The train now standing at platform @*&$* is the 18.30 to London St Pancras…. What did she say?It’s 6.25 and I’m going to miss it! Which platform?
Ever been there? Last Saturday I was on the Underground trying to get from London City airport in Docklands in far SE London to Wembley Park in the NW of the metropolis. My companion had never been on the tube before(!!) so I was the responsible adult. However, the oft repeated announcements telling us the line was closed for repairs didn’t help my planning at all because it was so noisy/mumbled we couldn’t hear which line the announcer meant! Having missed a couple of trains that would have been good to catch, taking a chance and altering the route, after 4 changes, a whole lot of walking and an hour later… we got to our destination. Additionally somewhere en route we also had a ‘which platform?’ problem – “we should run up these stairs and cross over, now go down again… but there are 4 or 6 identical openings to choose from!?!”– and the choice is not best made with a mounting sense of panic. My friend said it was a good thing I am alert to the signs, but even then I walked right past the correct platform twice!
I hate having to rush to catch a train, especially when it’s the one you have to catch to use your pre-paid advance ticket. I still vividly remember one occasion some years ago after a day out to visit a friend in the capital: the stomach churning and utter breathlessness, the soreness in my throat and feeling sick after running – yes running, inelegantly in my coat and boots, handbag flapping, as fast as I could! – along the long London platform, yet just not making it before the whistle went… then the sorry trail back to pay again for a ticket on the next train, sweating and aching from the unaccustomed exercise, my happy day in tatters. I thought I had planned it all so well – but my timing was out!
In another memorable incident I was running late for a train in Loughborough that I just HAD to catch: I wrote a post on my other blog, Longing to Escape, about it. If you want more excitement, empathy, thrills and (nearly) spills, you can read that here: A close run thing! Ah, that will-I-won’t-I feeling is so awful – I really do hate it, as I am sure you do too; no wonder we like the autonomy of the car! These days I try to leave so long for a leisurely walk to the station that I am often there in time for the train scheduled to leave before mine!
Today another friend made a comment to me about ‘which platform?’ It got me thinking along these lines – ha ha, good pun there; it wasn’t actually about trains – but it was about timing. She was referring to that other sort of platform – the one on which you stand to speak to a crowd. I’d told her I had stopped sending out large round robin prayer emails with our family news about Sam: I am tired of that, I think the recipients may be tired of it – I feel vulnerable, there is not a lot new to say, no-one replies. Instead I am looking for the individual connections with friends that are two-way and personal, normal and natural – not trying to hold onto large numbers of old acquaintances, but building a solid base of those journeying in the same company on my current road.
I also said I have been struggling to blog as regularly as I used to – though I think it’s still good for me, creative and valuable, I’m less sure that I should share in the same detail I used to about the peculiar way my mind works or how I hear God or family events. All those old posts where I turned my heart inside out are still valid, but maybe there is a time and a place, maybe there is a season for a certain platform and then, like at the theatre, a season where the house is closed. Ah – of course Front of House was about that! You’d be amazed how quickly I forget what I have blogged about! This flow of writing is designed to help me pay attention to my journey, but even going into detail it all moves so fast I can easily forget and lose track myself. But I suppose that’s seasons for you – you turn the corner and there is a new view; last week was summer, but now its definitely autumn out there! The most important thing is to discern, dress, behave, adjust to what the new season is… I wrote about that before too: Embracing the Season!
So yes, maybe the platform has changed. Maybe one friend, like Kate today, is the more appropriate audience for the ins and outs, the high and low points of my personal journey now. Maybe I have other things to write about – that was why I started Longing to Escape after all, to broaden out into the public domain, try my hand at a more inclusive style. It has stalled somewhat… and of course there’s also the ostensible book waiting to be tackled. There are undoubtedly different platforms, so which platform am I meant to be catching the train from today, Lord? I want to write – I’m trying to write most days this month – but its what you write that matters, and who reads it, so the platform has to be matched with the destination/audience.
Maybe Saturday was a bit of a sign for me to read. It was the much heralded 2012 National Day of Prayer at Wembley stadium. Thanks to my past activities working with various church/prayer leaders, I had a ticket to the leaders’ reception and accompanying seat in the section opposite the stage reserved for various guests and VIPs. I don’t claim to be leading anything at all like that now, but at least it was a good opportunity to see some old friends and even to mark the end of a season of prayer well, somehow handing on a baton. I also had an ordinary ticket reserved in the crowd, purchased before the invitation had come and I’d promised to go and sit with the kind friends who’d included me in their anonymous group, so I made the decision to visit the leaders’ lunch and then leave so I could honour my prior commitment: I was leaving the leadership mantle behind anyway, so it seemed good to physically exit that scenario and join the crowd in the stadium as an anonymous pundit! It would signify a new beginning.
I left the reception and the guard at the gate warned me there was no way back in with the same ticket – it would only be read by the scanner once. No regrets, I walked away… to find my friends with my ordinary ticket: I felt free – grateful and released.
Imagine my surprise when meeting my friends I was told it hadn;t worked out that I could sit with them and I was handed a second ticket… back into the leaders’ venue! It felt like some kind of recommissioning: I re-entered the turnstiles in a kind of wonder and returned to my lunch table and then out to the seating area – now holding 2 seat reservations! The nearest one was right at the back of the block and I found some more old colleagues to sit with up there and a good view. It was a very long way from the stage and I was lost among the crowd, but watching from a distance – armed with my camera – I was certainly happy honouring those taking the responsibility I could never take as I gladly joined in the colourful ‘Mexican wave offering’ and shouted as loudly as I could. It was a moving day – especially as there were so many references to the things I have prayed for over the years, a kind of wink from heaven, as if I’d done something towards this massive event in the prayer journey of our nation. But I had no more responsibility for that: now I could sit at the back as an onlooker and one of the people, adding my voice to the many, not needing to be known by name by all present.
In the final twist, perhaps the sweetest thing of all, I ended up sitting in yet another seat – as if I am some kind of moveable feast – one that was not being used by it’s occupant because he was on the platform! Still clutching my 2 passports to VIP seating I took the chair next to the wife of one of the speakers – a man I have been shadowing for years! It was as if God wanted to encourage me: I am positioned right where He wants me, hidden, safe and flexible, still part of things, with a choice of views, companions and settings.
Sounds like a platform I can stand and wait on. I wonder where the train is going?!