“Bed, Christopher! You too Mandy! By yur! Now!”
Welsh intonation emphasizes my expat status.
Right, kids are off stage. That’s one noise reduction. Let’s see if I’m more comfortable if I turn over.
Bang, thump, muffled piping voices drift downwards. Door shuts. Heavy adult tread descends the stairs.
It’s dark. I’m in a room of my own. Quiet descends, but I won’t be able to sleep until midnight.
I’ve tried getting to sleep first, but it’s hopeless. My sub-conscious knows perfectly well what’s coming and shakes its head, arms folded.
Let your mind drift. Well, why not? Too tired to do otherwise. Now there’s a surprise, it’s raining.
Ah, that’ll be him. Is it midnight already? Must be. He clumps up the stairs, past my door, to his room. Only a few minutes remain. Back down he comes, and into the bathroom, right next to my attic quarters.
My nightly meeting with my inner anorak begins.
It’s now 1965, not 1975. I stand on platform five at Woking; Ian Allen “Combined Volume” of loco numbers in hand. An adrenalin prompting clatter announces the upward swing of the home and distant semaphore signals, (perfectly rendered by my fellow lodger barging into the soap rack).
Then comes the distant, coloratura shriek of the whistle. The plumbing in this house is atrocious.
Definitely a “Merchant Navy ”class engine, doing a good eighty -five if I’m any judge.
Matey’s obviously tested the water and found the temperature wanting, as his adjustment of the taps creates a perfect “Doppler effect”, as the loco tears past, and the whistle note drops in pitch. An authentic three-cylinder exhaust beat instantly replaces this, courtesy of more hot and cold.
The water pipes take up the orchestration, providing the staccato of the carriage wheels, each four rhythmically shaking the room, just as the real things shook the platform.
I lie there, in my timewarp, as the cavalcade tears by. Captains of industry rustle the “Times”, haughty women peer disdainfully, children gawp. The west-country litany flashes past above these hurtling cameos; Barnstaple, Ilfracombe, Padstow, Exmouth, Bude, Wadebridge, in yellow capitals on southern green.
Ker thump. The last wheels announce a sufficiently full bath. The final swirl of mephitic smoke fades. The signals rattle back to the horizontal, as something metallic is placed on a shelf.
Splashes usher me into the presence of Morpheus.
© Alan Dale 28-4-12