Every writer should travel by public transport - great for ideas and character development

Travelling back to Portsmouth from the Isle of Wight today was an interesting experience to say the least and provided great material for character development, settings and ideas for my crime novels.

Friends dropped us off at Sandown Station in time to catch the small train to Ryde (it's a former red and grey London underground train made up of two carriages). On the station platform were two men, both drinking cans of Fosters Lager and clearly not their first of the day (this was at 1.30pm) one was broad Scottish wearing dark glasses in the rain, the other with an array of tatoos and a vocabularly that only seemed to consist of the F word, uttered very loudly.  With them was a woman of indeterminate age dressed sloppily but cleanly with long scraggy blonde hair with a baby in a pushchair. The baby was a well fed pretty blonde girl and it transpired that the two men were taking the baby to London for the weeked to say with her grandfather. It was clearly worrying that already drunk these two men should be in charge of a baby of about twenty months for such a long journey and on a train from Portsmouth to London that would serve alchohol.

Also on the station was a young man. He arrived riding a tricycle and had difficulty co-ordinating his movements.  He was a pleasant and good looking man in his early twenties and we got talking to him while waiting for the train to arrive, and in an attempt to blot out the F word from the drunks in charge of the baby on our other side. He told us that last year he had suffered a severe stroke, which was why he was like he was.  He had gone to bed one night a perfectly healthy, normal young man and had woken up four weeks later in the neurological unit in Southampton hospital. He was now trying to get his life back together with limited speech and movement on his left side.  He was on his way to Cowes to go sailing with some friends and my husband and I wished him the best of luck.  I wonder what he made of the huge number of young people his age, looking fit and healthy, standing in the rain on the pavements of Ryde when we got there who were on the Island for the Festival.

I hadn't exactly forgotten the Isle of Wight music festival but I hadn't expected the hordes to arrive today when the festival doesn't start until tomorrow, but our young man told us they can start pitching their tents this afternoon.

They were lining the pavement five deep and long queues snaked around the road for the coaches, special buses and taxis to take them to the venue.  They were pouring off the Hovercraft from Souhsea, which when we alighted stank of alcohol and sadly the pavements around them in Ryde were already littered with rubbish: beer and lager cans, crisp and chocolate packets despite the fact there were litter bins but using them was clearly too much to expect.  Long queues were also on Southsea sea front when we arrived there waiting to cross to the Isle of Wight and no doubt the Wightlink ferry and fastcat to the Island were also hectic.  The Islanders seemed to be brazing themselves fairly good-naturedly for the invasion.  I think this might be a very good backdrop for a future Inspector Andy Horton marine mystery crime novel, so I've tucked this away for mulling over later.

Apart from that the little train also contained two youths in their twenties, one with a permanent and very loud sniff; a hunched elderly lady who was going on holiday and a woman travelling to Portsmouth for the weekend who was shaking her head very sadly at the drunks in charge of the baby.  We exchanged looks, a word or two and a silent prayer for the child's future, which will stretch beyond the ninety minute journey to London. 

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