It’s not often I have to be away from home for work but if I do I limit it to one night at a time, never two nights in a row.
Why? A combination of three things:
1. Toddler will eventually miss me, surely?
2. I’ll miss Toddler. Guaranteed.
3. Leaving Wife-features literally holding the baby for over 48 hours isn’t on in this day and age, old boy.
I was away for a night recently and instead of being sensible and bagging an early bed and a long lie I went out for dinner with colleagues and took in a late night film.
It was True Grit. An excellent update of the John Wayne classic by the Coen brothers.
And here’s a thing - I wonder if other new dads have noticed this - I’m much more likely to come close to crying during emotional scenes in movies these days. There’s a section towards the end of True Grit (spoiler alert!) where Cogburn needs to get the teenage Maddie some medical attention. It’s such a tender yet energetic section. I completely understand the adrenalin that must be pumping through his veins and the determination and love that goes with it. In short, you would find the strength and do a Superman to lift a car with your bare hands if you bairn was in danger.
At the end of The Searchers there’s a simple line John Wayne says: “Debbie, let’s go home.”
It likewise brings me close to blubbing like a big girly blouse with extra frills and ribbons.
And to think one of my earliest film memories - and it remained a favourite until fairly recently - was the bit in the Omen when the photographer gets decapitated by a runaway pane of glass.
But back to being away for the night… I did the green thing and took the train. I’m a big fan of taking the train for three reasons:
1. The A9 going south is lethal.
2. The A9 coming north is lethal.
3. I can use my laptop and my phone when I’m on the train.
While the journey down was fine, the return leg was chaotic. A humble broken down train between Haymarket and South Gyle seemed to be holding the whole country up. My train was eventually cancelled. The information screens at Haymarket station were useless - only giving details of trains a few minutes ahead while continuing to list information about services from hours before. It meant the whole reception area was crammed with people all staring at a tiny screen, suddenly realising their train was due any second so they have to scramble through the barriers and down the stairs to the right platform. It’s at times like that I see why some numpty car dwelling trolls prefer their four-wheeled cocoons to public transport.
I eventually got a train and sat opposite a dog all the way to Perth. There was a gap of almost an hour before the connecting service to Inverness. So I had to wait. And I tell you what. The waiting area of Perth train station makes your average Siberian gulag look like Alton Towers.
The newsagents was shut (who’d want to buy a paper and a bar of chocolate at 6.30pm on a weekday for goodness sake?) and the café is the bleakest piece of utilitarian humdrum I’ve ever seen. Moulded plastic chairs, limp and pale curly sandwiches dating from the British Rail days and a coffee machine that takes ages. ’Ah cannae dae ye onyhin just noo son. Ah need tae clean thay tubes.‘ Shudder.
So I sat on a bench made of cheese graters and listened to some pod casts while watching kids running to and fro. One lad - probably about six or seven - came running out of the gents, proclaiming to his mum: “I’m not going in there! It smells of wee.”
If I were feeling especially cruel I would have offered a comment: “It’s not just the loo, pal. It’s Perth.”
The truth is, Perth’s OK. It has some nice green spaces and the silvery Tay to admire. It has a very cool bike shop. But I do wonder what visitors must think about Scotland, given how reliably dour our arrival points are. Can you think of anything grimmer than booking a holiday in the romantic, misty Highlands and getting off a bus in Farraline Park? Or alighting from your train to see a locked gate to your left, the glitzy Bertie’s Bar to your right and a cloud of nervous smokers and swearing taxi drivers straight ahead?
Haste ye back!