Sunday, August 19, 2007

Steam Days

When I was a lad, just a slip of a child,
Way back in the evergreen Poulton-le-Fylde,
I often spent many a tireless day
Down at the rec. where the kids used to play.
I spent many hours on the old wooden fence,
Watching the signal with rapture intense.
And, when that old metal rectangle would rise,
I’d know that a train would materialise.
Out of sight, round the bend with the hawthorns cut back,
I’d hear the chuff-chuffing resound down the track,
And the billowing black plumes of smoke in the sky
Would tell me a steam train would shortly pass by.

Here it comes, here it comes, with it’s pistons a-pumping,
And I, with my rye-grass in mouth up and jumping.
The driver with peaked cap stares out through his hole,
While the dirty black fireman shovels up coal.
The train has a name and a number as well
And the smoky black plumage a wonderful smell.
The Master rolls by with his tender attending,
A ritual walk down the aisle never ending.
And then come the carriages, people and faces
Going to Preston or other far places.
I’d jump on the fence and I’d wave my arms high
And sometimes I’d get a salute in reply.
How many carriages trundling along?
I’d count them all out like reciting a song.
And then comes the Guards Van, a short stumpy tail,
The guard may be standing and holding the rail.
And as I stare after this stately procession
The black musty smell leaves a life-long impression.
I went back there once on a day bright and mild,
And sat on the fence like I had as a child.
And down round the bend with the hawthorns cut back
A new Intercity approached down the track
It whooshed by so fast I could not see the name
And I knew in my heart that it wasn’t the same.
The people still travel from station to station,
No longer a journey, but just transportation.
I lifted an arm, waved mechanically,
But the ashen-stone faces just stared back at me.
And as the pale bullet sped by sleek and fast,
I knew that the dreams of my childhood had past.

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