Jeremy Dennis is Jeremy Day (cleanskies) wrote,
Jeremy Dennis is Jeremy Day
cleanskies

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natural hair (going North, Tue 23 Oct)

So, the funeral went and nobody (else) died. And now I'm heading North with my natural hair. Dawn was bright, blue and gold, but as I pulled into Birmingham and swopped two fare-dodgers for a complex four-generation family group, the clouds began to gather, and now we are travelling under a cap of smokey grey. Georgia (fourth generation) has pale yellow hair and her favourite word is "yang!" Every time I take a sip of my irn-bru, she follows the movement of my hand with big blue jealous eyes. Bog off, squib. Jeremy's need is greater than thine. I'm not hung over, but I might as well be. To bed at 3.30, up at 6.55, it's not quite enough for me, even at my best, and certainly not after last week. (Mum, second generation, is trying to persuade Georgia of the wisdom of drawing on the paper. Fight it, kid!) Still yawning, still knocking my head against the window, wobbly snore-monster, cotton-wool head. Joe and Kirsty (third generation) are discussing their part-time jobs, teasing about girls and belly-button piercings, and trying to draw on each other with eyeliner and crayons. We roll through Stone, and Kirsty spots a digger. "Look!" she cries to Georgia, "Bob the Builder!" At Stoke-on-Trent station, there is a sculpture of a huge hand sheltering a tiny figure. The station is vasty, victorian, leafy. Not like Oxford station, which is small and bleak. Or perhaps everywhere is bleak at 7.30 on a chill October morning.

We roll on, wrapped in the smell of hula-hoops. Mum (second generation) conspires with Kirsty (third) over what to buy Gran (first, on the next seat with Bruce and Mum2) for her birthday. Georgia breaks another crayon.

Railway song

Viaducts are fantastic
And cranes are cool
But sheeps make me queasy
With their trails of greasy wool.

At Stockport, I swap the family for a Chinese guy reading a paper about Multiple Sclerosis and another guy with huge brown eyes reading The Mirror, war stories only. It makes a peaceful change from most of the half-term crowd. Funny, people tell me that it always rains in Manchester, but every time I'm here, the sun shines.

One thing I wasn't expecting from my sisters was their casual contempt of all things North of London. We knocked against the Norfolk coast at Cromer, where Granddad had spent his final years. Farm-traffic delayed, tired and panicked from crazy-lorry drivers, we steamed into our meeting place. Just time for hugs, tears, and a ritual exchange of, "It's grim up North" before the funeral. The trick is to keep moving, and we did and got through without incident or accident. Still, it was a hell of a journey, in both directions, and countryside makes me twitch. Bizarrely, we were both actually glad to see the North Circular. It didn't last.

Enough brooding. I pull out my book (Murakami, Norweigan Wood). With luck, I'll just have enough time to finish it. I have luck, almost surreal luck; I finish the last page as we pull into Penrith Station, and I'm on holiday.
The first thing I see (after hugs from Mum and Clive) is a ruined red sandstone castle against a bright autumn-blue and grey sky.

It's cool up North.
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