Train fable

Feeling low in lockdown? You’re not alone, as Editor Erica Crompton shares her nostalgic tragedy and urges readers to make the most of what they have

Once upon a time, in a world where I had a secure job, partner and Herne Hill mansion; I had had a meeting with Emma, the immaculate press officer for the Orient Express train empire.

Coincidentally, the same night, as I rolled a cigarette to smoke on my south London balcony a train had come to a stop on the tracks in front of me, just outside the back of the garden downstairs.

It stayed in front of me for a good 20 minutes, and it was the British Pullman, London’s own Orient Express. I had not seen it here before and it felt like a magical fate was in front of me and in the following 5 years I took 3 free trips on this train from a bygone era, kindly organised by Emma.

From the moment I coincidentally glimpsed the train and its glamourous passengers, I associated the special train with ‘the magic’ and granting wishes.

Every now and then I’d try to stow away as a non-paying journo. Sadly as decades passed a pattern started occurring – my requests were always rejected and I never could secure a 4th journey. With each rejection came a new wrinkle or grey hair, a pound or two was gained from the bottles of cheap champagne I drank in full to console myself.

Before too long I resembled the mother in a Richard Billingham photo.

And so the story goes, the harder I try to board the Orient Express, the further away I am from being a suitable passenger.

The only time I glimpse the glory of the old steam train today is the old shells of the carriages, covered in dust at Crewe station were they go to die.

The Orient Express has since been rebranded as The Belmond. The magic I once felt is now forever forgotten.

Like the old carriages parked up in Crewe, a land many folks won’t have heard of, my dreams have turned dusty, defunct and despairing.

  • The moral of this short fable is that we must appreciate what we have, while we have it – moments are fleeting. Hold your loved ones a little tighter tonight and if you chance a glance of the Orient Express one day… enjoy it while it’s still there!

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