VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Stephen Whitter

         Victoria Coach Station-Isle of Wight.

An inexplicable indoor wind whips litter around my feet and bags.
A newly docked Coach, it’s hot tyre smell reminds me of the roads back home in Summertime.
Though we are deep in November, nearly December.
Coaches smell of Summer, years of my childhood on a tourist island where Coaches abound, and their wheels are taller than a young lad till he’s Four or maybe Five. So Summer and Fifty Seaters, forever linked in my mind.
This coach ride to Portsmouth Quay side then a boat ride before home, any journey back home for an island dweller a little more of a chore.
I remember years ago, I was a little worse for wear.
An excited tourist said,
“It’s this boat journey that makes the trip to the island special for us”
I remember answering,
” It’s what makes it more of a pain in the arse for me”
I immediately felt terrible ,I had burst his holiday excitement bubble, but he was ok he laughed, even wished me a good day.
In my defense I worked in Portsmouth in those days and took the boat twice a day, by then familiarity and how it reduced my wages had bred contempt.
So, when I was taking any longer haul, bloody hell, that bloody boat was the last bloody straw.
Well, I say that but the if you didn’t have a car lived not near the bus then you had the opportunity to take the strain of the Train, the opposite of the then current advertising campaign.
The island had one Train, a 1950s ex London Tube.
It often won the Punctuality Prize, hardly surprising since it just went up and down one line.
But that Train was an experience, it lurched around like a Pit Pony let loose in the light, luggage and passengers thrown around it made women and children cry and on occasion grown men scream.
From the moment it was mobile it felt like it was coming off the line, but it hardly ever did, it was
merely ‘quirky’ the word the guard used to describe it.
I hear it’s been replaced now which seems a shame, because for islanders the expression on the faces of the tourists riding the train was often a joy to behold , especially if it was a group of ‘hard’ lads with their ‘birds’ that had swaggered on board.

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