Girl About Town: The 12:37 From Swindon to Bath Spa

Girl About Town: The 12:37 From Swindon to Bath Spa

As I sit here on the Sunday afternoon 12:37 train hurtling towards Bath Spa it seems funny to think that what seems normal and run-of-the-mill now was a massive event back when I was nine years old.
The first few train journeys I ever made were half an hour excursions to the dizzying heights of Worcester, accompanied by mum and my sister. The speed, sights and blurred colours all seemed so amazing, it was as if I was on a theme park ride. I never wanted it to end.

Flash forward some fifteen years and reality seems to have become quite different. Intrusively lit LED screens and computerised announcements are the only sights and sounds that stick in my head now. And as I sit here staring at a screen, it is safe to say the stunning English countryside woos me less than my pre-teen incarnation. Spoilt by a glut of train commutes, all I care about now when I board is getting into a carriage with plenty of free seats.

Arriving into another station. Is it mine? No, although they all look the same nowadays. Mostly simple constructions, their importance and status marked by the presence of a Pumpkin Cafe, WHSmith or an M&S Food. These platforms appear to have none of these outlets. The Victorian canopy is the only thing that suggests the station once held a degree of status in a bygone era. Not that I’m paying too much attention. Just another hold up on my route to Bath.

As we pull away I can see below me a flat canopy of brick and tile, interspersed with warehouses stocking mass produced furniture and DIY goods. Glancing at it I ponder that this imagery before me could belong to any town across the United Kingdom, there are no unique features in the flat red skyline.

The light suddenly drops and the internal lights brighten. The little town is gone and replaced by a long tunnel. If I were not writing right now I could well be cursing this engineering masterpiece for interrupting my telephone signal, or my ability to like a photo on Facebook.

Seconds or maybe minutes (for who has time to dwell on the passing of time?) we exit the dark space. My mind is indifferent but my body welcomes the return to normal pressure. Over recent years my ears have taken a disliking to the changing characteristics of air. Hills and small communities surround me and I know I must be on the final leg on my passage to Bath. These settlements must have been so isolated and undisturbed before the train line came. Is my carrier a blessing or a curse to these hillside villages?

And here I am, arriving into Bath. A city where the occupied, Georgian, buildings are so beautiful and the derelict, graffiti covered, constructions are so ugly. Better pick up my belongings and quickly brush out my fringe, for the train is starting to slow.

I now stand on the platform, gracefully dumped, and watch as the large diesel engine bellows his smoke into the pure blue sky before powering on towards Bristol. He has fulfilled his promise today, for I have arrived at my destination on time. As far as our commuter-train relationship is concerned I can ask no more of him than that. Beauty and delicacy was never in our original agreement. So off I now head towards the ticket barrier, accompanied with the conviction of a girl that has done this a hundred times before.

My friend will be here soon and with the arrival of an old alliance my mind will fill with altogether different thoughts. Jobs, boys, ambitions, after two years apart there is much to discuss. The shops will sparkle with Christmas goods which will occasionally distract, but conversation will undoubtedly pull us back to the heated debate over the rising price of merlot. The train will then turn from hero to villain, pulling us both apart when our laughter hits its highest decibel.

Will I tell my friend about this commute? Of course not. Because, after all, what’s so special about the 12:37 train from Swindon to Bath Spa?

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