A train of stories and people run around and around in my mind. Some snippet of an overheard conversation, a line from a news report, an off-the-cuff remark, causes another carriage to be added to the train; a carriage that is itself filled with ideas and stories.
Only the other evening, I was watching “The Silk Road”, a documentary about trading routes in China on BBC. One scene featured the presenter viewing Emperor Qin’s Terracotta Army, which caused me to imagine this impressive array of funerary statues suddenly coming to life a la “Jason and the Argonauts”, and Hey Presto! another carriage was added to my train.
I guess this train has always been in my mind. I can certainly never recall a time when it wasn’t there. I do, however, remember the first time I tried to stop it.
I was ten-years-old and was sitting in class, listening to Mr. Samson talk about short stories, and how he wanted us to use our imagination to write a story that was either scary or funny. Across from our school was the local parish church, and as I gazed out of the classroom window, I saw the church gate swing open and then shut in the wind. As the carriage was being hitched onto my train, I made up a story about me discovering that the church was haunted, but how something went wrong before I could tell anyone, and I found myself trapped, only to realise that it was all a dream. At the end of the class, I handed in my story along with everyone else, and thought no more about it. That is, until I got home. I went to my room, put on my a-ha album and flopped down on my bed. Suddenly, the song “Train of Thought” came through my stereo, and it was then that I realised that my own train had stopped, and that the carriage containing the image of the swinging church gate had been uncoupled.
The very next day, I happened to ask my Mum about the loft hatch above the landing. I remarked that I had never seen it open. She replied, “No, neither have we. I don’t even know why we have it. No one’s ever been up there. There could be anything up there for all we know” And there it was! The carriage had been replaced.
This is why I write. I write not for fame or fortune (although if fortune happens to be on its way, I won’t refuse!) or even for the knowledge that someone, somewhere, may read what I’ve written. I write because it is only through writing that I can stop the train, and perhaps, uncouple a few carriages.