Damn, are we really already in May?! It’s my favourite month consequently, when the weather really has shed the winter bite that still lingers some days in April. We haven’t yet reached the dizzying heights of June and July temperatures and the spring feel remains. We Brits love the spring – we love it so much we effectively celebrate it three times. Arguably, Easter is the start of spring and when Easter falls in late April (as it did this year) that means we have four bank holidays in the space of about five weeks.
With Good Friday and Easter Monday forming the first two, that is quickly followed by May Day – this is where Spring really starts. Coming from a railway town, the spring bank holidays often meant a steam train (such as the George V) rolling into the station for photo opportunities and to wow us with the internal workings of a bygone age. This weeks snippet Sunday is a brief piece of flash fiction reminiscing the spring bank holidays of my childhood. Enjoy!
The chugs slow as we step forward to the platform edge, the first faint waft of smoke tantalising our senses, carried on a light wind displaced by the powerful machinery muscling its way into the station. The chugs become lethargic, drawn out and finally die.
Then we hear it: wooooooo-ah-wooooooooo!!!!!!!!! and with a squeal of brakes it grinds to a halt at the platform and the engine breathes a sigh of relief. Finally, the huge axles stop, steam rises and water drips from iron onto the track. The crowd gravitates to the engine, crowding the front to get the best first shot of the engine named in honour of a king.
The driver sticks his head out of the window and waves. He is for the moment a celebrity to the children who think he officially has The Best Job in the World(TM). He answers some quick questions from the children and reaches back inside the engine.
‘Oooohhhhh!’ go the children as a large burst of steam billows out from under the engine and engulfs them all. That smell – there’s nothing else like it in the world. The raw power of the mechanics of a bygone age – axles spin, showing off the powerful engineering and another cloud of smoke billows out from its underside.
‘All aboard!’ came the call for the lucky few who will be taking the short trip and enjoying a Bank Holiday lunch as the engine heads to Bath and then Bristol.
As the engine pulls out of the station, I look on longingly, watching this relic leave Swindon station for another year – leaving just the memories and my clothes smelling of coal smoke.
The image at the top is not of George V, sadly. It’s the steam engine for the West Somerset Railway that runs between Bishop’s Lydeard where the photo was taken and the end of the line at Minehead some 15 miles to the west.