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Friday, 22 August 2003

The Trans Pennine Express

Wobbling around in an ungainly manner on the "Trans-Pennine Express" from Leeds to Liverpool on the day before a Bank Holiday weekend. As a result of the timing of this, the train is heaving with people and I feel a little over-dressed in a suit, shirt and tie (I'm working today).

I have to say that the name of this train service is a grand illusion which is not carried through into the execution. At the sound of the "Trans-Pennine Express" one imagines a locomotive with dozens of carriages in a smart livery hurtling along at break-neck speed. The reality is a two-carriage train, which wobbles along at about 40 mph, and has seats like a bus. Comfort was left out of the vocabulary when this service was invented.

I have just been reading 'Duino Elegies' by Rainer Maria Rilke, a collection of poems which are translated by Geoff Ward. Geoff lectured me when I was an undergraduate student at Liverpool University quite some time ago. I've read his own poetry since then - I really enjoyed 'Comeuppance', and 'Breaking apart in slow motion' was excellent too. The poetry in the Rilke translations is accomplished and I'm enjoying reading it. But I'm left wondering whether they are more accurately described as 'interpretations' rather than translations. The poems are phrased and placed in such a way that it would be difficult to conceive of Rilke writing in such a way, given the period when he lived and other poetry by Rilke which I have read in other translations.

I have brought music with me to listen to during the trip, but so far I have preferred the quiet thunder of the train. Last night I listened to '10' by Kate Rusby, which is a stunning album. By coincidence, a record shop I went in to in Leeds on my way back to the station, was playing Kate Rusby. She has the most expressive and distinctive voice.

I'm having one of those days (so far) when trains arrive just as you get to the station, and 'green men' appear on the road crossings just as you get there. I like days like these.

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