Everything to do with railways penetrates my very being ~ trains, tracks, signals, railway crossings, railway bridges, railway sleepers, train drivers, ticket collectors …..
Here in Co. Waterford, we have a just the job for people like me, Waterford and Suir Valley Railway, which runs along 8.5 kilometres of the abandoned Waterford-Cork Railway route from Kilmeaden to the outskirts of Waterford City.
The train travels beside The River Suir and always reminds me of Thomas the Tank Engine which was such a part of son, Harry’s, growing up.
As August drew to a close, I picked a day when the tide was high and the skies blue as blue and treated myself to yet another trip on the little train that has been part of my life since it opened in 2002.
I don’t know how many people will understand but I feel a huge sadness that the the Xtra-vision Store here in Tramore is closing in the next few days.
Xtra-vision has been in Tramore for a very significant decade in my life ~ years when my son was moving from Thomas the Tank Engine to over 18 movies. It’s also a place I associate with buying various mobile phones which brought great, good, difficult and sad news as well as ordinary, everyday chatter.
In ways the coming of Xtra-vision to Tramore with its snazzy lay-out, huge range of movies for rent, late night opening, pop-corn … was not unlike the arrival of our first television in 1963. A whole new era bringing the world into our living-rooms.
One of the great things about Xtra-vision here in Tramore was the way you were guaranteed to meet friends and acquaintances, in entertainment mood, searching the shelves for a movie and eager to exchange opinions on the latest movies.
The closing of any business is tough, tough, tough and while Xtra-vision may not be a long-standing family business in Tramore, it is a place in which the staff have invested many years serving both locals and the many visitors who swell the population of the town each Summer.
Yes, is the end of an era and I know that I’ll be seeing the red and yellow Xtra-vision signs at the top of the town long after they have been taken down.
A recent train journey from Palma to Soller in Mallorca got me thinking about all sorts of trains that have run along the main line and sidings of my life.
The train from Palma to Soller has been running since 1912 http://www.northsouthguides.com/mallorca_train_soller.html and is wonderfully old-fashioned. It is wooden; the windows open right up and there’s that feeling that it is from another time. To add to the delight, the sights along the way are spectacular – high mountains, deep valleys, tunnels that seem to go on forever and then open up to the vista of oranges and lemons dripping from trees. You could reach out and pick a lemon if you were so inclined.
Suddenly I’m back with Thomas the Tank Engine, the creation of the Reverend W. Awdry, and all those hours of reading to my young son. Henry, Edward and Gordon, Annie and Claribel, the Fat Controller – I’m sure he’s politically incorrect now – but he was a really decent sort. And, of course, the trucks! On , on, on, screamed the trucks remains a cry in our house where there’s a need for a bit of a brostaigh (or a hurry-up.)
The Tramore-Waterford train that played such a part in the lives of generations up to the early 1960s. My father used to talk about the five-minute bell which was sounded five minutes before the off and had him sprinting from Tig Mor to Tramore Railway Station to catch the train to work every day. On warm summer days, the call at the Waterford end would be: All aboard that’s goin’ aboard? Anymore for Tramore?
Father also had memories of the West Clare Railway which he used to take from his home town of Kilrush to the seaside town of Kilkee. It has long been immortalised in Percy French’s song Are you right there Michael, are you right? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7w7eH6JuL50.
Thoughts, too, of a train trip in France in 1981 where I was having a tennis-playing summer with a friend. We alighted from a super-duper train, pulling and dragging our tennis gear, and in the rush, heat and excitement, I left my handbag with passport, money … on board. I realised the awfulness just as the train was whizzing out of the station at about a million miles and hour. In the split second before it shot out of view, I had visions of phonecalls to embassies, frantic calls home for money, hours queuing to try and replace my precious Inter-Rail ticket. Half in tears, in spluttering half-french, we found a ‘Fat Controller and Oui someone, some kind soul had thrown my bag out onto the platform.
Now, if I was a Percy French, I would have written a song of thanks but alas…! So, Dear Bag-Thrower, I hope you read this blog and remember your fine shot with my brown suede bag on that scorching hot day in August, 1981, somewhere near Nice. I wish you could have seen my tear-stained smiling face; I suspect you did in your empathetic mind’s eye.