Last Tuesday, after a day’s work in Scotland, I caught the overnight train to Euston. It was already past midnight when the Caledonian Sleeper pulled into Stirling. The attendant checked my name against the passenger list and welcomed me on board.
As the train pulled out of the station, I made my way to the passenger lounge and ordered a large whisky (for aficionados, it was a 12 year old Auchentoshan lowland single malt). I sat by the window sipping my solitary drink and looking out of the window, beyond my reflection, into the night. I slipped into a kind of reverie, thinking about how much Chris and I used to enjoy travelling on sleeper trains, especially on holiday.
Sometimes we would go down to Penzance from London on the splendidly named Cornish Riviera Express for a long weekend; once we took our Morgan Roadster to the south of France on the SNCF Motorail. We loved the companionable intimacy of sharing a sleeping compartment, rattling through the countryside, stopping for mail in out of the way stations in the middle of the night, bumping and clanking as the train divided or added more carriages en route.
We would reach across the gap to hold hands if we woke in the night and squeeze ourselves into a single bunk for a cuddle and snooze when the sun came up. Soon we’d hear a welcome knock on the door and the attendant would appear with early morning tea for us to drink in bed as we approached our destination, ready for a new adventure.
A sudden lurch as the train went over some points jolted me back to the present. I caught sight of my tired face in the window. I finished the whisky, went back to my compartment, climbed into the narrow bunk, wrapped myself in the duvet and lay awake most of the night, wishing that Chris was there to share the journey.