An English In Kentucky


















Monday March 24th  2014  Tim Candler


     At least around Stoke Poges and  Chalfont Saint Peter, you could sometimes bump into an elderly gentleman who could remember when the first Steam Locomotive ran from Marylebone to Princess Risborough. And he could also remember carrying buckets of milk from the dairy farm which had been near where the bomb dropped, to the navvies who dug the railway. Those working men would spit blood and were proud of it, and the elderly gentleman would muse a little about Nancy Boys and the fate of the British Lion.  But the railway line from Charring Cross railway station to the seaside town of Hastings had been opened in 1853, and by 1960 something this railway line had become like a part of the landscape. No one could remember being without.  It had a good few tunnels, one of them was called the Bo-Peep Tunnel which was thirteen hundred yards long, and which  had suffered from regular collapse since the 1860's.  But by 1960 something, it had been pretty well shored up due to the kind of technical progress that had a floated concrete harbors across the English Channel to help supply the soldiers who  kicked the Bosch out of Normandy. All the same, a diesel electric would creep through Bo-Peep tunnel so that its presence might not cause another collapse, which could prevent boarding schoolboys from reaching their tribal homeland. And as the diesel electric took on this stealthy mode, the carriage lights would flicker and dim, and sometimes go off altogether.  And if you think Bo-Peep is a peculiar name to give a railway tunnel, I'm right there with you, except perhaps I have a few memories of the South East of England which have provided me with a perspective on the sorts of people who live down there and who might have seen fit to name a train tunnel after a shepherdess.  And too, as the diesel electric slithers out of Charring Cross railway station, your tribe should take on a sort of fatalism, but sometimes there are those who can't help having an adverse reaction to the reunion. A reaction which can lead to discord. There's always a wavering mind or two, and on this particular occasion one of the older members of our tribe, and I guess he was only trying to comfort himself, took an exception to a fellow tribesman who was maybe about six and a half, and looked about five years old, and who was sniveling quietly to himself even though he had a window seat.  Have to say the French Master had no real idea what to do, which is the kind of thing that can put a person off the French language.

    This particular older tribesman had long been prone to ugly behaviors, and I guess because people were a little nervous of him, the Head Master of the boarding school had given him title to a different sort of school cap and a different sort of tie, and had made him titular head of our tribe. A role he took rather seriously and he reckoned it meant he could tell us all what to do. And very likely because the tribe was a little angst ridden from the ordeal of the Charring Cross railway station, and possibly because these sorts of ugly and constant behaviors from the titular head of our tribe might have resulted one day in the shame of one of our tribesmen joining Her Majesty's Prison Service, there was what I guess might be called an over reaction when the carriage lights flickered and dimmed in Bo-Peep tunnel.  There was a little noise and some sounds of anguish, and maybe a grunt or two, and as the diesel electric tiptoed out of the Bo-Peep tunnel into what the South East of England calls daylight, the French Master took it upon himself to ask why the titular head of our tribe had a bleeding nose and appeared to be clutching his private parts. Younger tribesmen did a little grinning, while the more veteran tribesmen became stoic so as to set a good example. The French Master had a clean handkerchief in his pocket, which I suppose is one of the things, amongst other things, that  make the English Speaking People worry about the French. And after donating his handkerchief to the titular head of our tribe, the French Master decided he needed to find a culprit.  To his eternal shame, the titular head of our tribe pointed to the hero of Charring Cross railway station, who having had a little experience of these sorts of things, denied any knowledge of the incident. And in classic fashion, the French Master, proceeded to try to divide the tribe in order to conquer it. And of course, there was the always enduring, "I'm going to report this to the head master." Which is a threat some find challenging and can produce a breakdown in the tribe's sense of cohesion.  But there again, you have to accept that when you're grown man without a great experience of  boarding schoolboys or some understanding of anthropology, you're bound to take things personally, try to get involved, and make a few other errors in your path to comprehension.  



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