y o o t

990312.1141 st erth railway station , cornwall

sitting here on platform 2 waiting for the plymouth train . a bright fresh morning . my only companions on the platform are six young hooligans , sitting on the backs of the benches , passing a fag between them , spitting on the tracks .

when i made towards the benches one of them challenged me < no yi caan’t join us > in a strong scouse accent . the others cackled and looked on expectantly . i continued without breaking step and replied to the one who had spoken < yeah , i’m gutted about that > . dropped my rucksacks and sat down . pulled out my psion and started to write .

the boys slid from their perches and swarmed about me . < whassat ? > < he’s got a computer > < how much did that cost you ? > < i had one of those but it gor nicked > < that’s a pee ess eye owe enn innit ? > . i chatted with them while we waited for the train . the liverpudlian kid , clearly the leader of this little fellowship , was a bright chap . he claimed to be a hacker , having learned it from his father , and it’s possible he was telling the truth . i suggested that coming to cornwall from liverpool must be quite a change . he said it certainly was , that the quiet was unnatural and hard to bear . < yi can only hear the pigs and animals , it drives me nots > .

it turned out they’d all walked from penzance that morning , a good eight miles i’d say . they were trying to get back to truro , another ten or more miles hence , and intended to hide in the train heads . they claimed that one of their number had lost the tickets bought tickets the day before .

so the train arrived , a local two-carriage diesel heading up to cardiff . they slunk into the loo and locked the door . the provision of wheelchair-friendly facilities means that that six average prepubescents can comfortably be accommodated .

the guard caught them just after the train left redruth , the last stop before truro . they got away with a stern reprimand , their journey accomplished . at truro station they barged through the tutting and eye-rolling passengers , sprinting victoriously down the platform and off into the world .

what will become of them i wonder ? they are sufficiently bright and tough to defy the state education system if they choose . and they probably will . they will be able to get unskilled jobs in the service sector or as seasonal labourers . but employers are able to get away with paying insulting wages here and some people see more dignity in the dole or chancing it in one of the various illegal professions .

i wished them luck , and wished there was more i could do .  i flew over from st mary’s in the helicopter yesterday afternoon . the islands were sunk in a thick fog . john peacock made a special journey from agnes for me , cutting through the still dark water with rocks and islands appearing and disappearing around us . the flight was a strange , disembodied journey . just the vibration of the rotor and the suffocating featureless white outside the windows .

there is a feeling of preparation , of awakening , in hughtown . on every street one sees people up ladders , cleaning windows , polishing brasswork , painting woodwork . easter brings the first surge of visitors and their cheque-books . often the weather is idyllic , with clear skies , bright sun and still a sense of freshness in the air . but nothing can be taken for granted .

as soon as i landed at penzance my phone bleeped to announce a text message from ross in sydney , sent a few hours earlier . he was setting off for work round about the time i was turning in after a chilled evening with anna adam adam nikki and their friends in hayle . today we sent messages back and forth all morning , until ross went to bed about an hour ago ( it’s now .1336 and we’re crossing brunel’s superb tamar bridge ) . i’m cut off from this uniquely immediate mode of communication in the islands and it’s always a rush to have it restored .

my new nikon tranny scanner arrived at the farm yesterday , carried up from the post office by johann , just as i was walking out . that made it even harder to leave .

: cH

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