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! 😀
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’.
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.
Needless 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 😀