seat but I’ve let this lady sit there.”
The mother just watched, taking it all in, saying nothing. Her daughter appeared from nowhere.
“Is there a problem? You can sit in this seat over here instead. Is that all right?”
The pompous middle aged woman, mortified to have caused a fuss, quickly agreed that it was. Her self righteous wish to get what was due to her had vanished in a puff of embarrassment.
The elderly man sitting next to me had been watching. He was very smart, shirt, tie, jacket and neatly cut hair. He saw my book, wondered whether it was any good and wanted to talk. He was eighty six and he was a big reader. Dickens, Shakespeare, all sorts. He had lost his book in the cafe where he had had his breakfast but he wasn’t bothered because it was rubbish. He searched in his carrier bag and found his leather bookmark.
“I’ve still got this, see, I thought I’d lost that as well. That’s one good thing.”
We both agreed that this was, indeed, a good thing and talked about Dicken’s characterisation and how it made good television. He liked Solzhenityn too. I said that I hadn’t read much Russian literature but I probably should read Crime and Punishment before too long. He nodded.
“I read that. Miserable lot the Russians. Always worrying.”
After a few minutes silence while we both contemplated the poor, miserable people drinking their vodka in draughty shacks on the snowy Russian steppes he started to tell me about his travelling.
“My son says he never knows where I’m going to pop up next. I’ve been all over. I went on a cruise to Spain last year. Very nice. It’s not the same without my wife though. She’s in a nursing home. Had a bad stroke. It’s not the same on your own.”
It must be hard and I said so. Even so, his detailed knowledge of the Manchester transport system suggested that he didn’t let this stop him getting out and about. There was no need for pity.
The cheerful guard, who had announced at Malton that we were on the York train and if we wanted to go to Scarborough that was “tough” informed us that we were now approaching York. My companion listened to the long list of platforms and connections that followed with interest. The elderly lady began to unfold her legs from around the lugggage and picked up both bags with some difficulty and more determination. With a fixed look on her face she headed towards the door of the train. Soon afterwards her daughter appeared. She frowned at the empty seat.
“Has she gone?”
The young man grinned.
“Yes she has.”
The daughter sighed. It would be so much easier if her mother just did as she was told.
“Thanks for your help earlier on.”
“No problem.”

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