Last Sunday afternoon, late. The train is crowded. Luggage everywhere and no seat to be had when I get on at Bristol after a few days at my cousin's place. Not my favourite part of the journey, this, but fortunately it doesn't last long. Twenty minutes at most, then a change. I share the stretch of grimy corridor with a father and two sons. The father, late thirties, jeans, sweatshirt with a logo. The boys maybe ten and eight. The father asks if they are in the way, offers to help me with my suitcase. A Welsh accent. He seems kind.
The two boys chatter, looking out the window, pointing at trains, carriages, signs. Look over there, Dad. Is that the same train we saw at Swansea? It would have to be a very long train if it's the same one, says their father. Laughter. Oh Dad.
The older boy starts to talk to me, unprompted. Quick, darting speech. I notice the bulky dental braces.
"We're going to Maesteg". The Valleys. "We've been to see our cousins in Durham". That's a long way, I say, I did the journey myself a few months ago.
"I know. We've been travelling all day". He turns back towards his brother and the window.
Rail travel may be a novelty for both boys. There is something old fashioned about their excitment and keen interest in everything on the other side of the glass, with nary a computer game or ipod to be seen. I watch them with mixed emotions - happy, wistful, sad, who knows - their lack of cool is very endearing. As is their confidence in each other's company. Their security in being part of a unit.
Newport. The father offers to open the carriage door. People start to board, pushing. Almost dark. Goodbye, I call as I get out. A faint reply is just audible over the blaring cacophony of the station loudspeaker.