Bunches of flowers lie against the wall on the railway bridge at Worle. Perhaps they are from family members, perhaps from passers-by, perhaps from people who were there last Friday afternoon.
Half past three on a Friday afternoon brings congestion on the roads into and out of Weston Super Mare. The town has a population of approaching 80,000 people, many of whom commute the eighteen miles to Bristol for work each day. At half past three on Fridays, the end of the school day coincides with the arrival home from work of those who finish early on Fridays. Progress on the roads can be at a pedestrian pace; the roads haven’t the capacity to facilitate movement at any faster speed.
Last Friday afternoon, there seemed a longer delay than normal. Driving over the railway bridge, the reason for the delay became apparent. A young woman was sat in front of the traffic coming into the town and cars heading out were driving very slowly for fear of what might happen next.
It was hard to discern what had happened. Was she in dispute with the driver of the car in front of which she was sitting? Was she engaged in some public protest? Driving past her in solid line of cars, it was hard to decide. As I passed she stood up and began walking toward the town, the cars that had been stopped began to move. Barefoot, she seemed a lonely figure. It was impossible to know what had prompted her behaviour.
Two people were hurrying along the pavement in the young woman’s direction. Just ahead, a woman had pulled her car up, switched on the hazard lights and was standing watching the young woman while talking to someone on her mobile phone. Perhaps there had been some dispute or row or fight that had triggered her walking along in front of a line of traffic. Or perhaps she had been in such emotional pain that she simply could no longer cope, perhaps she just wanted an end to the pain.
What seems to have happened at ten to four is that the woman died after being hit by a train. Presumably, where the flowers lie, she had jumped from the bridge. It is nightmarish to think that her pain was such that she would do such a thing. It is also nightmarish to think about the pain of the train driver as his memory constantly replays the woman’s last moment. How would a driver ever forget such a moment?
To wave at a train when standing on a railway bridge always seemed an almost childish thing to do, but a friend suggests to me that such waves are a welcome sight for drivers, a reassurance that all is well. To wave is a sign that all is well with yourself and a sign that no horrific moment awaits, either for you, or for the driver.