Colin Harvey — Spindizzy

Here is Richard Henchard, waiting for his train, beneath a bruised winter sky made darker by the Polar Sunshade to the North. He shivers in the chill easterly wind, and wonders whether anyone believes that the Sunshade’s effect on more southerly latitudes is minimal. Not that his belief or disbelief matters a damn to the Indian and Chinese Governments that built it. At least the power from it makes the trains run on time again.

But this morning, astonishingly, the seven oh five bullet from Exonbury St Crispins to Casterbridge is four minutes late, and Henchard pops his eyepiece in and calls Sue to share the news. “Someone will lose their job for letting the timetables drift,” he says with gloomy satisfaction.

“But what about you?” Sue looks as if she may burst into tears, and Henchard regrets calling her now. She has enough to worry about looking after her mother and the dementia that’s made the older woman a stranger to them both.

“The Melchester train doesn’t leave Casterbridge until eight-ten,” he says. “That’s fifteen minutes after this train gets in. So it can be ten minutes late and I’ll still make it.”

“I’ll worry about it when the time comes,” he says, more cheerfully than he feels, but the last thing he needs is Sue working herself into a state. But if his train does lose any more time then he will be late: it will provoke the dreaded written warning and Henchard will enter the last chance saloon.

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