Saturday, 11 August 2012

Inspirational landscape

This past couple of days I have been on my travels, seeing the Olympic women's football final at Wembley with my friend Ollie, then spending a pleasant day back home in West Sussex with my parents.

A short way into the train journey back up to London and thence Norwich this morning, we passed one of my favourite sights - the chapel of Lancing College. I worked it, and my feelings about it, into a section of the novel I am currently submitting to agents and publishers, The Wicket in the Rec. So I thought, as I hadn't so far posted any of my actual writing on the blog to any great degree, I'd post the excerpt in which Lancing College features.

After all, if I'm blogging about writing, I ought to actually show you some of my work rather than just talking about it!

Oh, and I took a few photos too, with mixed results - the below is one of the best. Not bad from a moving train, eh?


Ken Jordan hoped that he still had a while left on this planet. But he was nothing if not a practical man, and so three years ago he had finally set about making a will, to stipulate what should happen to the small amount of independent wealth he had been fortunate enough to accrue.

In this document, there was a bequest to Lancing College. A small bequest, admittedly, but still not one to be sniffed at. The condition of this was that the money should be used to help with the upkeep of the college’s impressive chapel. An outside observer might have thought this strange, as Ken had never studied there, nor was he in any way religious. The school and its chapel meant nothing to him in and of themselves.

But they represented something. An emotional tug at his soul that, in all his years of staying away, had never quite disappeared.

Anyone who travelled on the railway line between Brighton and Littlehampton would know the place. Going west from Shoreham station, the sound of the wheels on the track changing as the train rattles across the bridge over the Adur. Then, once over the river, past the 1930s control tower of the airport... and there it is, rising up like a great Cathedral of the Downs.

Ken could see it. Not in his mind’s eye, not in some childhood memory, but he could see it on this very day, because for the first time in so many years, decades, he was on a train travelling home.

He had landed at Gatwick early that morning, on the only flight available at such short notice. He had taken the train down to Brighton, and was now travelling along to Angmering, where he hoped he would be able to find a bus, or failing that a taxi, that could take him to the village of his birth. The place he had once sworn never again to visit.

He had not been sure what he would feel as he passed Lancing College on the train. Had not known whether the old twinge would still be there. The feeling that once you saw the chapel you were nearly there. ‘Home is this way,’ it always seemed to be saying to him.

He had peered wistfully at it as a train had taken him away to the war and, although he could never have known it, to five long, hard years of imprisonment. And he had stared at it as he came home after the war’s end. Older, wiser, bitter perhaps, but excited by the thought of home all the same. Indeed, that day, he had nearly wept as the chapel had come into view through a misty, dream-like morning.

There were no tears today. But still he felt his heart beat faster to see it there, unchanged, identical to how it had always been. The dirty old slam-door train he was on may have been cold and draughty, with stained seats and miserable-looking travellers. He may have been heading to the funeral of a man he hated, to a village he hadn’t seen for years.

But for the first time in his journey, as the train lumbered past the college, he felt as if he really was going home. He even craned his neck around to keep on looking at the chapel for as long as he could, before it slid out of view, and the train travelled on.

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