Hello Euston my old friend. Is this the way it’s going to end?

Euston Station, the gateway to the North, falls silent. But the silence, as the saying goes, speaks louder than words.

A BBC reporter has been dispatched to record the sound of silence. As she reports, and as we can see, the great Departures Llounge is deserted.

Good morning from a very eerie Euston station, where the first train doesn’t leave for an hour’.

Outside, a picket line in day-glow jackets. Among them, Mick Walsh, the reader of the striking railwaymen, is conducting an interview. His style is a model for any student of leadership. He is clear, speaks without few rhetorical flourishes or cliches. He is firm but with more regret than anger, even against the Government.  

He avoids repeating his last press interview by suggesting how the settlement would not require extra money from the public purse. 

‘If Andrew [that’s Andrew Waites, chairman of Network Rail] was to agree to releasing the huge bonuses paid to top executives, that would resolve the payment difference, the negotiation gap’.

The suggestion is unlikely to resolve anything, but the overall impact illustrates the style that differentiates Flynn from other spokespersons involved in the dispute.

The interview trends in the social media, largely positively. 

I picture the more familiar scene. The crowds of jostling travellers, gazing at the electric platform announcements, readying themselves to join the lines for the appropriate platforms. Then the Euston Rush, as a platform number is announced.

I wonder when these scenes will occur again?

Hello Euston, my old friend

Will we see ever see  these scenes again?

The hubble bubble of the hall

The surge of people to the call

To the blinking lights there high up on the wall?

Instead of silence?

The sound of silence.

Thought for the day. ‘When this bloody war is over …’

Oh, what a lovely war is one of the great anti-war films of all time. A scene sticks in the memory.

The regiment at prayer. The chaplain in gleaming white garments that would have been fit for officiating in a royal funeral stands before the battalion. 

The introduction is reverent. The voices of the young soldiers rise earnestly to the much-loved tune of What a friend we have in Jesus. 

What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer

Oh, what peace we often forfeit
Oh, what needless pain we bear
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer

The camera pans to a solder singing earnestly.Except he is singing the words of a parody that has become one of the great anti-war songs.

When this lousy war is over,

no more soldiering for me,

When I get my civvy clothes on, 

oh how happy I shall be.

Long before the film, I joined in the hymn as a member of a devout congregation. But outside the little chapel, the parody words were already as well-known as the sacred ones, by those who had actually served in and survived that lousy war. 

And as the words and music retreat into memory I am reminded of another bloody war that is far from over. Unofficial estimates of military losses in Ukraine suggest these are already the worse in Europe since World War Two.

Another war, another time, the same message.

Ghosts haunt the ground at Old Trafford

I used to go regularly to old Trafford with an old friend when his son was unable to use his season ticket. I remember the last mile walk.
Having left the car in the hands of unofficial but secure guardians of a plot of development land off the Stretford Road, we went with the flow of traffic heading for the Ground.
Our journey was hindered as we both jostled to secure the better side for listening. Eventually, we gave up and jostled on, mostly in silence.

I was reminded of those experiences this week, with the exploits of the Lionesses and experiencing the high drama at Wembley. I remembered those visits to Old Trafford, and the overwhelming atmosphere of the stadium as it filled up.

Ghosts haunt the ground at Old Trafford

Even on a quiet day you can feel their presence.
Some, restless around the clock
where time stands still, at four past three
On the south east corner of the stand
as time on other clocks move on.

Some are gleeful spirits
weaving around the highest ribs, when cheers ring out
for modern number sevens or eights.
or mournful for number tens.

Then, the groundlings,
memories scattered around the penalty areas
faintly urging a mis-hit.

Unnamed others leave a shiver.
Can you feel them, entombed
around the car parks?

The silence of the statues
whose masks never slip
although always under scrutiny
from a paused gaze.

Old Trafford. This theatre of dreams
and mausoleum of memories.

I meet Steve the Poet

This morning I met Steve the Poet
He was eating his toastie breakfast outside the Deli.
Heard about the local poet.
Approached him. He looked very approachable.

His features are those
of someone who spends a lot of time outdoors.
Grey bearded. Looks up at the grey-bearded interrupter of his progress on the toastie.
Confirms he is indeed Steve the Didsbury Poet.

I tell him I write poems, too.
With little encouragement, he pulls out his poems
From his carrier bag.
They are kept, loose-leafed, in a red folder
which has seen better days.
Says he doesn’t publish them.
I say I don’t publish my poems either.

Steve does open-mic readings, doesn’t like to call what he does performances.
The poems are collectively a love-letter to his life companion.
I want to record our conversation, take out my phone.
Wrong, find I have forgotten my phone.

Somehow, our talk gets round to the Universe.
I tell him about the spaceship that sends photographs back to Earth
from the end of the Universe.

What do they look like, he asks.
Like stars we see when we look up, I say.
I’ll show you on my phone.

Wrong. I have forgotten my phone.
One day, Steve will come back again for his breakfast.
I will have my phone that day, and will show him what
the view from the end of the Universe looks like.