Waiting time

May 30th, 2012 | By | Category: Personal Columns

‘Liverpool 08 – European City of Culture’ says the logo on the carpet, betraying its age.  The airport operators could probably provide an accurate estimate of how many feet have walked on the carpet since. Contemplation of the carpet arises from the fact that after eight o’clock in the evening, there is only one more flight from the airport, that to Dublin, and it not until quarter to ten; and the fact that there is not much else to occupy the mind.

An industrial landscape fills the view across the Mersey. Reassuring in its own way; there are still places where people work, generating income to pay taxes to run the country. A solitary propeller driven aircraft sits on the runway. The electronic display announces departures commencing at seven in the morning, which means the whole airport is still functioning for the sake of one more aircraft.

Time passes in unequal measure.

Once, taking a train from Guildford to Yeovil Junction, a change at Woking meant walking down the steps to the platform as a train stood ready to leave. Assuming it to be an earlier train travelling to another destination, there was a feeling of stupidity upon realizing that it was the train that should have been caught. It was a full hour before the next train stopping at Yeovil, each move of the hand of the station clock was watched. There must have been books in the suitcase, there must have been newspapers that could have been bought, yet the hour was spent watching the time pass. An unretrievable hour of life, wasted.

Yet there have been moments when an hour has passed in a moment, moments when time might have been more generous with its measure. The passing years have brought a desire at times to sit and do nothing more than watch the day, the harbour wall in Dun Laoghaire was a favourite place. The silence and stillness of the moment seemed never to last, the brief contentedness would all too quickly come to an end.

Sitting, this afternoon, with a friend unseen since 1976, it seemed strange that thirty-six years had passed since our last encounter. Still as slim as he was at sixteen, a little grey around the temples, there had not been a second of hesitation in recognizing him as he stood beneath the clock in Chester. ‘You’re a bit more rounded’, he smiled. ‘Four stone more rounded’, might have been the reply.

Thirty-six years and yet thirty-six years of the past has now no more actual substance than an hour on a Woking platform – both forever gone. Still fifty-five minutes to take off.  The view across the Mersey has become misty. The carpet beside the seat has a big stain, perhaps someone waiting an hour or more spilt their coffee.

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