For tourists travelling in to Cumbria by train, the service from Oxenholme to Windermere provides the first glimpse of the Lake District. This is a short and scenic ride passing through a handful of working Lakeland villages, including Kendal, Burneside and Staveley. From the tall towers of Cropper’s Paper Mill looking like it’s about to go up in a puff of smoke, to the sheep pens and building yards as Kendal approaches, you view the real Lakeland at work and play. And often you see things you wouldn’t notice in a car, especially when they are pointed out to you by fellow passengers.
The Man from Murmansk
Day squeezes through the cracks in night.
Raindrops freeze. They will never fall.
We board together. Take our seats.
Far apart. I coddle cold feet,
pretend my down coat is duvet.
He huddles into wool; tucks neat,
folded scarf under trimmed, grey beard.
The weak sun turns rime into dew.
I dream of bed, of sleep, of you.
He gestures to the frosted sheep,
announcing this is just like home,
a place he knew well, long ago.
“Murmansk. Without its winter coat.”
I smile, unsure of what he means.
Deserted? Naked? Cold? Remote?
We sit. We look. We contemplate.
We think a bit about our Norths.
A brief encounter? Yes. Of sorts.
Two random people joined in thought,
brought here by a train. Faraway
places, seemingly now the same.
“The difference is in degrees,”
he says. I never learn his name.
But this fl eeting journey changes me.
While in Lakeland he sees his Russia,
soft and warm without winter snows,
I no longer see Siberia,
and in the slight white light
I swear that Staveley glows.