Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Paddington Station

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

My sister and I walk round the block. The sky is the colour of granite on one side, light and glimmering on the other. At one moment I think, shall I suggest we go back in case there is rain? Bugger it, I think, we shall walk on. This now all strikes me as madly symbolic; at the time it was just a walk and a talk. (I was talking in an absurd, throaty parody of Marlene Dietrich, on account of the laryngitis.)

We spoke of vulnerability. We do not necessarily love it, but we are old enough to acknowledge it. I told her: I actually had to say to someone the sentence ‘I am very vulnerable at the moment’.

It was on Saturday night. It was the kind of thing that I used to think would send people screaming from the room. Now I think: it’s not ideal, but it does have the merit of being true.

When I was in the south just now, I had to go in and out of Paddington station, a couple of times. Paddington was the station of my childhood; it was where we came to see a pantomime or do our Christmas shopping. We came into it on the old clanking trains, the kind that had discrete carriages with wooden doors and antimacassars on the headrests and those rather hard, tufty seats. It was, until his death, my father’s station.

I said to my sister: I stood in that station, and I could see the figure in the little blue suit, as clear as if he were there before me. My voice cracked and broke.

The blue suit was a thing. My father was a countryman, really, to his bones. He had a bit of wild sophistication, in the sixties and seventies, when he would go to smart parties and tony restaurants and expensive clubs. He was not a hayseed. But he had grown up running wild in the hills of Wicklow, and he settled in the downland of the Lambourn Valley, and the open spaces were in his blood. So his clothes were mostly baggy, very worn corduroy trousers, and soft cotton shirts with the sleeves rolled up. When he went up to London, which he sometimes did, out would come the little blue suit. It was actually a rather smart suit, but for some reason it made us children sentimental. ‘Look at you in your special blue suit,’ I would say, rubbing his arm, as we sat in the Groucho, where I would take him for lunch. He was not a media fellow, but he loved it there, because they knew how to make a proper gin and tonic. (Secret, in his book: not too much tonic.)

I don’t know what it was about that suit, but it is how I see him, even now, in the crowds of living people who moved about that station concourse. They were walking back and forth, looking anxiously at the departure boards, greeting each other with affectionate embraces, talking quietly over their suitcases. The thing about stations is that all human life is there. And, through it all, was the ghost of my old dad.

I think that is a thing that happens now. It is the time for the remembering. I think that is as it should be.

The Sister went home. I walked round the garden and looked at the flowers. There was a sudden shaft of evening light on the marjoram. I threw a stick for the Pigeon. The Man in the Hat suddenly roared up. How funny, I said, I was just talking about how much I love you. (This was true; my sister and I had been saying, oh we do love that Man in that Hat.) The MITH looked slightly startled. He is almost used to my not having an edit button. Almost.

Well, he said, it’s all about the love. Yes, I yelled; THE LOVE. That’s what is called for just now. Then I laughed quite a lot.

He was after mint. I have a surfeit of mint. So we picked the mint and he went away with it, and the evening light fell all around and the Pigeon smiled her doggy smile, and I thought: that’s all right then.


Pictures of what I saw in the garden this evening:

23 Aug 1.ORF

23 Aug 2

23 Aug 3

23 Aug 4

23 Aug 4-1

23 Aug 5

23 Aug 6

23 Aug 7

23 Aug 8

23 Aug 10

23 Aug 11.ORF

23 Aug 12

23 Aug 14

23 Aug 14-1

23 Aug 15

One of the Dear Readers asked if the Pigeon actually smiles for her close-ups. This particular face is how she looks after we have done a bit of stick catching. I think it is partly sheer pleasure, but it is also because she is a little bit breathless, and so her mouth is open. Of course I would like to think of it as a special canine grin, and perhaps in some ways it is:

23 Aug 19

On the other hand, when she is doing her ultimate elegance Grace Kelly look, I am quite convinced that is entirely for the camera:

23 Aug 20

Today’s hill:

23 Aug 21

Particularly  lovely comments yesterday; thank you so much for them.

Oh, and one more thing about Paddington Station. As I was feeling a little melancholy about my dad in his blue suit, and slightly rocked by the fact that I should still miss him so much, after all these months, I saw something quite wonderful.

It was a very young man, not more than nineteen, in a green velvet jacket. I love green velvet almost more than life itself, and so was very struck with him. I was also delighted by the fact that he was carrying a rather beautiful ukulele. As I watched, fascinated, he took the instrument and started to play it. He was not busking or showing off; he was quite oblivious to the fact that he was in a crowded place. I think he was just playing it for sheer pleasure. So now, when I think of that station, I shall not just think of my father, who is no longer here, but of that youthful stranger with the green velvet and the ukulele and the soulful eyes, who is.


  1. Gorgeous post - you have such a flair for putting your feelings into words xx Rachel

  2. What a beautiful read Tania, it made me feel quite emotional.

    Paddington Station is absolutely the station of my youth too. We moved from Cardiff to London when I was 6 years old & for years we would travel back to see grandparents and other family, arriving at Paddington with way too many bags, my parents & us three children, all travel sick and wanting to get to Cardiff ASAP. I went to Cardiff o collect my daughter from my aunt's house a couple of weeks & it brings back huge memories every time - even though Paddingon station has changed & they seem to have added something new every time I go there!

    The journey now only takes around 2 hrs but then I think it took closer to 5.....rickety wobbly old carriages, string-like luggage racks, window you could lean out of.....

    I even think Paddington had a smell....probably just the trains, even that seems to have gone :)

    I love the image of the man in the green velvet jacket, just lovely.

    I've spent lots of time commuting in and out of most of the main London stations.....but Paddington will always be special. Glad it's not just me :)

  3. And yes, those hard tufty seats....that made me smile!! I can still feel them :)

  4. i remember the first time i arrived in Euston from Glasgow - at the tender age of 19 - and thought THIS IS GLAMOUR!! Train stations are so evocative and Brief Encounter, arent they....

    Remain convinced Pigeon is a high fashion model in another life!! xx

  5. You are fearless in your memories, and that is such a good thing. That way, you won't lose them.

    Thank you ... beautiful to read, and inspires so many personally.


  6. I have just found this blog and would like to thank you for writing one of my most favourite books ever....and I read constantly. "Don't Ask Me why," my friend and I love it, adore it.
    It's a very long time since we read it first but that kick in the guts shock, when Virge does what she does was very real.

    Lovely, descriptive prose, thank you!

  7. I loved reading this Tania - the richness of the images is what I love about your writing. It is like having a view through someone else's (your) eyes. The blue suit is a fabulous memory. Made me think of my Dad going off in his pilot's uniform when he still lived with us. Absolute key image of childhood for me. I think also it's so heartening you have such wonderful people around you. It means we don't have to worry about you quite so much. Pigeon divine as ever. Lou x

  8. Particularly, particularly lovely and kind comments; thank you all so much. And a very special welcome to LollyWillowes, a new Dear Reader. Not sure what gives me more pleasure: the delightful regulars, who come back, day after day, or a new arrival, who has just found the blog. All very much appreciated by me, anyway.

  9. Dear Ms Kindersley

    I too am a new reader of your blog - but now wouldnt miss it! Read some of your older posts and I am outraged - yes, outraged - that you were upset by negative comments on Backwards (constructive criticism yes - gratuitous nastiness -NO) Backwards is a thing of beauty and a joy forever - your writing is a beacon of sanity in a world gone bonkers - Riots in London, Riots in Egypt, The Kardashians and Rachael bloody Zoe! Keep on doing what you are doing....


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