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After a longish period, with not much happening at all, the last week has been a particularly good time for reviews of my 'nostalgedy&#...

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Long Train Running - Part 1

In 'A Grand Day Out', I was talking about pub outings, particularly train outings, which were such a feature of pub life in the 1950s and 1960s.  Most of my experience of these came about through my parents' tenancy of The New Talbot Hotel in Anglesey Road, Burton in the 1960s.  However, there's one pub outing which happened a little later than that, in 1973 to be precise, which lives in my memory.

At the time, Kev (my mate from the Majorcan holiday, if you recall) and I were regulars at the Coopers Arms, also in Anglesey Road.  In fact we were pretty much part of the fixtures and fittings.  I can only imagine those in authority at the pub decided that they needed some 'young blood' on the Outing Society Committee as they co-opted us, although I can't remember contributing anything meaningful to the meetings, which seemed to go on for ages. 

The outing which we were supposedly 'organising' was an ambitious day out to Portsmouth and Southsea by train.  Ambitious because most of these outings were usually to the usual suspects, Rhyl, Blackpool or Skegness; places which were relatively close and therefore reduced the amount of time spent travelling.  In comparison, Portsmouth was almost like going abroad.

When the appointed Sunday finally arrived, it was a beautiful summer's day, hot and sunny.  The train was the longest I've ever seen, with a line of carriages that seemed to stretch forever, and certainly the length of Burton station platform.  There were clutches of customers of pubs and clubs from all over Burton , lined up and ready for their grand day out.  Kev and I were not sufficiently high in the committee ranking to be assigned to drink dispensing, or anything important.  I think we probably helped to load the beer, pop and food onto the train, but that was all.  Other than that, we were just another couple of customers, imbibing the beer and enjoying the food.

The beer imbibing bit was particularly successful, as I recall ‘not feeling a lot of pain’ on our arrival at Portsmouth station.  At this point, our party split, with some heading for the high spots of Portsmouth, others for the beaches of Southsea.  For reasons that I cannot remember, Kev, me and a few others decided to catch the ferry to the Isle of Wight.  I do recall travelling on the train from Ryde Pier Head to Ryde Esplanade.  The carriage was full of day-trippers and there was standing room only.  Unfortunately, the lurching of the train, and unsteadiness on my part brought on by a morning's concentrated boozing, led to me taking a step back and stomping heavily onto the foot of a very large and angry man standing behind me.  A good deal of apologising, and our arrival at our station, probably saved me from a degree of, entirely justified, physical retribution.

After that excitement, and given our obvious inebriation, we decided that discretion was the better part of valour and headed to the beach.  Kev was a keen sunbather, despite this being an exercise in futility.  Kev was very fair-haired and pale-skinned, and had no chance of ever going anything other than bright red, but he lived in the hope that this absolute truth might one day be miraculously overturned. 


Kevin (nearest to camera) failing to tan!


Ryde beach, at that time, left a great deal to be desired as a holiday venue.  It was mostly covered in evil-smelling seaweed, interspersed with deposits of oil, tar and other detritus.  To sun-bathe, you had to find a rare patch of clean sand and lay claim to this.  We managed to do so and soon found ourselves slumbering under a hot sun, with my radio belting out the Top 40.  In fact it was the memory of the Linda Lewis hit, 'Rock-a-Doodle-Doo', echoing around the beach which meant that I could pinpoint the year as 1973.  They don't write songs like that anymore, do they?


Next time, I'll tell you about the less than successful journey home.  

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