He had grown up on the railways: on this particular line, anyway. He was still young but already could open the carriage doors without any help. I suppose you could say that he was a bit of a vagabond, although he did keep himself clean and tidy. Regular commuters talked to him, and often, somehow, found themselves sharing their food with him: the ticket inspectors merely took one look into his innocent eyes, and didn’t bother to ask. They all knew him, and accepted that he was a seasoned, if slightly unconventional, traveller.
The station was fairly typical of a country village stop. The buildings and flower-boxes were neatly kept, even if the signs, doors, and other woodwork could do with a fresh coat of paint, but that hardly mattered. He knew where he was long before the ‘Spirit of Dunkirk’ Class 4-6-2 locomotive, tender, and rake of six carriages, had wheezed and clunked to a complete stop. He shuffled off the seat, and was soon sitting on the platform at Corwen Halt, watching the train move noisily off on the next leg of its journey, towards the larger towns, and the end of the line.
He momentarily scratched an imaginary itch at the back of his head, and then strolled casually past the railway guard: on towards the end of the station building. Old George didn’t say anything: just nodded, and grinned at him. He knew what that meant. The guard’s room would be empty; the stove would be on, and the battered old armchair was still comfy enough that he could doze there through most of the afternoon, without anyone interrupting him.
He did sleep, and therefore missed her arrival.
Sinter crystal. The fist sized lumps spilled their way out of the gash, so recently hewn into the rock face. Light flared, glared, dazed and dazzled the miners, as they scurried to a safe distance. Fear? It was hardly fear, as such, that forced them away. Caution, yes, but they were well pleased with their discovery. Look at them dancing and singing. Slapping each other on the back as if they were the best of friends, and not, each and every one of them, already planning how to increase their own individual share. The usual way of accomplishing this was to reduce the number of claimants. In those days, the phrase ‘accidental death’ had, as a general rule, little to do with accidents. They all knew the old saying, “Where sinter shined, varhl cannot be far behind”. There, of course, lay the problem. Old wives tales usually can be seen to have an element of truth in them somewhere. Sayings are a totally different matter and, despite their widespread use, do have a tendency to exhibit some kind of inbuilt ‘inaccuracy factor’. In this particular case, the saying was unfortunately (but more of that later) true. Continue reading
There are advantages to maturity. You can, if you are clever enough, get the jobs where you spend your days in charge of others: You have to keep your wits about you, of course. Sloppy checking of work would soon ruin a position of authority. People are less likely to question you about your past, as well. Age brings with it a sense of inbuilt privacy that few would dare to breech.
You could hear her singing from two-thirds of the way down the long corridor. Sturdy, mostly soundproofed, doors decorated the walls on either side. Each was equipped with it’s own hatch, and spy-hole. From certain angles at each end, it created a strong optical illusion: like stacked dominoes. The temptation was often to stand there, half close your eyes, imagine just nudging the nearest one, and watch them all come tumbling down.
Maybe I’ve been working here too long. I don’t think the patients are getting to me but … well: I wouldn’t be the first. I must watch my thoughts more carefully: we’re supposed to refer to them as our ‘clients’, rather than patients. It won’t be for much longer anyway. In many ways I’ll be sad to leave, but another week or so and I’ll have worked out my notice: time to move on. Continue reading