On a train. Taunton to Bristol. First stage of a journey to London with a break in between in Bristol. Laptop open, searching for an opening para for an article that is already late, interviews done, theme agreed with inner manager, but searching for an opening para. Blank page in front of me, pristine white, waiting for the footprints of the muse that bite the hand that feeds it. What’re you writing mate, Scouse voice, opposite chair, big fella, bald, open face, his mate on the other hand, eyes half closed, fighter’s face, seemingly on the edge of sleep. Writing, I say, my job, trying to get it started, I tell him the theme. Why don’t you just start it with did you know or not many people know this. I smile, not really that sort of piece, need inspiration, given that I’m writing about beer, which is what I do as well as write on travel. You permanently on the lash then, innocent query, no malice. Not really, do a lot of travel, drink beer, but spend most of my time at a desk with a laptop. He speaks. You know what my favourite beer is? Hobgoblin. I love it, can drink loads of it. Went there once, to the brewery, I say, in Witney Oxfordshire, then owner took us out to taste the beer in a pub and it was off. Not really my sort of beer I say, but I don’t want to say that I feel Hobgoblin is a collaboration between the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz and a caramel-flavoured gush of insignificance. Why should I? He loves the beer, I don’t but we’re talking about beer, striking up a conversation about pubs and beers and then briefly and bizarrely Bicester’s shopping outlet, which I visited once and bought a reduced price copy of a book on stouts. Do you read he says, have you read Chicken Soup for the Soul? Best book ever. I say no but have heard of it. Not really my kind of book I want to say. Oh I must go as Bristol is here and so I shake their hands, wish them a safe journey back to Liverpool and leave the carriage with no opening para but instead having experienced a shining and gleaming 30 minutes of conversation that I usually get in the pub. Railway carriages are the new pub?