a Christmas trip
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by Andrew Lee-Hart



“It reminds me of when I was a student” I told my dad, as I stopped my pacing and sat down next to him on the cold bench, our knees almost touching.  Liverpool Coach Station might have been new, but it was bloody freezing and both of us were shivering in our inadequate coats.

“Have you travelled by National Express since?”

“No; it must have been over thirty years ago since I last did. Once I started working I got my Fiesta, or if I was going to London I would use the train. They haven’t changed though.  After all this time you would think they would be better; the stations warmer, the coaches more comfortable…”


We watched our fellow passengers anxiously gazing at the information screen above our heads, which I knew said that the coach was “delayed in traffic”; because it had been saying the same thing for the last forty minutes. Occasionally there were announcements, but the voice was too muffled to understand, and anyway no coaches arrived or departed, so it would have only been bad news.


“At least the delays are on the way back. I would have hated to have only had a short time with Michael and Ruth.”

I nodded; remembering my brother-in-law overweight and overwhelmingly sad, whilst my niece danced about and told us about her new school; a touch of hysteria in all that she did.

“Yes it was important that we saw them. We can go again in the new year; I should have a new car by then, and if not hopefully the trains will be running normally.”

“How do they manage, without her?” my dad asked, suddenly sounding extremely sad and old, and I realised how much he had aged, suddenly becoming an old man in a matter of months.

“I am not sure that they do.  I am sure he tries, if only for Ruth, and he has friends, but no I worry for them both.”


We sat there, in the cold, the bright lights from the city’s Christmas decorations mocking the sadness in our hearts.

“Would you like a sandwich or a drink? There seems to be a shop over the road.”

But just as my dad started to reply, the Leeds coach appeared to a few tired cheers and I picked up my satchel containing my book, and the card and presents I had forgotten to give to Michael and Ruth, and followed my dad aboard. Unfortunately the coach already had many passengers on it, and we were unable to get seats together. But at least we had made it and would be back home in Leeds in a couple of hours.


There was a rather pretty girl sat next to me with long black hair and a smell of vanilla; she had headphones on which precluded conversation, but that was for the best as she too young for me and anyway I did not really feel like talking. I settled down in the half-light of the coach and tried to read my book but soon gave up and stared into space. 


Ahead I could see my dad, trying to get comfortable; I hoped that he would sleep as it had been a tiring day for him. And then I realised all of a sudden that this might the last time we did this journey together; that the next time or the time after that, I would be on my own, and that I was as lonely as Michael and Ruth, if not more so.


The woman next to me sighed and moved slightly, and then gave me a smile, she was perhaps a little older than I had first thought. We started to talk, and as we drove through the traffic, continued to chat oblivious to all that was around us; the slumbering passengers and the cars outside, all heading home for Christmas.



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