Almost 6pm on a Friday and the platform at Haymarket is packed for the train heading back to Glasgow.
I’m a bit pissed off after a particularly long week. The travelling is getting me down and I’m beginning to realise that I probably made a mistake giving up that boring but cushy number in Glasgow for this more interesting and better paid job in Edinburgh.
The money more than covers the extra travelling expenses but it’s the time.
Time is the most important thing we have and I’m actually missing doing the school runs and that 10 minute daily catch up with my daughter Claire.
For what? A few hundred quid more per week?
Money is important, but it’s not everything,
It’s almost 6pm and I won’t be home until 7, this is fucking up my work life balance and I’m not a happy boy.
But it’s Friday, the weekend starts here and I’ve stopped off at the M&S Simply Food outlet in the station for a can of cider to help the chilling begin.
They walked past holding hands, well mum and son were holding hands, dad was a few feet behind.
The train arrived and the door opened in front of me. At first glance the carriage appeared busy but surprisingly there was an empty 4 seat booth near the middle of the carriage.
As I made my way down the corridor, I notice that all the booths 2 seat or 4 seat only have a single occupier. Each with their bag or belongings strategically placed to deter a temporary travelling companion.
Us humans really have become an unsociable lot.
I hurriedly reach my chosen booth grateful that no one else has grabbed it first. I place the plastic bag holding the can of cider on the small table in front of me, drop my bag on the window seat and sit on the aisle facing forward.
I’m just as unsocial as the rest.
Then I notice the woman with child has also reached he booth from the opposite end. She obviously spotted the booth but inadvertently I’d got there first.
She smiles at me as she lets the child into the window seat and he speaks to her, some eastern European language that I don’t recognise.
Dad arrives from behind and I lift the bag from beside me to let him take my seat, but he ushers me to stay seated and sits in the aisle seat of the booth opposite, directly across from his wife.
I still feel bad and a bit selfish, Dad should be with his family so I offer him my seat, saying that I’ll take his. But he’s smiling and gesturing insistently that I should remain where I am and he’s happy to sit where he is.
Most of this is with hand signals and pigeon English .. obviously because my English isn’t very good.
I jest, but Dad seems happy to sit across form the family, maybe he is happy to be there as it’s been a long day and he needs a bit of chill time?
We sit and smile, then look away, maintaining our distance.
I open my phone and check my emails, put a few notes for this together, look out the window and make casual observations as the boy plays some game on his tablet, getting excited as he scores points. Mum beside him looks pleased and happy that he’s happy. Dad on the other side is smiling a far off smile as he looks out the window.
At some point, my mouth feels dry and I remember the cider in the bag in front of me, the boy stops playing his game and is watching intently as I start to pull the plastic from around the can.
But for some reason it doesn’t feel right to be drinking in front of a strangers child, like setting a bad example. Would I like strangers to be inconsiderate where my child was concerned? I wouldn’t, so I put the cider in my main bag and forget about it. The mum smiles almost gratefully although I’m sure that she hasn’t actually saw what’s in the tin.
I like people watching .. you may have noticed .. these people don’t look wealthy, not exactly poor, just a family doing their best to make their way in the world, putting the happiness of their child first. Mum looks devoted to her son. Dad looks like a big lug but devoted to his family.
I’ve no idea where these people are from, but there is a contentedness about them.
Strangely, I’m slightly jealous, no envious of that, I’m pleased for them, I wish that I had that closeness.
As it happens I remembered the can of cider was at the bottom of my bag on Saturday afternoon as I took some time out at my spiritual home.
I took the panoramic photograph below sitting in the sun half way up a hill watching the sun going down on the far side of Loch Lomond.
As you can see the ridge of the hill undulates as it disappears into the loch in front of me, forming small islands as it fades.
The central lowlands of Scotland are to my left and the highlands are to my right and I’m sitting on the Highland Fault Line created some 350 million years ago when the two tectonic plates came together forcing this section of land into the air.
I love it here and particularly at this time of day, it’s my favourite place in the world.