Lighthouse Letters
By Sharma Krauskopf

This is an article by Sharma Krauskopf from Michigan who fell in love with Scotland - and decided to buy a lighthouse keepers' cottage at Eshaness, a remote location in Shetland, in the far north of Scotland and live there each winter. These pages were previously part of the "Scottish Radiance e-magazine Web site which was created by Sharma.

The Trip of the Two Ladies

I could hear my footsteps click on the cobble stones of this Salisbury’s street as I walked through a town still asleep to the train station. The sun had risen but it was misty and gray. The puddles around me suggested it had rained last night. I smiled to myself thinking how fortunate I had been to have had last night’s lovely evening without the rain. Traveling alone has its advantages. Eating my evening meal immediately after I had arrived on the bus from Stonehenge, had given me time to explore the Cathedral and other parts of this beautiful community. The cathedral was magnificent. For me the most important segment of the evening was my stroll along the river feeding the ducks bits of a dried scone. Just the ducks and I to listen to the exquisite sound of the bells echoing around the buildings on an otherwise quiet Sunday night. (Graphic of Salisbury Station in the rain by basher Eyre, via Wikimedia)

I expected to see many people waiting on the platform for the train being a Monday morning. Surprisingly I was one of only two people who were waiting on the North bound train (graphic by John Firth, via Wikimedia).

The other person was a small older lady dressed in worn but spotless clothes. Being a little nervous whether I was on the right side of the platform I asked her, "Is this the train to Scotland?"

"Yes, deary, you are in the right place. It should be along in another ten minutes. You do know you will have to change trains again at Manchester to go farther North?" She answered.

"The man who sold me my ticket last night told me but I am an American and this is my first time using trains in Britain so I just wanted to check."

"Never you fear, you stay with me and I will make sure you get into the right place." She answered as she took over the management of my trip.

We waited another six minutes and the train arrived a few minutes early. My new tour guide grabbed my hand and led me onto the train. "Is non smoking all right?" she asked.

"Yes, that would be fine."

"Good! Here is a lovely table. I will sit on this side and ride backwards so you can see more." She offered.

I began to protest but she would have none of it so I settled in for the ride. She told me her name was Julia and she was on her way to visit her ailing sister in Manchester. In fact, by the time the conductor arrived she told me her entire family history. I felt like I was a wee duckling being organizing by the Mother duck I had seen last night. When the conductor arrived he took my ticket and looked at me rather strangely. "You have a first class ticket and this is a second class car. Would you like to move up to the first class section?" (Graphic of door to First Class compartment via Wikimedia).

Before I could answer, my tour guide answered for me. "She is a little nervous so I am going to help her make this trip to Manchester." The conductor shrugged and punched my ticket and moved on.

To be perfectly honest I was not that nervous and would have preferred my first class seat but it looked like the dear lady would be offended if I changed now. So I settled in for the ride. Julia never stopped talking either about the scenery flashing by our window or her family. There never was a friendlier person nor more helpful. She offered me part of her lunch. I declined saying I would buy something from the cart when it came through.

"No, No, I have plenty." She gave me an orange, a cup of tea from her thermos, and a slice of cheese.

I was reluctant to take her food since her appearance gave the impression she had very little resources to share. She was such a obliging lady and so helpful, I could not say nay.

Julia announced we would soon be getting to Manchester and she would stay with me until I got on the train to Glasgow. I tried to convince her I could make the train change without help but she insisted that is was no bother and she could catch a bus every ten minutes to her sister’s. (Graphic of Manchester Piccadilly Station via Wikipedia).

Julia conducted me to the right train platform for Glasgow. She waited with me until the arrival of the Glasgow train. Feeling I owed her I offered to pay her five pounds for all her trouble. She just cackled said it had been her pleasure. She stood on the platform until I was safely on the train to Glasgow in the first class section. In fact after I was settled, I looked out the window and she was still standing there watching for me. I waved and she waved back as she turned and headed for the buses.

What a wonderful lady I thought as I got my book out to read for the rest of the trip. I had not read a word since I left Salisbury because Julia had been so friendly. I had started to read when a beautiful lady with long red hair asked me "Is this seat taken?"

"No, I am alone."

She motioned to the porter to put her bags in the compartment as she took the seat in the corner.

"I wonder if she is going to be like Julia," I thought. My fears were soon laid to rest as she took an audiocassette tape recorder and a book from her purse. Immediately putting on the head phones, it became obvious she was listening to music on the tape recorder and reading the words in the book. She silently moved her mouth as if she was saying the words. Before I settled into reading my novel, I studied her for a few minutes. It was obvious from her dress she was well off and by any standard truly beautiful. I wished she was a little like Julia and would tell me her life story. It was not to be as she continued to listen to her music and read her book. The only time she stopped was when the cart came by and she got a cup of tea. Then she looked out the window for a short while as she enjoyed her beverage.

I must have dozed off for a few minutes because when I awoke the scenery had changed. The hills were getting higher and we must be nearing Scotland. I wanted to ask my beautiful companion but she was so involved with her music I was afraid to interrupt. I just gazed out the window and watched the scenes change. She finally took off her headphones and put her book away.

Being brave, I asked her. "Are you a singer?" Being so beautiful and so much involved with her music I had come to the conclusion she was a performer.

"Yes, I have come to Glasgow to perform with the opera." She answered with a warm smile. "I take the train so I can have time to learn the lines. I really appreciate your not bothering me so I would have time to do that. Often people on trains recognize me or want to make conversation just to make the time go by." She answered

"Glasgow" the announcement blared over the loud speaker.

I smiled at her and thought about Julia. Yes, I guess she was lucky to have me in the compartment and not Julia. I said nothing more to her as I gathered my things. She went to get a porter for her luggage and I thought that would be the last I would see of her.

To my surprise I saw her two more times. Once on a poster in the train station where I went to check on my hotel reservation. She was in fact the star of the upcoming opera. Wow! I was riding with a celebrity. My final glimpse of her was as she got into a limo near where I got into the queue for the taxis.

I look back on that journey as my "Trip of the two ladies." Each very different but both making it this train ride one I will always remember.

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Where else would you like to go in Scotland?

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