Monday, 27 October 2008

Dublin Trains

From a history lesson at school I remember being told that when the calendar was changed, from Julian to Gregorian – or was it the other way round? - you see how some things stick but others do not – anyway, it meant a readjustment of the calendar, so that eleven days had to be skipped. And people were out in the streets, protesting. Give us back our eleven days, they shouted. I have a sneaking sympathy for such sentiments. Now that the clocks have changed there is this sense of deprivation, of having 'lost' some daylight, precious at this time of year. So I have not changed my alarm clock, sneakily 'gaining' an extra hour of light.

For the past few days I've been editing some travel pieces I wrote years ago. I'm thinking of including 'gravy train' in the title, if I can find out what that means. Meanwhile, here's another train extract.

Dublin Trains
We are becoming such travellers, so good at shuffling in and out of seasons, that it's playing havoc with my driving. I have to think, before moving out into the road. It's no longer automatic, as to what side of the road I should drive on.

But as I prefer not to drive in cities anyway, I take the train or bus whenever possible and today its the squeely train from Tara St. station, not the nimble, lightly-sprung Dart train, with its green and yellow sides and its slanty lettering giving the impression of pure and unalloyed swiftness, one-pointedness and intent, wind in the hair and arrows flying through the air - no, today its the lumbering, heavy-footed mainline train, that squeals its metal bulk to a slow, oh so slow, standstill, making people put their hands over their ears and cry out. Not that I did either. I was secretly delighted to be boarding this ancient carriage, pinnacle of the pioneering, adventurous spirit that created trains and railways in the first place - vehicles of adventure, lined with soft fabric like fake fur, with high-backed seats that made you feel you were alone, in the nice way of being alone, the pleasant way, the unintruded-upon way, that is essential for travelling within the privacy of your own make- believe world, your own fantasy-world, populated by whatever friends, ghosts, demons and daring feats of adventure you care to think up.

In the modern trains, the fast dash, the light slipping of metal on the rails, there are no high-backed seats, the carriage is open and so your thoughts are too, or so it feels, and you have to guard them, or slip behind held-up newspapers and, in this hot weather, you stick uncomfortably to the plastic seats. You also hear other people's conversations which you do not want to hear.

But in these magnificent old trains, with their bulk, solidity, sense of grand purpose and unoiled brakes, you are still travelling in the grand style and I look out at the rooftops and through the gaps in the buildings and we stop at Pearse Station, with another stately entrance and loud announcement of our intention to stop and with an equally slow, regal, unhurried departure.
Through gaps in buildings I see Kitty O'Shea's pub, just across the road from the recording studio, and a little further on, the Spar Store where I've shopped for French bread, cheese, orange juice and chocolate and slowly, oh so slowly, the great king of the train world pulls up at Landsdowne Rd which is my stop and I get off, go through the subway to the other side and walk up the tree-lined avenue, pretending I am coming home from a busy day at work.