Day 21: Here’s Your Train, Safe Home

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Here’s Your Train, Safe Home is a song about two people almost but not quite kissing in a late night bar, after a long evening of intimate conversation, before returning home to their respective partners. As the song puts it, ‘if we both keep our heads maybe we can sleep soundly’, but they are, clearly, fooling themselves that they have nothing to feel guilty about or that either of them are going to get any sleep. The whole tone – romantic, wistful, with some lovely strings by Pete Harvey coming in towards the end – suggests that a line has already been crossed, emotionally if not physically.

If I had more time on my hands I’d compile a top 20 of pop culture moments where a blossoming romance is abruptly cut short by a train leaving. My favourite is probably the ending of Before Sunrise, where shots of Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy going their separate ways, each on a different train, are poignantly intercut with footage of the streets on which they spent the previous evening falling for each other; the sun has now come up and the streets have lost their magic. I’d also want to include the scene in ER where Doctor Greene finally realises what a mistake he’s made by not telling Doctor Lewis that he loves her, and rushes to the Union Station in a fruitless attempt to stop her catching a train to a new life elsewhere. ‘I do love you. BYE!’ she shouts apologetically out of the window. Both of these scenes made me cry. Number one, though, would obviously have to be Brief Encounter – an iconic train leaving = heartbreak moment that has probably inspired countless train leaving = heartbreak moments ever since.

Here’s Your Train, Safe Home wouldn’t make it into that top 20, but it’s one of my favourite Swimmer One songs, partly because it felt like a very equal collaboration – Hamish wrote the first part, I added the second part (from where the piano comes in) and a rough version of the string arrangement, which was then fleshed out by Pete. It’s a nice, unexpected moment when the song shifts from the first section to the second. We only played this song live twice – at a Seafieldroad album launch with live strings by Pete, and later at a Whatever Gets You Through The Night show with Laura and Hamish both on guitar. I have happy memories of both shows, which is a big deal for someone who usually gets chronic stage fright.

The DJ who has most consistently supported my music is Gideon Coe. Here’s Your Train, Safe Home by Swimmer One was, I think, the first of my songs that he played on his BBC 6 Music show. I remember feeling a bit perplexed at the time – it was the last song from Dead Orchestras that I expected to get radio play, being so quiet and slow. I’ve since come to the conclusion that Gideon probably has better taste than me.

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