Do the Locomotion

Posted by Jeni in LBC | 28 July 2008

The rain has lifted the humidity.

I have enjoyed the heat though.

I travelled through London with the roof down on my car, the 30 degree sun pounding down. I played Stevie Wonder very loudly on my car stereo and wondered why I was SUCH an exhibitionist.

Had tea with my agent on his balcony - the Gherkin to the left of us - and arrived back at the flat in time for Coronation Street which I forgot to watch.

Today steam trains dominated the programme.

I had forgotten my connection with all things locomotive.

My first memory is standing on the wooden bridge over the railway track at Elstree and Boreham Wood Station. Times of innocence when us youngsters would gather in groups and play at nothing at all really.

We would stand on the bridge and wait for the train clattering down from Kettering. As the whistle blew and the steam gushed out of the chimney up went our skirts. Screams of delight from us girls, and the boys who got a short burst up the leg of their shorts.

Cut to 1970 and watching the old git perform on stage in Harrogate. Our fate was sealed on the Orient Express seven years later. Travelling down from the North of Sweden to Lund in the south we left our crisp white linen banquettes untouched as we stood in the corridor between compartments discussing life, art and knackerbroed.

Cut to 1988 and my role as commonwoman for London Weekend Television. I stood on the footplate and shovelled coal into the furnace as the Heritage train on the Bluebell Railway sedately made its way through the East Sussex countryside. The smell of hot metal and grease was strangely familier. Maybe it was reminiscent of my nans oven in her tenement flat in the East End of London.

Cut to 2008 and Pete Waterman's article in The Mail. It inspired me to get in touch with him. The last time we spoke was on 'Good Food Live', both of is getting squiffy on a whiskey tasting.

Mr. Waterman came to reading and writing late, the locomotive fraternity gave him a leg up in life. Having given us Kylie Minogue and Rick Astley, Mr. W. returned to his first love TRAINS. He owns 23 steam trains all of his own. And now he wants the Government to invest in young people - teach them to be engineers, help them find their way in life by working with those wonderful iron horses. 'After all', he said in his comforting Brummie accent, 'Given the state of our World we need to look at alternative modes of transport'. And then he dissappeared into a tunnel.

I live near a railway bridge. Sometimes, late at night, the sound of the steam train arrives before the beautiful carriages come into view. The first time it let out its burst of steam and the whistle blew, I thought I was dreaming. I was transported back to the fifties.

When BB was tiny we would lie on her bed and wait for the sound of the train in the distance, near enough to hear yet far enough away to imagine.

Keith called into the show. He had built a steam train, in India, for a film he designed. But he told us of the two trains that arrived in the Moscow Station, from St. Petersburgh - completely in tact - for a film he was making about Stalin. When the two puffing billies chuntered into the station the hairs on his neck stood up. Two huge shining beasts arriving at the platform just as they had in 1917. I agreed that there is something timeless about steam travel.

Maybe Mr. Waterman is right, that we should be investing in our youth with something from our past, after all he got it right with Kylie, we cant get her out of our head, maybe he can do the same for our tank engines.

But I'm off to the sidings now, and as the guard blows his whistle, lets down his flag, I'll pick up some steam and head off to the Land of Nod.....

Jeni Barnett tells of her scrumptious time at Good Food Live in her first audiobook! Download NOW from iTunes

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