Train conversations

One of those intense experiences that stamp itself into your subconscious and then comes back years later triggered perhaps by a whiff of coal or the smell of icy cold, are the sensations of arriving in a strange town in the small hours of the morning, being launched from a warm semi-comfortable compartment with its intimate conversation of strangers out into the wordless stampede and brutal cold of the platform at an inhuman hour. The smell of coal from the wagon heaters and the rush along the ice heaving unwieldy bags that refuse to roll through the snow. As a stranger trying to look like one knows where one is heading, head down among the crowd, avoiding being conspicuous, and wondering what to do until it is light enough to get to wherever you are aiming for.