Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Friday, 16 November 2012
Doctor Terror's House of Horrors
Everything that can do is going tits-up in my world at the moment, and it just feels as though all it would take is one person to pull the bottom card out to bring the whole lot down. Still, it's being so cheerful as keeps us going, eh?
During his profitable sojourn in Great Britain, Bill Bryson summed up the sort of weather we are having at the moment as being 'like living in a Tupperware box with the lid on'. When that weather descends, you can never see an end to it, but then again, when the weather is gloriously warm and sunny, you can never see an end to childhood either.
When I was about 14, I decided to enrol in a Geology night class, because one of my stupid teachers confused Geology with Paleontology, which was where my real interest lay.
I arrived at the modern school in Camberley, Surrey, late one night, to be greeted by all my fellow students in the science lab. Not one of them was under 50 years old. I was quickly disabused about the difference between fossil-hunting and Geology, but I stuck it out for about three lessons so that I could survive one field trip to Lyme Regis, where all of us came very close to being killed by a rock-fall of a single piece of cliff weighing about 15 tons.
I think what made me give up so soon was the trip from my home town to Camberley, which - being winter-time - was made fairly late at night and in the dark.
It took two trains to reach Camberley (a military garrison town second only to Aldershot in grimness), and the first train stopped at a little un-manned halt called Ash Vale. This station was illuminated by gaslight, believe it or not, and the ghastly green pallor of the lights made the British Rail woodwork seem even more Victorian than it actually was.
The train would wheeze into the station and come to a prolonged, screeching stop, and I would be the only person to alight. I looked with envy to the handful of people left on it as they slowly pulled away into the darkness, and they would look back at me in mute sympathy, as if I was being dropped off at Dracula's castle, never to be seen again.
Although I had reassurances from the guard on the train that my connection would arrive about half an hour after he had gone, I was totally alone on the platform for what seemed like hours, with the gas lights making more eery hissing sounds than actual light.
I don't know if you have ever seen the Hammer Horror film, 'Dr Terror's House of Horrors', but each scene in it begins in an absolutely identical, dark and deserted railway station to the Ash Vale of the mid-1960s.
After what seemed like about four hours, I would manage to convince myself that not only my connecting train would never arrive, but dawn itself would never arrive either.
Of course, it always did, and now I have to remember the lonely, cold and dark nights at Ash Vale for some sort of horrible reassurance about the inevitability of change.