Off The Tracks



“connections whose existence had now become entirely notional, mere fictions”

Train connections, that is, in and out of Liverpool Street Station, my own London terminus when I go there, as I shall inevitably do again one day, to check out this story and the nature of termini. In fact, I wonder whether the story’s reference to ‘Thorpe Station’ here is to that of Thorpe Le Soken, a station, with a vast derelict warehouse nearby that has been derelict it seems for many decades, a station that I would pass through on the way to Liverpool Street, and would do so again, if indeed I ever made such a journey again.
Seriously, utterly seriously, this is a gem of a strange story that perhaps even Aickman could not aspire to. Dealing with the no man’s land where the train approaches the Liverpool Street platforms, and where one halts fitfully, seeing, from the train window, storage sheds and oblique signposts and labels in a dreary, often over-skied, tunnel of dusty walls and steppery. Working out what the signs might mean. Overcast and redolent with something I can’t quite define.
And someone who haunts this book allows me to eavesdrop on a traveller talking to another about what he and another saw during those halting last throes of a journey towards Liverpool Street Station, of windows and faces, or a window with one face looking at them. Or something like that.
As a fine coda to this Duffy book (The Night Comes On), I shall never forget being thus ‘Off The Tracks’ and I am determined to make at least one more journey to London from here, my Holihaven, my Holland Haven, on the North Essex coast, just to check it all out.

“It wasn’t random, if you know what I mean: it was clearly a design that would mean something, if you only knew how to work it out.”

The full review of ‘The Night Comes On’:

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