Carlisle! – A Childhood Odyssey

When I saw the Daily Post Prompt of Childhood I immediately thought of an incident that happened when I was 11-years-old.

The date was October 15, 1987. My UK followers may recognise the date as that on which an extratropical cyclone ravaged Britain, France and the Channel Islands, causing numerous casualties and hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage. The storm caught everyone unawares, especially since Michael Fish, a famous weatherman at the time, got it spectacularly wrong and declared to the nation that, “Earlier today a woman rang the BBC to say that she’d heard that a hurricane was on the way. Well, if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t.” What followed was the worst storm to hit England since 1703!

On that fateful night, my Dad and I were travelling from Glasgow, Scotland to Wigan on the train. We had been visiting my older brother who, at the time was living in Helensburgh, on the shore of the Firth of Clyde. Reassured that there would be no travel problems, we set off on our journey home. I believe that we were due back either late afternoon or early evening. However, the ensuing storm brought down some overhead cables onto the train line, and we eventually got home around 3 o’clock the following morning. My poor Mum was out of her mind with worry. She’d been calling the rail company, who only told her that power lines had been brought down onto the track, but they couldn’t tell her where the train – or her husband and daughter for that matter – actually was.

Since that night, whenever I have to get the train and I hear the name “Carlisle”, I shiver. Hopefully, this poetic odyssey will explain why.

Carlisle!

Standing on the platform at Wigan North Western

I saw the Glasgow train come down the line.

The announcer said “This train will be calling at Carlisle”

And a cold shiver ran up my spine.

For you see, to me, Carlisle is a nightmare,

I’ll say it in the loudest voice;

Because although I’ve been there four sodding times

It was not through bloody choice!

It was 1987, I believe,

When my dad and I took the train

From Glasgow back to Wigan,

In the cold and drizzling rain

I distinctly remember before we left

I was watching telly by the fire,

And the weatherman said “There’s no hurricane coming.”

He was such a little liar!

It was already getting quite windy

When our train left Glasgow station,

But Dad and I thought that in a few hours

We’d be safely at our destination.

We played “I Spy” and read a book or two,

As the train travelled mile upon mile,

Then approaching a station Dad and I looked out

And the platform sign read “Carlisle”

A few minutes later we were back on our way,

And Dad got out a bottle of pop;

But then as we took our very first sip

We saw that we’d come to a stop.

Dad said “There must be another train coming.

That’s why we’ve stopped on the track”

But before he could utter another word

We started to be pulled back.

“What on earth is going on?” we thought

As we travelled backwards, mile upon mile.

Dad looked out the window and said “For god’s sake,

We’re back at bloody Carlisle!”

We stayed in the station for ages

Till eventually we were back on our way.

While a man on the antiquated tannoy

Crackled an apology for the delay.

By now we were over four hours late

Good job we weren’t in a hurry.

Meanwhile at home, my poor dear mum

Was going out of her mind with the worry.

We didn’t have mobile phones, of course,

To let her know we were safe, meanwhile

In the distance the lights of a station approached:

You’re kidding me! We’re back at Carlisle!

“Are they taking the bloody proverbial?” asked Dad

For back and forth we’d been carted,

And so far we’d spent seven hours on this train

And were almost back where we started.

What none of us passengers realised,

Was that the storm had brought down some cables

And the train company thought we needn’t know that

As we sat at our plastic tray tables.

By now, my mum was panicking

Where were her husband and daughter?

Whilst back on the train a young man came round

Handing out sandwiches and bottles of water.

As we tucked into our soggy ham butties,

A cheer went up through the train.

We were leaving Carlisle! But our joy was short-lived

For we were soon back there again.

I looked at Dad and Dad looked at me,

And I thought I’d do something worthwhile.

So I got out some paper and a couple of pens

To write a story of life in Carlisle.

The protagonists were a young girl and her dad,

Who got stuck coming back from vacation

And ended up having to start life anew

Living in the local train station.

Just then we started back on our way

But this time we finally reached Wigan

And once safely back home, Mum said “Cup of tea?”

Dad said “Aye, and make it a big ‘un.”

So I’ll say it, I’ll shout it, I might even sing it

And make it my signature tune,

For if I never see Carlisle again

It will be too bloody soon!

seal

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