from Bristol


If you happen to travel through the streets between Victoria train station and coach station at the right time of night, you will discover a very particular species of people – lets call them The Night Flitters – boarding coaches to Edinburgh, Paris, Warsaw. We don’t talk, not at this time, just yawn and pull heavy bags and because of this never find out where the other is going, aside from the gaggle in your own queue at the coach station.

I can’t help but imagine that people are going home for good – as in, for definite. Coach travel is cheap and you can take as much stuff as you want.

This one: A young woman, not much older than me asks me the way to the coach station (she is walking the wrong way). She’s wearing jeans and a jumper, with a fake fur leopard print coat hanging somehow elegantly off her shoulders, and is pulling two large suitcases with more bags heaped on top. I point her in the right direction and she turns around, so that we are now walking the same way. I don’t offer to help her with her bags, because it’s not that kind of situation, and we both tramp on through the wet newspaper mulch together.

Or this one: A whole family, Bulgarian or Romanian, I think, are sitting on boxes at stance number fifteen. It turns out you can’t take as much as you want on the bus after all (they have a lot of stuff) – the megabus man has just told them, and the mother is furiously digging through her box/seat, pulling out various household items: clocks, a mirror, a framed photograph. She looks at the photo – it is large, about A3 or so and the frame looks heavy. The picture is of a waterfall. She starts to remove the image from its frame but stops half-way and puts the whole lot into the fast-growing ‘discard’ pile by her feet. I like to think she decided she didn’t need it anymore because they were going back there, to the waterfall. I hope they are. London is tough. The kids look knackered, but it is 4.30 in the morning so I guess that’s all right.

Of course, there are others out at this time. The burly workers loading tomorrow’s sandwiches into Pret-a-Manger. Homeless men huddled against the side of the train station. A night shift worker heading home with carrier bags full of shopping from the 24-hour Sainsbury’s that must be somewhere nearby, avoiding the rush.

And likewise, people like me, just going ‘somewhere’ – to visit a friend, catch a plane.

I leave places a lot in highly un-romantic, un-exciting situations, so should know not to overthink the lives and circumstances of those I cross-paths with in these early morning bus-station encounters. But there is always a kind of sad, kind of melancholy, kind of lonely air to these late night leavings, including my own [often incredibly dull] ones – something about the cold and dark, that whilst making things more miserable, also somehow makes them more intriguing than their daytime counterparts.