Friday, 28 March 2014

Friday, March 28, 2014 -

Driven to Tears

by Paul Markham
Published: Feb 11, 2014
Words: 23,912
Category: general
Orientation: M/F
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Driven to Tears

James was more than a little frustrated at his inability to locate the item he was seeking amongst the boxes and dust-sheets high in the roof of Penbury Manor, and there was many an unparliamentary expression that only the strictest self-discipline prevented from echoing round the semi-ordered loft space filled with the bric-a-brac accumulated by several generations of the Penbury family.

He was distracted momentarily by an enormous box, and yielded, without too great a struggle, to the temptation to slip briefly back to an earlier era when the sound of superbly crafted Basset-Lowke model locomotives had echoed around his playroom, hauling chocolate and cream coaches, or collections of goods wagons that have long since disappeared from the modern railway, through the O-gauge scale model of Great Kingsford station and the surrounding area.

Like James himself, the appealing straightforwardness of the external appearance had belied the complexity of the hidden workings of this layout. That, however, had gone the way of the loose-coupled trains that had once held James in total fascination at the goods yard, where he had been allowed to watch the manoeuvrings of busy tank engines as they rearranged the daily pick-up goods train. All that remained now were the locomotives, wagons and coaches, each wrapped with meticulous care in several sheets of tissue paper.

Great Kingsford had also become almost unidentifiable with the bustling little station it had once been, playing host now to sleek local trains that hummed, rather than puffed, and to fast-moving Inter City expresses that were gone almost before you knew they were there. Where once James had stood, talking to the kind signalman who was nearing the end of a long working life on the railway, and listening to the metallic protests of point levers and rodding and the almost whistling sound of signal wires, there was now a small, readily-identifiable late 20th century trading estate, separated from the new housing estate by two very artificial-looking rows of trees and an access road.

James' mind returned to the loft space and, at last, his gaze fell upon a dust sheet that created a profile of just the right size and shape. Carefully, he made his way across to it, lifted the cover and shuddered slightly as he recalled the hinged trestle with the velvet-lined padded cross piece at the top. He looked down at the two handles on one of the frames and felt his mind being drawn back, once again.

James had not escaped correction entirely during his school career and had, on one occasion, joined four other boys with whom he had been caught in flagrante delicto with an illegal packet of cigarettes, in what had mistakenly been assumed to be an area of the school grounds that escaped supervision by those in authority there.

These five boys had stood nervously in the dark oak-panelled corridor that led to the headmaster's study, to which access was via a heavy-looking door with quite a large pane of heavily-frosted glass in the centre of the upper half.