Saturday’s predicted rain showers did not materialise, as my heart buddy and I stood on a country railway platform, the sun blessing us with her warmth.
The raw power of a steam engine masked behind a stately pace as a new journey is about to begin. With a stoked fire, smokey steam rising from the funnel and water hissing onto the tracks. Her whistle blows as the coupling rods begin a slow rotation on giant wheels.
The sounds and sights of a past time when the pace of life was slower and man and steam worked in harmony to create connection.
On the platform, a toddler sitting next to his twin brother in their pushchair called out;
‘Daddy, it’s Gordon.’
As his face shone with delight.
Reverend Wilbury Awdry and his son Christopher created the world of Thomas the Tank Engine. I remember when Emily was three, and these were her favourite bedtime stories.
The station house sympathetically restored into a cafe and gift shop. Brown gloss paint on woodwork, thick cream coloured walls, open fireplaces, glass pendant light shades and an old railway clock gently marking the passage of time. The air filled with memories of white gloves, tea dresses, lace doilies, rose-patterned china and men dressed in a suit and tie pulling chairs out for their ladies.
My heart buddy gifted me a book about narrowboats and the canal network in The Midlands, UK, which writes of a time when the pace of life was slower, and connections drove a community who cared for each other.
Over a decade ago, I spent a magical day on a narrowboat. It was a trip and picnic for a small writing group I was part of, and the boat was the retirement dream for a fellow creative writer and her husband. I opted to go to the back and help the Captain. What followed is a day where magic created memories, and I can still touch the peace of these in my heart.
We swapped stories, and he taught me much about the engine, letting me steer as we’d lapse into periods of soothing silence. Gliding through the water, as cows and sheep grazed the grass on the banks, fish plopped to the surface framed by Weeping Willow’s trailing branches where frogs and birds joined in song. As we journeyed under a viaduct, traffic noise intruded and assaulted our senses with the urgency of their rush. It was a relief to leave it behind as we puttered forwards into nature.
Steam engines and narrowboats speak of a time when people mattered more than things; the instinct to slow down went unquestioned, care forged connections, and we trusted the sense of belonging.