About Me

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Initiation into the magical art of train travel

T for Tuesday is asking for posts with some link to a drink..on the journey below, my Great Aunt Eliza and I drank coffee from a flask. If I close my eyes, I can still smell the coffee and see her pour it from the silver neck of the flask into beige cups. It all felt rather grown up. I learned the art of travelling by train from this aunt. It's been forty four years since she passed away but her influence on me has been indelible.

Manchester Piccadilly was the biggest and most magnificent railway station I had seen. Its fabulous Victorian iron-girdered ceiling - still blackened from the smoke of steam locomotives - and its long platforms transported me to the same place as the opening pages of a new book: it promised good things to come. Stepping on the long train, holding on to my small suitcase with one hand and my aunt with the other, I knew this was a special journey.

Taking small sips of strong coffee, I gazed through the windows as the train moved through the endless green countryside dotted with churches, cottages and farms, through the suburbs of little boxes and small factories and onwards into the city. On that journey, I saw something I have never seen since: as we entered the suburbs of London, hanging from every balcony of every tenement, were rows and rows of washing. When I repeated the journey a year later, a significant change had occured. There was far less washing. As the 60's gave way to the 70's it seemed to me that the population's washing habits underwent a revolution. Washing lines didn't disappear entirely but the sheer volume of wet shirts, skirts and knickers decorating the edges of the West Coast Line was severely reduce. And on the many journeys from the North to London I have made since then, never again have I seen so much washing decorating the line.

We reached Euston and, in order to reach our destination in Surrey, Aunt Eliza marched us  down the short escalator into the tube station. We purchased our ticket at the wooden window and took a much longer ride down to the platforms.

I stood on the platform full of wonder and half afraid. When the train clattered into the station, I was scared the force of it might drag me on to the live rail, which Aunt Eliza had sternly explained would kill me should I fall upon it.

Inside the train, I was transfixed by the map of the Northern Line on the opposite wall above the heads of the passengers. We passed beneath Tottenham Court Road, Leicester Square and Charing Cross and then moved out to Elephant and Castle, Kennington, Oval, Stockwell and North Clapham. At some point we came up from the tunnels and into daylight as I checked each station off against the thick brownish-black line opposite: Balham, Tooting Bec, Tooting Broadway, Colliers Wood, South Wimbledon and finally Morden.

After such a wonderful ride through unknown places, Morden was a dreadful anti-climax; to a child who'd grown up in the heartland of the industrial North, South London surburbia seemed incredibly dull. All it had to recommend it was the eerie white light of the street lamps, which illuminated the long avenue where another Aunt, Aunt Rachel, who we had travelled all these miles to visit, lived.

The journey stands out in my mind perhaps because this was where I first discovered the incantational power of place names and first experienced the strange and almost obsessional pull the capital city had on my imagination. It also made me aware of the magical art of train travel and its superiority to any other form of transport.

13 comments:

kathyinozarks said...

Good morning, I enjoyed reading about your memory, Happy T Day Kathy

Linda Kunsman said...

what wonderful memories. And your writing is so visual. I could just picture it all in my mind. Happy T day!

Divers and Sundry said...

Memories are strong! Photos help, but we don't need a picture to bring back memories like this. Happy T Tuesday

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

What a vivid visual you presented us with. Your colorful words described such a fun time on a train drinking/sipping coffee. Thanks for sharing this journey with us for T this Tuesday.

Valerie-Jael said...

The station in Manchester is indeed very impressive, glad you appreciated it. Happy T Day, Happy T Day. hugs, Valeriealerie

Let's Art Journal said...

Wonderful memories, thanks for sharing 😁. Wishing you a Happy T Day! J 😊

Meggymay said...

A wonderful post to read, and thank you for sharing your memories.
Happy T day wishes.
Yvonne

jinxxxygirl said...

Hello Bailey,

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your T day post! Memories are slippery little suckers aren't they? What a wonderful memory your have here and so eloquently told. I have been on a train once in my life.. in Germany as we traveled to Mainau Island through the Black Forest... I was in my early 20's and spending the first three years of my marriage in Europe.. I enjoyed the thought of your coffee coming out of a silver flask and the look and feel of the train station.... I hope you are having a wonderful T day! Hugs! deb

Kate said...

Such a beautiful memory with your Aunt Rachel. I enjoyed your description of all the wash hanging outside the houses, the beauty of Manchester Picadilly Station and your Aunts blunt way of telling you if you fall on the rails it would be fatal.
Drinking coffee from a flask seems very unconventional for a small child, at least in the world I was brought up in. Whenever I asked my Dad if I could drink coffee he always told me, "Coffee will stunt your growth." I was always afraid to try it as a child for fear that I would be small all my life!
I loved reading you story! Thank you for sharing.
Happy Tea Day,
Kate

Dianne said...

A charming remebrance! Thanks for sharing it with us for T day!

My name is Erika. said...

I really enjoyed your story Bailey. You and your aunt must of had a special bond. Makes me miss my aunt too. Nice to meet you and happy T day. Hugs-Erika

Eileen The Artful Crafter said...

What wonderful memories, Bailey. You paint pictures with words quite beautifully.

Happy T-day! Hugs, Eileen

pearshapedcrafting said...

What a great story of your journey! Slightly different these days! Belated Happy T Day Chrisx