February 1st – On my way back, the weather was more patchy, but changing trains at Aston midday, I thought of the great genius that was Nuala Hussey’s Stranded in Stechford (she lived for a while near the station) and of the incongruity of the Britannia Hotel, still with the great lady resplendent, enthroned on the roof, but no longer atop a hotel with dreams of majesty but a backstreet cafe.
Aston has changed since I was a teenager, exploring this place and the love I found near here. We drank in pubs long closed, and laughed and dreamed and made friends and argued and loved. We still do most of those things, of course, but Aston, like many places of my youth, is lost to me now. All of the faces I knew here except one have gone as I grow old, either lost, separated or drifted apart, but whenever I stand on these platforms, high above the sprawling morass below, I remember those days and it makes me sad.
Although I’m sad for the people I no longer see, I’m most sad for lost sense of belonging, and for my youth. But all through my life I’ve passed through places like this, made them mine for a while, then life took me to other places, with different horizons, and life moved on.
Aston is just a wind-blown, suburban and somewhat desolate railway station; two platforms and a junction. But there are ghosts here. And they haunt me so.
I felt old. But like my ghost, my spirit remains.
The train came, I hauled my bike onto it and I sat down.
‘Are you OK?’ asked a lady in the opposite seat.
Caught unaware, I wiped my eyes. ‘Just the wind I think’ I said, ineffectually.
‘It’s getting colder’ she replied. And offered me a tissue.