The Wild Rover


Wednesday 03 July, 2013 by Uncle Spike

There comes a time in every parent’s life, when it’s time to say to your kids “Why do you have to shaft all our holidays?”, or “Well, that’s the last family holiday you’ll be going on my son!”…

Sound familiar? Now whilst I have yet to get to that stage myself as a parent; and a good job too I guess, seeing that our kid is just 5, but I can mostly certainly say “been there, done that, got the t-shirt” in respect of being target of such verbalised sentiments.

Back in the days when I was a sweet innocent young lad, I somehow managed to ruin some family holiday or other… now, for the life of me, I can’t remember where it was, or even the nature of my crime, but for the purposes of this story, it really doesn’t have any bearing. So the upshot of it was, that my official banishment from future family vacations had been imposed around the age of 12, perhaps 13.

A wicked punishment? Not on your life, that was a badge of honour for the young tearaway that I was in the late 70’s. But as it happened, it all worked out for the best. The rest of the family could have more peaceful and reduced-stress holidays… and me, well, I got to have my own holidays; result! 😀

images (2)

With a limited income from cleaning cars and some odd-job gardening after school, my parents kindly awarded me with my first holiday ticket some months later: A 7-day Rail Rover ticket, no less. What that meant was that the bearer of said pass, me (and my mate), could travel on any train, in any direction, within the South West region of England. Or for those geographically challenged; we are talking about anywhere west of London, and south of Bristol. Cool I thought, I can live with this!

My dad worked about 60km from home, leaving the house early every day. This actually worked out a treat, as he used to take us both to the nearest train station (Totton, Hampshire) at some ungodly hour of the morning, with the simple agreement that we would end up meeting back in the same station car park 12 hours or so later. This was all a bit hit and miss thinking back on it, but I don’t recall any major incidents – remembering of course this was all before the days of mobile phones, so no iPhone, no palmtop or GPS. We were ‘on our own’.

images (1)So for some, I’ll admit, the idea of spending 10-13 hours a day, for 7 consecutive days on a train is less than exhilarating. But for a couple of young lads, this was utopia, a real slice of heaven and independence. Did we have any structured travel plans, err, nope. We simply worked on the ‘next train’ principle. If the next one went west, we went west, or if the next one went back in the direction we had just come from, so be it. It was all a bit crazy, sure, but we didn’t half cover some distance, I can tell you. On one particularly memorable day, I think we went from Weymouth to London Waterloo, and back… twice.

The station staff at our most frequently visited places got to know us, and were probably slightly bemused at the sight of two young lads running at full pelt across the footbridge, just to jump on the train about to depart in the very direction from where they had just arrived! But it was fun, not a particularly expensive holiday, and all in all, everyone, including my parents, found the arrangement quite agreeable.

BritRail-South-West-MapNeedless to say, the following year, the route was extended to include the south-west peninsula too, so Penzance to Bristol became our daily trek, back and forth, back and forth. We didn’t come to any harm though, well not really, although I do member wearing an eye-patch for a few days. It was what I would term, a job-related hazard; after spending hours with our heads stuck out the window, at opposite ends of the train as it sped around a bend in the track. Why? Simple, so we could wave to each other from some 15 carriages apart. Unfortunately, neither of us had the gumption to consider a risk assessment of our venture, or how a bee feels when it hits you right in the face with your head stuck out of a train window! We were kids, enough said 😀

10 thoughts on “The Wild Rover

  1. […] I have had nomadic tendencies. From the running away from home as a youngster, to the teenage railway holidays just for the sake of travelling. Then there was hitch-hiking, something I used to relish as a […]


  2. swamiyesudas says:

    My Dear Spike, Glad You had enjoyed those days. But. I do not know about the rest of the Orient, but in India, it would be Absolutely Unthinkable to go on a Holiday or Something, leaving a Child on his/her own. If they are Sick, at least one parent would stay back, if not cancel the whole holiday business.

    Western culture has to give More thought to these kinds of things. A Child is Isolated, because it ‘Spoils’ holidays. And Long years later, maybe without even giving a thought to these incidents, the Child Isolates the Parent in the form of sending him/her to an ‘Old People’s Home.’

    Sadly, India is learning these kinds of things. But, We have to remember that Psychology itself recommends closer family relationships. Not just Religion.



    • Uncle Spike says:

      It’s a balance for sure; balancing childhood innocence with the responsibilities as a parent to aid the sustained development of your child into adulthood. Bearing in mind I was at an age where I had taken the train every day to school, unsupervised of course, as did hundreds of others. Within a couple of years I had left home anyway, off to seek my way in life – and never looked back since. As for family, yes, it is normal to do the ‘old age home’ for some, but not for us; my mother will come and live here if/when she wishes to do so (she is still fiercely independent and capable). I guess you could say I’m a cultural half and half, same as my passports 🙂


  3. AmyRose says:

    Wow, Uncle Spike, you can write and write well. Jolly good post! I enjoyed the entire thing from start to finish. Now for me to have the luxury of being able to read a good post, that is another story in of itself. Life has truly been um busy. But, to get back to you. Yes, those were the days when we could as kids, go out and not come home until dark without a worry. You on a train, has me picturing all kinds of things and how you must have driven the um, staff, kind of nuts. But in a good way of course. Yep those bees do “sting” when they hit ya smack in the face, don’t they? OUCH! Thank you for this tale. Get ready, Uncle Spikey. Ya know what is said about um paybacks. Yep, I can see it comin’. Spikey Jr. ….. Hmmmm…… No more said. Tee hee … xx Amy


  4. AnnetteM says:

    What a great thing for kids to be able to do. Things were different then of course. We went out in the morning and came back for tea and just played all day along the old Hayling Billy railway line and the very muddy seashore at Havant. There were plenty of dangers on a sea shore but we were just allowed to be kids in those days. What a shame the world has changed so much.
    On the subject of kids being banned from holidays I remember a particularly bad one with our teenage eldest son. Nothing was right. One morning we gave him one of the weetabix that we had bought with us and were rationing to one a day. He demanded a second one and on being refused stamped off stating that it was worse than being in a prisoner of war camp! At the time we were staying in a rather nice villa in Tuscany!!! That angry teenager has grown up to be one of the the nicest adults you could imagine. Difficult to imagine at the time, but true.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Uncle Spike says:

      Great story Annette… yep, even us little terrors grow up eventually 🙂 As for yesteryear Britain, it’s one of the reasons I emigrated. After being widowed and making the decision to start over, find a new life partner and have a family (usual small Monday morning type of decision), I knew I wouldn’t want to raise a family there. Here we still can let our kids play as we did, we still discipline, and we still let them be kids…


  5. […] This was also the time by which point Young Rebel Spike had surfaced. Already banned from the annual ‘family vacation’, my jollies were of either the train or cycling variety by that age. I wrote all about my teenage train adventures in one of my first Uncle Spike posts. For those newer followers, you can bookmark this for a read over your next coffee – The Wild Rover. […]


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