Small Windows Pt. III: Good omens, small comforts

ICE 1601
Berlin Hbf – Erfurt Hbf
7th December 2019

After the success in Basel and a day’s break at home, I was itching to get on the road. Before me lay a proper ten-day stretch of travelling & playing. Standing in that colossal station, I felt like Charlie Bucket in the Chocolate Factory.

A thousand-mile journey begins with a single step, so you might as bloody well get that first step right. Fingers crossed the weather’s fair, too. But even if you do and it is, there’s no guarantee of safety or success.

The morning of a departure, I tend to take early signs as prophesy upon the whole trip.

First leg of this tour was wonderful. I made new friendships and found new life in old ones, turned difficulties into successes and even returned richer than I left. This was all to be expected, considering that on Sunday morning, when the night bus didn’t show, my kindly co-travellers paid my taxi fare.

All’s well that begins well.

I used to think I could be selectively superstitious, combing my surroundings for good omens and piecing them together into small comforts. But you can’t have the spouse without the in-laws – once I noticed the good omens, I couldn’t miss the bad ones. This summer, on another early-morning ticket, I found myself locked between flat and front door without a key. Here we go, I thought. I made the plane – but by close of day, my rucksack had been stolen. My sunglasses and mobile phone followed within the week.

So as the train grinds to a halt outside Wittenberg, the baby screams and the raindrops stream, I take stock of this morning’s omens. I had time to shave – good. The blade left a nick – bad. My new case doesn’t fit my guitar – bad. A stranger on a U-Bahn bench was playing my second-favourite Nick Drake song – definitely good. Nothing conclusive either way. What am I supposed to make of that?

The train’s up and rolling again. The baby and the rain have relented. My anxiety and the pang of leaving home are now joined by a full-body thrill. I’m on tour. In the next ten days I’ll cover almost exactly a thousand miles, all by rail. This is what I live for and one day, maybe, it’ll be what I live from. Be it fairytale or flop – right now, I’m too excited to care.

Joy and sluggishness were all part of the cycle. In the midst of the madness, the train carriage was the only place where I achieved some sort of perspective on my mood.


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