(James writes a monthly column for The Gudgeon. Each month, the previous month’s article is archived.)
Nature hurts and nature heals – that’s my observation. Take stinging nettles. Whenever Sally and I walk along a country path a group of stinging nettles will look up, notice I’m wearing shorts, nudge each other and lean in to give me a good stinging. Every single time.
But I don’t mind because there’s always a clump of dock leaves waiting with their soothing sap. Gardeners call them weeds, I call them heroes. Pain and relief in close proximity – that’s how nature works. It’s the same with bee stings and honey; minor accidents and injury claim lawyers. Left alone, ecosystems balance themselves out.
And it’s the same with the BoA ecosystem. Example: whenever I catch a train to Bath it’s delayed. I don’t know why, it must be something to do with me. But the disappointment stings like a nettle. The antidote to this is the perfectly packaged place of well-being that is Bradford-on-Avon Railway Station – a place I would go to even if I wasn’t expecting to catch a train (which is, in effect, what I actually do).
For a start, the station’s name has hyphens (come on, we all know that’s how it should be), and there are plants and gardens to look at maintained by volunteers from Friends of Bradford-On Avon Station – which shows how nice this station is, it has friends. I can relax in the shrubbery or run up and down the zig-zag slope, or calm down in one of the waiting rooms.
The waiting rooms are cleaner than my house and they have interesting information on their walls such as the station’s history, framed posters from bygone times, and a plaque thanking the local community for its input to the station’s improvements. There are also special thanks to the Heart of Wessex Rail Partnership and the West Wiltshire Rail Users Group. I’d like to thank them too.
In the ticket office, Sandy, one of the front-line staff who are there between 06.30 and 13.30, six days a week, gives a regular masterclass in friendly, professional and informed customer care, fielding questions about train times, connections, best routes, facilities in Bradford on Avon, what the weather might be like next year and how to cure the common cold. Okay, maybe not those last two but pretty much everything else.
The pub cats, Cheese and Onion (do you know which is which?) show up to take the heat out of the morning commuter queue and everyone knows that stroking animals is therapeutic – unless it’s a bee or an angry rhinoceros in which case you mustn’t stroke them at all, ever (see my note on honey and injury claim lawyers).
Coffee can be bought from The Coffee Girl, the mobile barista who is normally outside the station in the mornings, and if necessary there is fast access to the river in case I decide to swim to Bath.
Looking west from the station towards Avoncliff, I can just see the two open crossings which form part of our walks and where I usually get attacked by those darn stinging nettles. I wouldn’t stop taking those walks for the world, nettles or not, just as I wouldn’t stop travelling by train, delays or not. Pain and relief in close proximity, that’s how it works. And as I wait for my train I’m reminded that there are worse ways of passing the time. I could stand there all day. Sometimes I have to.
(The Gudgeon features an excellent regular column, Railway Tales, which offers far more knowledge on all things railway-related than I ever could.)