On a Train to Exeter

At Paddington it was far too hot to be alive, and I wasn’t quite sure if that were a good thing or a bad thing, only that if I had been a bear I would have died … and, worse than that thought, how can you have Paddington without hats and coats and cocoa? Hotter still. I was virtually delirious, a state I’ve reached on a  number of occasions without any help from the sun (apart from once in Italy, near Naples, after an afternoon in the sea).
        So now I am travelling at high speed to Exeter as the sun sets, the train empties and it begins to dawn on me how much of a bad time I had when I lived in the southwest. Mostly my own fault, I admit; but I’d thought I’d left most of that rather further behind me than I can now see I may not have. Have I? Or I wouldn’t feel myself  hurtling into it: the southwest. Are we (because I have now co-opted you, reader, as a companion while the sun goes down and the shadows encroach on the window of my soul) heading into something bad?
        Are we? Even as I write that, and perhaps this is because I am now having a different kind of journey, one more observed, I feel the future (and only tomorrow, really, if I think carefully about it) dissolve into stupid paint, streaks and dust as it dries and powders. I knew it. I knew I’d get to dust because I’ve been reading Bowen again and an account of Oxford Street, freshly bombed close by where she lived, and the scent of charred dust hanging in the air. Good for her, Elizabeth Bowen, saving my skin again.
        It won’t be anything like that in Exeter, but my time in the southwest was a bombshell. No, it’s gone. Just a whisper of it and a faint whiff of something sour, someone I knew.
        I’m extremely lucky now. Very lucky indeed.

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