Mrs Blackbird
Mrs Blackbird in the Rowan

In my garden, outside my office window, stands a Rowan.  At this time of the year the buds are just bursting and the new leaves are preparing to cover the bare branches in a bright new yellowy-green.  In less than a month it will be covered in white flowers and full of birds hunting insects to feed their young.   So many species come to the tree, from Goldcrests and Blue Tits to Magpies and Wood Pigeons.   Even the occasional Woodpecker.  As the year wears on the leaves turn a darker shade of green and the berries form.  By August the berries ripen into a glorious red and the Blackbirds and Starlings  move in to fatten up for the approaching winter.  The arrival of autumn sees the leaves turn yellow, then brown and fall to ground.   The last of the berries will be fought over by the Blackbirds and possibly some Fieldfares.   Through the dark days of winter it sways in the wind and still provides shelter for passing birds, its trunk green with algae.  It’s been there some 25 years now, having grown from a seed that a passing Blackbird dropped – I really ought to say thank you for all the entertainment it gives me every year!   Now that’s a magic tree 🙂

No – I’m not ready to talk about Yesterday’s Wingate & Finchley match yet – it’s too painful 😦 … So I’m going to recollect a past that I hope to relive in the present.

On Friday I was driving a train to Newcastle.   On the computer of course.   Railworks Train Simulator is a relaxing way of passing some thinking time with a mug of tea.   Anyway, in passing along the route past Durham Cathedral (what a beautiful building that is!) I got to thinking about past railway experiences and remembered a book that I owned when I was a boy –  Top Link Locomotives by Norman McKillop.   Published in 1957, it tells of footplate rides on a variety of locomotives from that era and the author has the wonderful gift imbuing them with human characteristics.  This is real Thomas the Tank Engine stuff at 12 inches to the foot scale 🙂   Sorry, that may have given the impression that its a story book – it’s not.  It describes in detail how these locomotives are driven, from an A4 Pacific steam locomotive to the newest British diesel and electric locomotives of that time.   The effect of every touch of the drivers hand, every bend of the track, every set of points, is described in a flowing narrative that makes you feel that you are sharing the journey – at least that’s how I remember the book.

I think I read this book when I was 10 or 11 years old – my son is nearly that age now and I wonder what he would make of the stories it contains.   When I read the book  its main characters were still pounding the rails.  45 years on and all except one of those ‘characters’ is dead.  The loan survivor – “Nine” as she was called in the book – is preserved and in 2011 is undergoing an overhaul.   Anyway – he’s going to get the chance to experience what it was like to drive a train in the 1950’s!  I found a copy on Amazon and I’ve ordered it – God I feel young again 🙂

Nine is A4 Pacific locomotive 60009 ‘Union of South Africa’. See Wikipedia for info about this Locomotive