Travel- The 18.21 from London Waterloo. History +People

Its 17:55 and there you are with all the others crossing Waterloo Bridge- the view towards St Paul’s Dome and the city lights ignored in the race to catch that 18.21.  Its the fast train home (a workers train) with the first stop only after 30 minutes of speeding through the suburbs.  Otherwise its the 18:35 which stops everywhere.

18:15,  made it to the steps of Waterloo and past the newspaper staff- no vendors these days since the paper became a give away- how things change from the days of there being a West End final edition.  Onward you rush with no time to reflect on why the station is called Waterloo and the significance of June 1815 to those who lived, died or survived this critical battle against Napoleon and therefore changed the course of European history.  Up the steps and past the commemorative plaques to the railway staff who gave their lives in the World Wars.  Despite this being a centenary year of the end of the Great War, familiarity and passing them on a daily basis  means you pass without a thought.  

One of 4 memorial plaques for World War 1

Past the clock- a fleeting reminder of all those black and white photos of people waiting to meet their beloved- one of the constant things despite the passage of time.  A quick glance at the departure board – platform 11 as usual  together with those adverts about holidays in the sun in Egypt and Italy. Back in World War 2 these were not holiday destinations but places where all inclusive had a very different  meaning.  Those who did war time service would not want the post card or to recall these events.  These are fleeting thoughts as you  concentrate on your battle for the day with just 6 minutes to complete it -passing the ticket barriers.  You give a quiet note of thanks and are grateful that tonight they are working fine. 

A quick longing glance up to the Carluccios restaurant on the mezzanie floor and happy memories of those occasions of a tasty dish from the menu of the day.  The whole experience much enhanced by that bottle of red wine they had on offer.  

The rush home at Waterloo

Onto platform and you hurry for the 7th coach of the 12 coach train.  Luckily your regular seat  facing backward and 3 seats away from the exit is free- it would have taken the biscuit for this the day  to have to go elsewhere. As you settled in and had a moment to consider, perhaps the day had not been so bad after all.   In comes the usual travellers- the chap with the Grey Superdry coat and carrying a back pack who always gets off at Surbiton.  The business man in the dark blue long overcoat who strides along at a cracking pace yet never breaking into a sweat, with his brief case at the ready to protect his territorial seat and overcoat.  Then the masses as the crowd comes from the Bank on the Waterloo link.  The guard is blowing his whistle and the doors are starting to beep and once again tonight the chap in fluorescent cycling gear just slips in and the doors close and the train is away.

“I’m on the 6:21 the fast train so will be home earlier than normal”

“Didn’t catch the 18:05 but have managed to get on the 18:21 so hopefully wont be that much later”

The urgent torrent of train and travel announcements to those waiting loyally at the suburban stations had started even before the doors had closed. Breathless commuters jostled to get comfortable for that brief respite before bath-time, bedtime book reading and all that with their children.  That glass of wine with their partner also beckoned after another high pressure day trying to keep the business afloat.

Just then you realise that this was all a memory and that this phase of your day to day work was over.   You’re retired now and thanks to the sacrifice of those who have played their roles in the history of this continent then the questions that you have to face are much simpler and yet ever precious and long lasting

You recall with a rose tinted glow those numerous questions – will you take us to the park on Saturday and can we play football with you, from you children. The only real question from now on is when you choose to go to London and what show or concert that you’re going to see. And when will the grandchildren come to see you again 

With that you turn to Time Out and the events parts of the Telegraph to see whats on which takes you fancy  

For those of you who know their history, the date 1821 is also significant as it was on 5 May 1821 that Napoleon died on the Island of St Helena.  He was banished to the remote island after the defeat at Waterloo.  He was aged 51, so I wonder if that puts the office politics of today in a different light.   

All seated in orderly rows
In reality life is full of individuals 
The important thing is that the person you called is there to meet you at the station 

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