Monday 27 April 2015

The Whistle

Imagine that you are strolling

through the Spring garden

at Great Dixter,

admiring the tulips

when you hear this plaintive sound (from 2.04)
distant in the valley below

and it is summoning you.

This is the sound that you heard from your attic window at night
when you were a child,
only then it was from the great steam trains 
running out of King's Cross on the Great Northern Railway up to Scotland.

So you insist that you must find the train
and take a ride from Northiam to Bodiam and back.

And luckily there is only ten minutes to wait for the next train.

It is just a long enough ride to recall a journey down to Cornwall
for a summer fortnight in Polperro.
You were six and packed your little brown suitcase,
with the brown gingham paper lining

and felt very smart in a two piece light green 'suit'
and had to be told not to lean out of the window
because of the smuts.
The big tin trunk had gone down ahead of the family
and you wore your school uniform until it was time to leave
because all the summer clothes had been packed.

That's how old I am.
And it only takes a whistle to telescope the years. 


  1. Lovely. I'm not giving any thought to your age (or mine), just admiring your story-telling. Until I got into blogging about museums, I didn't think I was that into trains, until this last Easter holidays. Seems like we've both been train-spotting of sorts. Hope you're feeling better than in your previous post.

  2. Enid Blyton was my essential guide through childhood. It never quite lived up to the books, but I tried so hard to go to boarding school and have midnight feasts.

  3. And there were porters and vending machines which delivered Fry's chocolate bars for a sixpence and Ladies Only carriages ...

  4. Oh yes - it all comes back to me now. Can you imagine going on holiday with just that little brown suitcase these days.

    1. Admittedly it only had to hold Monkey and Panda and the latest copy of The Bobbsey Twins.

  5. Give thanks you didn't ! No midnight feasts ... just an unrelenting diet of semolina and what may have been tinned spinach .

  6. I am sitting here in Edinburgh airport with no gingham lining in my suitcase, feeling that you fared better on the train. But we have a copy of The Family at Red-Roofs with us.

  7. I did enjoy the film and your reminiscences. My partner and I still have mad dashes into 'railway land' either to ride on a steam train or just to watch one and then crisscross the local area to see it several more times. I still get a thrill from the release of steam and the whistle, of course.

    Thank you Lucille.

  8. Oh I do love old steam trains, we got to travel on one last year when we were in England and I want to do it again.

  9. Lucille, I can imagine every bit of this, even if prior to seeing this post, I did not have a memory of such a childhood train ride. Now I do.

    The garden is rather gorgeous, too

    Thank you! xo

  10. Oh, Great Dixter! I'd love to go there..

    A very evocative piece... for me, it's the road to Crieff.

  11. What a beautiful garden, and then -- what a memory! Wow.

  12. Oh, the lure of the steam train! We have them too; I can hear the whistle from my garden. In one house we lived in as children, the trains made our beds shake - always exciting!