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Tuesday March 25th  2014  Tim Candler

 

     The railway line from Charring Cross to Hastings, when I knew it,  was not fast paced. And here a person couldn't really blame a diesel electric, because whenever a diesel electric actually pulled a couple of carriages up a gradient and picked up a little speed on the downhill,  it would have to stop, maybe pick up a mail bag and a little old lady with three or four assorted suitcases. And you might think there would be gallantry, and leaping to a little old lady's aid, but in the south east of England especially, a little old lady was remarkably independent, she could misconstrue attempts at gallantry and she could become really quite dangerous and bulldog like. I always thought it was something to do with a genetic response to the detrainment of newspaper wielding commuters, a hazard little old ladies in the South East of England had been troubled by for getting on eight generations. And you could reckon that sooner or later this kind of adaption would be bred into those who lived either side of the more recently constructed Marylebone to Princess Risborough railway line. Naturally there were a number of other theories about little old ladies of the south eastern region, most a great deal less sympathetic than my own. Sometimes too, a diesel electric would battle straight through a railway station without stopping, and you could look out the window and see a  few ticket holders in no great state of happiness, which gave you a chance to empathize with others who might have also attempted to comprehend a railway timetable with no great success. Then as the diesel electric struggled closer to our tribe's destination there were a number of variables which in a perfect world would have been taken into account.  And here you should know, our final destination was itself somewhat rural, which meant that there were three possible train stops within a fifteen minute bus ride of our tribe's homeland.  There was Hastings, of course. After Hastings, there was a place called Ore, which had a railway station. And about five minutes after Ore there was a railway station called Three Oaks and Guestling Halt, which didn't look much like a railway station but for one heartfelt reason or another, Three Oaks and Guestling Halt was held in high esteem by the Headmaster. So it was very important to secure Three Oaks and Guestling Halt against the evil intentions of  yet one more of the devil's offspring from the South East of England, called Dr Beeching, who had done some calculations with a slide-rule, and had become all high and mighty around graph paper. He wanted to do away with one third of the seven thousand British railway stations, pull up five thousand route miles of track, do away with three hundred thousand goods wagons. And according to the Headmaster, Dr Beeching had some kind of mental defect that prevented him from seeing the end of his nose, which in turn had prevented him from grasping the central role Three Oaks and Guestling Halt played in the survival of the English Speaking Peoples.  

    And you have to think that maybe if you were a junior master employed by a boarding school, and you were a little concerned about the physical condition of the titular head of the schoolboys, you might well become confused about which of  three possible railway stations might give you your chance to hand over your chaperoning  duties to the Headmaster and a bus driver.  After a pause, to watch Seagulls do a little scavenging on the platform in the Hastings railway station, our diesel electric headed inland. Three minutes later, when it came to a stop at the Ore railway station, the French Master ordered us to detrain.  It's always possible he'd miscounted the number of railway stations from the commencement of our travel at Charring Cross. Which was certainly an error some of us could appreciate from their own experiences with the Bakerloo line. And yet over time, a boarding schoolboy learns that "ours not to reason why" is the better motto when dealing with a paid professional, because the alternative is called "disruptive behavior," which was usually followed by some form of detention. But there are occasions, especially if a tribesman is about to be reported to The Headmaster for a trivial disagreement he might have had with the titular head of his clan, and particularly if he also has begun to think of himself as a reincarnation of Chaka Zulu, when he might find himself reacting with something like "Look at the ticket! We're not getting off at Ore, we're getting off at Three Oaks."  And he might have put a "sir" or two in there, so as to soften the cruelty of his words. But it's the case that not even a diesel electric likes to loiter at the Ore railway station, so by the time the order to retrain was issued, some of the more gullible tribesmen had  to throw themselves onto a moving train, which greatly upset the diesel electric's conductor, a class of railway employee with no good thoughts about anyone under the age of thirty two. Ore railway station was kind of a confusing railway station, and I believe its name had aggravated the train travelling public for something like a hundred and twenty years, so in 2010 there was an attempt to change it's name to  "Hastings East," which is an act of imagination that suggests to me the lack luster personality of the south east of England might still be firmly in place.  And you may not know that back in 1960 something, a public telephone booth was like the cell phone of the current generation, and more often than not a public phone booth had become prey to idle hands and been used as a urinal, which might have meant that our tribe could have spent many a happy day pillaging East Hastings, before being tracked down and rounded up by the Headmaster and his bus driver. And too, "Look at the ticket," as well as being a lapse in judgment, was also a strategic error by Chaka Zulu, because it kind of led him into learning a bit of French at a time when the world was becoming a tad confusing for the English Speaking People.

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