Delft to Groningen by Train

8:14 Saturday morning. Train from Delft. Reading 'White Noise' by Don DeLillo. Page 2. Sky a sort of after-the-rain, hopeful grey. 15 minutes later, Rotterdam. Train to Utrecht is late leaving. While we wait official looking people walk down the platform with walkie-talkies. The 8:37 train leaves at 8:43. Dutch people, noisy conversation. At times it seems the train is babbling. Cows and Sheep dotted in flat fields. A man gets on that looks like Pascal Sheeran. Women are hard looking. A guy from the group in the next seat only has a ticket from yesterday and has to pay the guard fl.26. I ask the guard where to change to go to Groningen. He tells me something I don't understand. Apart from 'doorlopen' which means walk through. In Utrecht another train joins ours.

Delft Station

I have to be on the other train. 'Doorlopen', I remember. The 9:22 train leaves at 9:25. Out past the Hogeschool van Utrecht. Happier cows in designer countryside. Spotting rain and a quieter train. Bolthoven. What is the difference between hoven and haven? The countryside begins to look wilder; tree-ier. We arrive somewhere that looks very like Utrecht. It is Amersfoort. 9:42. I feel excited as the train eases into motion. Sky becoming more hopeful, a whiter shade of grey. This train is a white man's train. We speed past three guys gazing into the open bonnet of a large white van. We pass a whole field of black sheep. Putten, Ermelo. Vandalism on a bridge says: 'kill bitch'. Seconds later a field of smartly kitted out children playing football, crowding around the ball. I remember football at primary school. Purple-pink heather appears by the side of the railway. Two black guys sit down next to me. One seems camp. Wezep. There always seems to be about 15 cows in a field, is there a reason for this? As I think about a reason we go past a field with at least 50 cows in. So much for reasoning. In Zwolle the train splits. The front four carriages go to Groningen, the rear four to Leeuwarden. Thank heaven for 'doorlopen'. An elegant marriage between Utrecht and Zwolle; a meeting and a parting. A group of middle-age women get on, explaining to each other the organisational principles of the train; flapping. They sit all around me like hens. One says to me 'het is een soort overval voor U'. I laugh. The black guys explain to the middle-age white women how the train splits. Unlikely partners in conversation I think, hating my own prejuidice. The sky seems to take up more space here, pressing down on the buildings. A bull among four cows arches his head upwards; is it defiance or pleasure?

Do she and I still talk? Stories about the past; people, friends, lovers? Will this country ever look raggedy? A fallen pylon in a field. I suddenly notice how the landscape contains a huge amount of pylons. Hoogeven. An electrical crossroads. A horse arches it's head upwards, it's neck curving; neighing, happy? Assen. 10:58. A hard looking place. Train leaves at 11:03, next stop Groningen in 15 minutes. Appearing on the horizon in sudden, soft sunlight and blue sky is Groningen, a golden hue to its buildings. Page 37 of 'White Noise'. Groningen. 11:17. A kind of arriving.



October 2000