How many of you have ever wondered what it was the butler saw through that keyhole? Well, you wont have to spend a penny to find out what Barry and his lovely lady saw on a train to Kalgoorlie. Just a few moments of your time is enough.
Bangor was my all time favourite holiday destination where, during the August Bank Holiday, we would spend two magnificent and idyllic weeks camping on Mr & Mrs Joe Lloyds’ property above the Menai. Most of the time they spoke the ‘old language’. But their son, young Joe, and his wife acted as interpreters. And how strange was that, given that our family had strong Welsh connections from the Rhondda? Still, Grandma Edge rarely spoke Welsh except, of course, when she was a somewhat annoyed with the behaviour of Grandpa Edge or her children.
Grandma Edge was born Susan Hughes and was fiercely proud of her links with the coal mining valleys of the Rhondda. As with all true Welsh folk she epitomised the first line of their national anthem ‘Mae hen wlad fy nhadau yn an nwyl i mi’ which translated means ‘The land of my fathers is dear unto me’. My apologies to the Taffys’ amongst us if my Welsh spelling is not entirely correct. By the same token Susie ‘ughes, as she called herself – with the ‘h’ dropped off, was fiercely loyal about Hanley too. For her the first chorus line of the Welsh national anthem, ‘Gwlad, gwlad, pleidiol wyf i’m gwlad’ – ‘Home, home, true am I to Home’ was as much for the Rhondda as it was for Hanley.
Where was I? Oh yes, Bangor.
Our train journey would start at Bucknall station to take us to Stoke where we would transfer trains to take us through to North Wales. Our camping and other gear would already be waiting for us at Lloyds’ place – having been sent to them the week before. I would be fascinated by the hissing of white steam as the train began to slowly move away from the station, the clackerty clack sound of its wheels on rail, and the pungent smell of black smoke billowing by the carriage window. Our journey would be interrupted by several stops along the way. From Bangor station we would complete our journey by bus. Ah, Life was grand. Perhaps ‘down the track’ I’ll share more of those lazy, hazy summer days of yesteryear.
By now most onevalefan regulars will know that my eldest brother lives in Kalgoorlie (pr. Kal-goor-lee) Western Australia. Thomas Edge loves the open territory that is the eastern goldfields. Not for him the big cities like Perth. But when in Perth he stays with yours truly and family, and vice versa when we go to Kalgoorlie. As previously mentioned, if it is to be a long holiday we go by car, if a short break we go by ‘plane. But never by train – that is, until this year.
It was my eldest brother’s suggestion that we travel by train, if only for a change and the experience of it all. Hmmm, little did we know then what was in store for us and other unsuspecting passengers.
The Prospector is a two-car diesel-electric with a capacity of 120 passengers. Its technology is well past its ‘use by date’ and is being replaced in a few weeks time with a state of the art super-train. As with most diesel-electric trains the cabin super structure, plus the revving and idling of the engines, drown out all of those familiar steam and clackerty clack sounds of my childhood. And instead of the strident whistles once used to signal the start of a journey, or warn of approaching railway crossings, we have a tannoy style noise similar to a short sharp sound of a trumpet.
If we had chosen to go by road bus we would have enjoyed the comforts of the newly installed fleet of coaches that include movies and light buffet meals. But the journey time of approximately ten hours is the same as the train. If we go by car it takes seven to eight hours depending on the number of coffee breaks taken. By air it takes up to ninety minutes depending on the size of type of ‘plane.
Our train left Perth at 2.30pm and proceeded slowly to the outer suburban limits before cranking up to speeds of one hundred and sixty kilometres per hour. There were several station stops and halts along the way with a major stop at the half way mark to allow the cabin crews to switch trains and replenished catering stock. That is, there are two Prospector trains on line at the same time heading in opposite directions. The respective drivers and cabin crews switch with each other enabling them to return to their home base overnight. Also, it is an opportunity for passengers to get off the train to stretch their legs, or have a cigarette because smoking is not permitted on public transports.
There are no movies shown on the current Prospector leaving most passengers to while away the hours reading, eating, drinking, sleeping, and so on. Mrs E took some embroidery items to work on whilst yours truly had plenty of ovf writing to edit and update. Whilst some of the young children had the Harry Potter type electronic games to amuse themselves, others were quite content with colouring-in activities. One or two teenagers were ear plugged into their mini ghetto blasters whilst using mobile telephones to text each other – whether in the next seat, or somewhere else on the train.
Although there was no in-car movie we were, during the latter part of our journey, well and truly entertained with choo choo antics never seen before. Did I mention the current Prospector was dated technology? Yes, of course I did. Some of the train’s furniture and fittings don’t work the same anymore. For instance, some of the reclining seats recline without warning whilst others will not work no matter how many times you press the recliner button. We were seated in the second row of the front rail car behind, shall we say, an autumn and spring couple. Their seats reclined without warning. Ours wouldn’t budge no matter what. Across the aisle was a very young girl whom we shall get to know better.
The man in question had many small silver rings on his ears, nose, lips, chin, cheeks and eyebrows with the nose ring having several more hanging from it. On closer inspection he was older than first thought. His hair, which was dyed a reddish colour, was cropped around the top of his head and had a very short ponytail. From a distance one would be forgiven for guessing he was mid twenties. But close up he was definitely early forties.
His companion was very pretty, smartly dressed, had a generous smile and was absolutely besotted with the man. At best she was late teens to early twenties.
Next we have the little girl who, unlike the other young children on board, was not interested in electronic games or content to pass the time colouring-in. From the time we left Perth to our journey’s end she did nothing but yell, shout and jump in between her father and his, erm, companion. She was continually calling out ‘daddy this’, ‘daddy that’, or ‘you’re not my mum, so you can’t tell me what to do’. Understandable really because ‘daddy’ wanted to spend more time with ‘Mary’ than with his ‘daughter’. But the little girl was relentless and all attempts by the father to sweet talk or bully her into leaving them alone came to nought.
It was well and truly dark outside when the cabin lights were dimmed – by which time the majority of passengers had been lulled into a train traveller’s sleep. Even the little girl appeared to succumb to the sandman’s presence. Mrs E was reading a book. Yours truly was patching together the first few lines of verse about young ‘Scarthy’. As for the couple sitting in front of us, they decided to get amorous with each other.
Tickling and silly giggling followed the whispers. As the minutes ticked by discretion was slowly abandoned when arms and legs were trying to engage in activities not normally suited for seats on a crowded public train. Without warning their seats reclined when they probably wanted them to stay upright and their excited noises stirred the little girl into action who, with all innocence and a big voice screamed out ‘Daddy, daddy, what’s that you doing to Mary?’
What we witnessed ladies and gentlemen was no penny arcade episode of guessing ‘what the butler saw’. Nor are we quite sure what some of the other passengers saw. However, what we saw that day was, to say the least, an impromptu sexual encounter that left no doubt at all as to what ‘daddy’ was doing to ‘Mary’.
Suffice it to say Mrs E was not able to get back to her book, and yours truly put Scarth’s verse to one side for another day.
See you later…
May 14, 2003