|Camera:||Canon EOS 5D Mark II|
The first problem of the returning [wanderer] is to accept as real, after an experience of the soul-satisfying vision of fulfilment, the passing joys and sorrows, banalities and obscenities of life. Why re-enter such a world? … As dreams that were momentous by night may seem simply silly in the light of day, so the poet … can discover [himself] playing the idiot before jury of sober eyes.
(Joseph Campbell: ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’ I.III.3: The Crossing of the Return Threshold)
Compared to where we have been, the height of luxury. Wide, comfortable seats, matching, muted colours, a TV. Not a scrap of litter.
It is very quiet. Most of the passengers are staring into space. Nobody talks or looks at anyone else.
In best Middle Eastern fashion, Ziggy says hello to everyone who boards our carriage and good-bye to everyone leaving. Almost everyone ignores him.
On the TV, images of faraway places are being played. According to our original plan, we would right now be in Kashmir, on the road from Manali to Leh. I am gripped by a sense of lack and disorientation.
The same day. First Great Western, Paddington to Penzance.
The carriage is full. I am struggling to find space for our luggage whilst trying to keep an exuberant 2-year old under control. No-one offers to help. A man frowns at us across the top of his paper.
On the way to our seat, we pass a boy of about seven and his dad. Ziggy points at him and excitedly shouts ‘baby!’. The boy looks mortified. ‘He’s not a baby’ his dad murmurs, crossly.
We reach our seat. The elderly woman sitting next to us is reading a novel set in the Middle East. Hoping to strike up a conversation, I tell her we have just spent three months in Iran. ‘Oh’ she says politely and falls silent, returning to her book.