Waiting room

The official waiting rooms have been taken away. The substitution requires you to pay to wait. Waiting as a business. Hardly the stuff of Hemingway, no romance, no longing, lust or sunshine. It’s cold drafts, blue morning light and a sense of purposeful energy that is directed at… Waiting.

Bob Marley sings about shooting the sherif whilst eleven single people dressed in their uniform of black, brown or grey outerwear hunch. They hunch over their coffee. They hunch over their free newspapers. They hunch over their laptops or phones, catching up. It’s a serious business, waiting.

The staff bustle, quickly clearing the tables. A blue screen displays the departure times. The announcements are muffled but echo around. The track changes – upbeat is it Queen… No. I can’t figure this one out.

Through the windows you can see the trains and platforms. There’s no entry directly. This isn’t a waiting room. Except someone just walked by, he didn’t sit down with a coffee to read his messages. He was walking too fast for that. There was a clunk. The draft changes direction. A few people look up. He slams the door. He’s escaped. He’s walking along the platform. His rucksack over one shoulder. His coat flaps open. There are no alarms. He’s not accosted for evidence, his ticket to travel. He could be going anywhere: Kings Lynn, Sunderland, Hull or Edinburgh. He could stow away. He could jump off, catch a boat, sail away with his ruck sack swinging and coat flapping.

Everyone else carries on with their newspapers, email and hot drinks.

KT Tunstall sings, “suddenly I see”


Bella was a beautiful golden labrador that I used to know.  She lived across the street from my parents and whilst my grandmother was alive, living with my parents Bella used to visit my grandmother.  Her owners would open their front door and say – go visit Vi – and Bella, looking both ways before crossing the street, would run up to my parents front door and bark to announce her presence.

Bella’s favourite way to get to know someone was to have a good sniff and, if she liked you, would either want to play a game of fetch or would rub herself against you showing affection.  Any contact with Bella resulted in gaining a deposit of short golden hairs that you could never quite get rid of.  My father still has a black fleece jacket that’s covered in her hairs.

I don’t know how many times she visited over the few years that remained to my grandmother but I was told she was a huge comfort and entertainment to her and even attended the funeral. 

I didn’t believe that she could distinguish between people she knew and didn’t.  I only saw her about once a year so thought she was a naturally friendly dog.   Her owners disagreed and claim that she’s saved them on more than one occasion.  It was only whilst we were waiting for pizza to be delivered at their house that we saw this in action.  Before the doorbell even rang Bella became anxious: pricked up her ears, started to pace and gently growled.  Then the doorbell rang.  She barked a warning but, of course, we knew it was most likely to be the pizza delivery.  Despite Bella’s warnings we answered the door.  Once the ‘intruder’ had gone Bella was back to her chilled out self trying to snag some pizza from us.

Bella is sometimes taken on holiday.  This time she, with her owners, have a camper van that they’re using to tour northern Canada.  Towards the end of the trip they take a ferry back from Alaska to Vancouver.  This is a standard commercial operation and not a cruise.  It takes about 5 days and stops in many locations down the coast.  The ferry supports the commercial activities along with the holidaymakers.  Whilst the owners have a basic cabin for the journey Bella has to stay in the camper van on the car deck.  

At every stop Bella is taken out for a walk.  The ship’s crew and passengers get used to seeing her at the dock and on the car deck, nosing around, enjoying her 30 minutes of leg stretch before she has to go back to her camper van.  

It’s 3:30 am and the penultimate stop on the journey.  As usual Bella is taken out for her walk and by the time she’s back in her camper van her owner decides to stay up and get a cup of coffee.  He’s sitting in the ship’s canteen and one of the other passengers comes over to chat.  

– You’re the guy with the golden lab

– That’s right.

– She’s a working dog

– Well…

– Yeah.

– What do you mean?

– You’re with the Drug Enforcement Agency.  She’s checking us out.

The owner said nothing, drank his coffee, smiling at the thought that Bella was a working dog.