When travelling north from Lancaster station, I always try to sit on the left side of the train. I don’t do this out of superstition, but because the left, or west-facing, side of the train affords the best view of two sites I’m always pleased to see.
In June 1914 a train bound from Paddington to Kidderminster stopped at a small station in the Cotswolds. No one was waiting on the platform; no one, by all accounts, alighted; but in the minute that passed before the carriages pulled away one passenger recorded that ‘thro the … extraordinary silence’ he ‘heard a chain of blackbirds songs … by banks of long grass willow herb & meadowsweet.’¹
In a recent speech at the University of Edinburgh’s Playfair Library, Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, mentioned the inspiration she felt at seeing, in an ante-room, a writing desk once used by Sir Walter Scott.