Let me sit
The man had splayed himself across two seats when I got on the train and kindly asked him to make room for me. Nothing could have prepared me for one of the most engaging conservations I have had on a train journey in a while.
He appeared to be in workmen’s clothes and I gingerly sat myself beside him just because my trolley bag which is generally heavier and bulkier than a simple rucksack needs more ample space than I can get in the standard seat space.
A conversation triggered
As I settled into my seat, I reached into my bag, grabbed my copy of The Economist’s Intelligent Life magazine and flipped the pages to read, Among the reindeer by Laura Galloway, who left a media consultancy to live amongst the Sami people; Laplanders to you and me, in the Arctic Circle after a DNA test suggested she descended from them.
He saw the page and said, he was on his way up there. Apparently, he is a fisherman who works on a big boat in the seas and oceans within the Arctic Circle.
From then on, for the hour, we talked about fishing, European fishing quotas, fortunes, misfortunes - he once owned a fishing trawler, the cold and how he suffered some of the coldest temperatures ever on one fishing expedition on the Bering Sea.
Fish of a long tale
He had come to Cheshire for a funeral, was travelling to Manchester, and changing trains for a journey all the way to Aberdeen where he would board a helicopter to Wick and then a flight to Reykjavik in Iceland. Quite a convoluted itinerary, I thought, but it must be one of the least travelled routes plied by only those in the know.
He had been a fisherman all his life, manning boats from when he was 10, he being in the fourth generation of fishermen from his family.
One thing I learnt from our conversation was the appearance of a man is no indicator of the wealth of knowledge he might have, how well he might have travelled and what good conversation you might have with the person.
Suffice it to say, I am yet to read the story in the magazine that started off our conversation. At Manchester Piccadilly Station, we shook hands, I gave him directions as to where to board his connecting train and he expected to be in Reykjavik by midnight.
Now, I can see
On another train journey, a mother and child got on and sat in front of me. They were returning from visiting her mother and the son who had glasses on seem to have had a wonderful half-term holiday away.
We engaged in enough small talk for me to discover one amazing miracle of medicine, the son had a very high auditory acuity (heightened sense of hearing) which for a while was sensory compensation for being born blind, but now he could see because he had undergone a penetrating keratoplasty (Corneal transplant).