(13/12/1947 / LONDON)

Seaside Maybe Or Beyond 1958

The big black steam train hissed out steam of grey and white and black which rose from underneath and the top and sides of the train like an angry dragon the steam then spread along the platform like a fog clearing after a while then fogging up again once the dragon hissed once more Benedict and Lydia sat on a black cast-iron metal seat on the platform and watched fascinated by the spectacle captured by the sight and sound and smells which was one of their shared joys along with exploring bomb-sites and riding swings and the slide in the park or swimming in the local swimming pool although neither could swim even though they were nine years old and went with classes to the swimming pool to learn but neither did hiss hiss went the train again Benedict looked at Lydia Im going to be train driver when Im older he said going to drive a big black one like this one Lydia stared at him me too she said a big green one like we saw at Kings Cross the other week can girls drive trains? She said Ive never seen a girl train driver she added taking in Benedicts quiff of brown hair and his hazel eyes focusing on her might by the time youre older he said out of wanting Lydias wish to come true rather out of any real belief that girls will ever drive trains do you think they will Benny? Do you? She said anxiously thinking her treasured dream might evaporate before she had even stepped onto the engine of a train yes of course he said asked your dad hell know Benedict said he works on the railway yes I will she said knowing when to ask him and when not to and best to wait until he was sober and in a good mood and not when drunk and forgetful the train belched out steam again and a loud blast of noise and smell and Lydia waved one of her small thin hands in front of her face to make a space for her to breath in fresher air and not steam we can drive a train to Scotland then Benedict said Edinburgh or Glasgow or Wales Lydia said never been there Cardiff or Swansea Mr Finn talked about Cardiff the other week in history something about a castle or something she added watching the grey and white steam rise into the air right up to the roof of the station she reached out and touched Benedicts hand near to hers and hoped maybe they would go to Edinburgh as they had talked about it a few weeks before about getting on a train from Kings Cross train station once they had enough money and clothes and food and drinks and once school was over for the summer holidays we will go to Edinburgh wont we Benny? Once weve enough clothes and money and things? Of course he said taking in her thin frame and lank mousey hair and dark eyes once we're ready for it and its a long six hour journey so need to get ready for the long trip and have enough clothes to wear he added seeing the pale green dress she was wearing needed stitching at the hem where it was coming undone and her off-white ankle socks looking grey rather than white passengers were making a last minute dash for the train opening doors and closing them with a bang and heads appeared out of windows and hands waved and Lydia waved although she didnt know at whom she was waving or cared a while blew loudly and the train hissed louder and faster and the train moved along the platform slowly and surely leaving steam behind to rush along the platform like grey and white ghosts wave Benny she said wave to the lucky people going to the seaside maybe we can go to the seaside as a trial run she added looking at hands waving from the train windows and noises and smells hanging around behind the departing train Benedict waved his hand at the departing train yes he said the seaside now theres a thought yes thatd be nearer for a trial run before Edinburgh and no need of extra clothes or much food the train vanished from sight only steam lingered behind it like a dragons tail then that too vanished and they sat watching the space it had occupied moments before which seaside? Lydia asked whats nearest? Benedict thought looking at the porter passing by Southend probably he said went there with my nan and granddad once or twice he said can we go? She said can we? She still clutched his hand with her thin small hand her fingers entwined with his yes course he said feeling her fingers clutch his and he hoping none of the boys from school could see the hand holding thinking him a cissy breaking the schoolboy code of not holding girls hands best look at the timetables for trains up by the ticket office he said after a few minutes musing good good she said excitedly squeezing his fingers more right lets go get a bottle of lemonade each and a pack of biscuits from the kiosk at the top end there he said have you money? She said Ive have none(she seldom did) Ive a shilling he said thatll do so they got up from the cast-iron metal seat and she still holding his hand walked up the platform taking in other trains on either side on different platforms black ones and a green one and a small black one like a baby train out for its first run maybe she thought steam still hung around them and the smell and whistles blowing and voices calling out she thinking of the seaside and the sea and sand and seagulls and ice-creams and maybe seafood like her mum liked and he thought of being a train driver steam rushing past him as he stoked the engine and a thrill raced through him and he felt he couldnt wait for that far off growing up date.

by Terry Collett

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