The Caledonian Sleeper.
I’d arrived early, unpacked what I needed for the night, climbed to the upper bunk and, as the clock ticked by, thought I’d got away with a two-berth cabin to myself, at standard-class price (first-class tickets guarantee the cabin to yourself). I’d taken a chance, knowing that I might be joined in the cabin by a stranger.
Then, five minutes before our scheduled departure, the door opened and a woman, breathing heavily, arrived (shared cabins are gender-segregated, unless you’re making the booking for two).
A Caledonian Sleeper cabin is a small space: cosy, with a friend, and just right by yourself. But with a stressed-out recent arrival, the space became claustrophobic; the walls closed in.
My new companion had had a late-arriving taxi. She was flustered, and kept repeating the details of how she’d nearly missed the train. I resigned myself to a less restful night than I had hoped.
After a few minutes, a sigh of frustration came from the lower bunk.
‘Do you have a nail file?’ she asked me. ‘I haven’t brought one, I really need to file my nails.’
After searching through my toilet bag, I unexpectedly found one, and gave it to her.
She settled to filing. And as she did so, she calmed, and told me about the purpose of her journey, and I related mine. She asked me good questions about my work, and I Iearned about hers.
After a while, we switched off the lights, and the train clanked down to Euston. In the morning, we spoke again, temporary friends, and then set off on our separate ways.