The Lancaster canal - which we sailed down last week - is a few miles from Morecambe where my Gran lived. And a few miles further north, near Hest Bank, you get a view from the canal of Morecambe Bay and the Lake District hills beyond.
My Gran used to take us train-spotting at Hest Bank. She was disabled but had a hand-controlled car and she would park on a sloping lane that ran beside the west coast railway line from England to Scotland. She would sit in the car and knit, and Jen and I would climb through the fence and sit on the grass above the line, with our egg sandwiches and our proper trainspotters’ notebooks containing all the engine numbers, ready to tick them off. Gran always looked up when a train came so she could be a third pair of eyes in case we missed a number. I loved those trips. She was a fabulous Gran.
Dave and I walked down from the canal to search for the place. It is 55 years since I was there but I knew we were on the same lane. Now the express trains travel at 125 mph and there is a huge metal fence to stop you getting near the track.
We missed the express, but managed to see a slower train.
We walked back up Pasture Lane in hot sunshine and got back to the barge in time for Dave’s five o’clock fix of news headlines on the radio. Hundreds of refugees had drowned in the Mediterranean. I was overwhelmed by sadness.
When I went train-spotting with Gran in the summer holidays, I had no idea that the world was such a terrible place where millions of people lived impossible lives, and died in dreadful circumstances, and there would be nothing I could do to make it better. Sometimes I wish I was back in that time.
This month a photo of a Syrian girl went viral. She had her hands in the air because she thought the photographer’s camera was a gun. She was four. How must she see the world?