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.


Returning to glory?

On average they seemed shorter than the other side. The home team though was still greeted with cheers as they skated onto the ice. The stadium, a little tired perhaps, but filled with pennants of past victories. A lot to live up to for this young team. The half full stadium of loyal supporters stands for the national anthem sung with gusto from a local singer. Applause, whistles and hooters and the five players on each side, with their goalkeeper making six skate out onto the ice.

Our team have lost the last ten games in succession. They’ve had a bit of a break. They should be fresh. This time could be different. The opposition has eight supporters at the arena. The break and advantages of the home game, surely must count for something?

They start and the play is at the opposition’s end. The score board assures us we have the upper hand with more attacks on goal than the others. But the first period is sluggish with none of these attacks converting into an actual goal. The announcer makes a plea for us to buy raffle tickets with the promise of $40,000 prize money.

The opposition are penalised and one man is sent to the sin bin for checking. This is our moment. Two minutes, with one man more than the opposition… The coach and manager gesticulate from the side lines. Players are swapped over. Play begins. Nothing.

Time out.

We take a moment to appreciate the generosity of the sponsors. The coaches give their teams a pep talk.

Two minutes to go to the end of the period. The play is all down our end. Our goalkeeper is so large there is no way the puck is going to get past. It does. The eight supporters wave their banners, make some noise. The rest of the stadium claps politely. Manners.

The hooter blows.

A second raffle, this one is for the chance to win a voucher for Subway or one to get your car cleaned. Check the front of your programme for the four digit route to happiness. We don’t win this time… Maybe at the next interval. The Zamboni goes back and forth and once done the goals are put back in place and the players emerge. Our side with heads down.

Play resumes, now the other side are on the attack. They have double the attacks on goal than we do. A bit more aggression from ours, tempers beginning to fray. Now we’re one man down. Our side dig in, closer to one another, in contact. They play as a team rather than a collection of individuals. They don’t seem to want to concede another goal. It works.

More play. One of our more established players is back on the ice. It makes a difference. The others respect him, he has support when he makes a break. He scores! Relief, elation, cheers. The commentator is ecstatic. Once he’s calmed down a reminder to buy one of those all important raffle tickets…

Meanwhile the play has continued. Spurred on, heads now up our team renews their attack. It works and we’re ahead and only two minutes until the end of the second period. Perhaps we’ll win after all. Perhaps the change in coach is beginning to work. Perhaps there’ll be a return to our glory years. Let’s not jump ahead of ourselves.

A break.

This time you can throw a puck on the ice or win some more vouchers. Maybe just get a beer or have a walk around, get the blood flowing into your legs again.

The final period begins.


All they have to do is hold on. 15 minutes away from victory. The back and forth continues. The pressure is on the other side now. They’re the more experienced team. On paper they should have the upper hand. Tempers show. The checking, blocking and slamming continues. They’re no. 24 is pulled off by the coach before he ends up in the sin bin. He comes back on the ice only to cause more aggravation and mayhem. He’s warned again. The coach gets him off the ice again. The aggression will come in handy but timing is everything.

Two minutes. We just need to hold on for another two minutes.

The opposition renew their attack. They take their goalkeeper off and substitute with another player to have all their efforts concentrated on getting another goal. The pressure is massive. No. 24 is let loose. He scores.

Still with only one minute to go we can hold onto this.

The eight supporters cheer again.
Another one, how?

We’re tied.


Into extra time four against four.

We hold on but don’t score.

Three minutes into extra time. There may still be hope?


The eight cheer again.

It’s all over and they’re off the ice. The goal posts are moved before we’re out of our seats.