An English In Kentucky


















Wednesday April 2nd  2014  Tim Candler


     In 1960 something, there were moments on a train ride from Marylebone railway station, north toward Princess Risborough, when a mind, if it had a window seat, could look out the window, play around with a couple of  theories about why it was the English Speaking Peoples chose to leave their land in ships. If you were almost twelve years old, and if you happen to still have one of Switherington-Smyth's pound notes in your pocket, you could begin to understand the onerous responsibility of venture capital, and how hard it all might well have been to explain to the English Kings and Queens who had stopped leading armies themselves in favor of things like ballroom dancing, how necessary it was to let loose the military wing.  And there'd probably been smoke filled rooms and much drinking of port when some one came up with the idea of a predisposition, or some kind of god given duty  to preserve the English Speaking Peoples'  inheritance by attempting to conquer the world,  rather than suggest the winter weather around god's gift to English Kings was reason enough to set the English Speaking Ancestors to scrambling around the planet. Then there's a shaft of sunlight through the clouds, and from the train you can see the back yards of row after row of smoky looking houses which sparkle when a sunray hits them. And there might be someone doing a little weeding, or digging his vegetable garden, or riding his bicycle, or walking along the top of a wall. There's a dry breeze which makes clothes flap about on the washing lines, and you catch a glimpse of a couple of daffodils blooming, there's a dog or two running around, and you see a cat on the roof of what might have once been an old air-raid shelter.  Exciting too, when the train line leaves the more city like landscape and enters a gravel pit area where you can see a good number of Ducks, a Heron and maybe a Coot, and you can see yourself walking along the paths around the gravel pits, maybe tossing a little bit of bread in the direction of what might have been a Cormorant, who's way out bobbing around near a sail boat. And you find yourself thinking it might be fun to do a little sailing on one of the gravel lakes. So you relax a little into your imagination and the sailing boat becomes a bloody great three-decker, and before you know it, you're saying, "aye, aye capt'n." And you find yourself in the Crimea with the Charge of the Light Brigade, and you're thinking that Lord Raglan has kind of skinny legs, and you're wielding a cricket bat instead of a cutlass. Then, as luck would have it, you come to a railway station called Denham Golf Club, and here the newspaper wielding crowd begin to detrain, and you say to yourself something like "to hell with it, I'm going to buy ice cream with Switherington-Smyth's pound note, maybe some liquorice and certainly a jar of Marmite."

     But this fall into your exile has only just begun. Next stop, there's another rush for the doors, and you look at the jolly good chins, and you hear the odd familiar whiff of conversation that's sort of back of the mouth and through the nose, and it's on the subject of hooligans, Vandals and possibly Goths, maybe a Hun,  but there's National Service in there and a wide range of opinions with respect to forms of punishment, some of which involved throwing away keys. Then, you yourself detrain, and as you do so you're possessed by a cruel understanding of your own future. Which is very far from pleasant, and which contains considerably less meaning than might be gained from watching pond life for thirty or forty years, then coming up with something like, 'the infinitude of the private man.'  On the platform, you look up, you stare northwards and a thousand yards up the railway cutting, you say hello to the footbridge that crosses the railway line as you had promised to do when last you had seen it.  And you notice that someone has done a little lettering with black paint on the side of the footbridge. But, something tells you, best not to stare at it too long, best to be on your way. It's a little nagging voice, and there's a whole bunch of  "Rum Business" characters all around you, just looking for an excuse to throw away keys, or reintroduce the stocks and the iron maiden. And too, you might be running a little late, because you got confused and had taken the Bakerloo Line to Elephant and Castle instead of to Marylebone, and you'd found yourself on the Northern Line instead of the Bakerloo northbound line, and you'd got off at Camden Town for a reappraisal of purpose, seek out daylight, find a bit of fresh air, and you might still have been in recovery from the disorientation of Camden Town. So there's any number of reasons to buckle under, get along about your own business, take yourself and your canvass carrying bag home.  But you've got a sort of memory of a fellow tribesman blubbering in the window seat of a railway carriage, and you kind of understand why Chaka Zulu preferred the iklwa stabbing spear over the long assegai throwing spear. So you wander northward along the platform to share a moment with an invisible hand, maybe even get a closer look at what it might have written on the foot bridge. At the north end of the northbound platform, you spot the older gentleman, who when he was about your age carried buckets of milk to the Navvies who built the railways. And you don't think he'll recognize you, but he does. Which is kind of a pleasant, warm feeling.  He looks up at what the invisible hand had written on the side of the footbridge and he says something like, "He makes a good point, doesn't he?" Which is a strange and peculiar question to hear.



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