Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Lingering memories of train journeys

IN a few minutes, the 1235 from Paddington will leave for Paignton, and that is somewhere in the south west of England. I was supposed to be on the 10.35 but as fate would have it, I missed it, not because I was late in purchasing the ticket, but because I was too early.

I had bought the tickets a day earlier as I didn't want the hassle of queuing up. But Mr Murphy had to be right, as always. If things want to go wrong, it will go wrong, even the best laid plans.

The tickets I bought from the machine was apparently valid only for one day and I was turned back at the ticket barrier to join the long queue of backpackers and families with children escaping London to enjoy the last few days of summer.

I have always loved train journeys as they give me the luxury of being with myself and my thoughts.

I am now on the First Great Western train, one of Britain's national train networks. It is fascinating to watch the English countryside whiz past my window. This being a weekend, people are enjoying barbecues with their friends out in the back garden. The English, they do love their gardens: Neatly trimmed hedges with beautiful flower beds and hanging baskets in a riot of summer colours.

The suburbs soon make way for vast green fields - cows grazing and sheep looking like small cotton balls, dot the vast fields now turning brown after quite a harsh summer. I note that some of the cows are sitting down. It will rain, says my husband, if cows sit down. And true enough, rain starts pelting on the windows as we criss-cross along the British countryside.

Being a creature of habit, I never leave the station without two - not one - mushroom parcels and a cup of piping hot coffee from Delice de France. And after drowning my sorrows of losing the price of one train ticket, in what inevitably became cold coffee, I allow my thoughts to turn to Mak.

Mak too loved train journeys. When we were young, train journeys during school holidays were a treat. We'd talk about nothing else in school about the impending adventure from Yan to Johor Baru.

We used to take train journeys from Alor Setar to Johor where Kak and Abang were stationed. An announcement of a train journey was welcomed with sighs of relief as it meant not the usual trips to Penang or Pantai Merdeka.

From the first whisper of the holiday plans, we spent sleepless nights, too excited to do anything else. And Mak would start packing things she'd bring to her firstborn who had followed her husband to what could only be considered as the furthest point south from where we were in Kedah. There would be food and things she thought her eldest daughter was going without. Mothers are like that. Now I understand.

But most importantly, I remember how she'd wake up in the morning and prepare food for us that would last us through the long journey from north to the south of the peninsula. There'd be rice and chicken dishes carefully packed in tiffin carriers and drinks in flasks and towel-wrapped containers. Boiled eggs were almost mandatory - we never left on long journeys without boiled eggs.

I remember most the early morning drive from Yan to Alor Setar where we'd patiently wait for the train and then the short ride to Bukit Mertajam. Now, this is the bit which I could never forget. Whether this part of my memory had been exaggerated by time gone by, I don't know. But I remember the rush - bags, tiffin carriers and more bags up the overhead bridge to the waiting southward bound train. It seemed to me than that the train would only stop for five minutes and no more!

Then the search for seats. By then most coaches would be full of tired soldiers on home leave, other families also going on holidays, screaming babies in sarong hammocks suspended from the ceiling of the train... it was chaotic.

The highlight of the train journey must be the stop in Ipoh when we were stirred from our sleep by sales pitches of food vendors plying up and down the platform skillfully balancing their food stuff on their heads.

Never mind the food Mak had painfully prepared for us, buying from the vendors was more exciting.

As we pull into Pewsey, a small village in Wiltshire with its small quaint station, I remember the train journeys criss-crossing Europe to as far as Budapest, journeys along the beautiful Rhine with chateaux and castles dotting the mesmerising landscapes that usually brings me back again to those childhood days reading about princesses in captivities and charming princes coming to their rescue.

Oh well, the train has stopped and so has the rain. But beautiful memories of train journeys linger on.

Those article first appeared in my column in NST here.


Kenny Mah said...

Some train rides never end, a journey that goes on forever in our memories. :)

Kak Teh said...

That is so true, Kenny. and for that alone i love train journeys. I do hope to have a chapter dedicated to this in my eventually to be compiled book! (dream, dream!)

Salt N Turmeric said...

I want to go on a train ride too. :)

Anyways, selamat berpuasa to you and family Kak Teh!

sj said...

did u use the 34% discount on the railcard when u travel around by train ?

3yearshousewife said...

I can imagine the excitement. I too love train rides.
Selamat Berpuasa.

mama irma said...

Salam Ramadhan, Kak Teh.

Train rides had always been a nightmare for me. It meant leaving my poor family, to go back to the boarding school eversince I was as little as 12 years old. It was really sad and I have not been on any train ride after I left school some 30 years ago....

Justiffa said...

I love the old chug chugging trains. almost everyone would be crowding at the windows and bila corner je bole main lambai2 hehehe.

Selamat menyambut ramadhan KT, semoga dilimpahi baraqah <3

Memorable trails... said...

Train journey along the Rhine river...been there,done that puluhan tahun yg lalu..ahh..very nostalgic..
Salam Ramadhan buat K Teh sekeluarga.

Arena said...

Salam Kak Teh,

Selamat berpuasa.

MrsNordin said...

My mum was like that too. Boiled eggs were a must whenever we go on long trips!

My memories of train journeys are not as delightful as yours. Train journeys for me are rather unpleasant.

I used to take the night train from JB to Ipoh to balik kampung during school holidays and I dreaded those journeys. Like you said, it was crowded with soldiers on leave, babies crying, no seats etc.

By the time we reach Ipoh, our green baju kurung would turn black due to the smoke emitted by the chugging train.

It was horrible, but we had no choice. That's why now, if possible, I'd avoid the train as a means of transportation. Unless i don't have a choice, of course.

KG said...

salam kak teh,

thetrain journeys tt i remember would be those trips to and fro, in and out of aberystwyth.....they were looong journeys, intercity 125 sampai shrewsbury saja...bayangkan...anyway yup i agree there is a quaint feeling, when the nice beautiful gardened suburbs slowly turn into greens wt grazing sheep and the beautiful english and welsh landscape....all berbekalkan cheese and tomato sandwich, hot choc and mccoys and my lecture notes....i miss those days....

Kak Teh said...

farina, selamat berpuasa to you too!

sj, i never used any railcard when travelling. selamat berpuasa.

Kak Teh said...

3yearhousewife, ya...a time to be with your own thoughts. Selamat berpuasa!

mama irma, selamat berpuasa. I guess for a 12 year old to leave home,it must be traumatic..and you would alwys associate that with train journeys.

Kak Teh said...

justiffa, seorang saja nak berjalan, sepuluh adik beradik datang hantar and melambai di stesen! haha, that's the case with us yang nak travel dari alor setar..ramai satu kampong nak hantar!

Selamat berpuasa to you and family.

Madam Gold, yes, its beautiful and picturesque, kan? selamat berpuasa.

Kak Teh said...

Arena, lama tak dengar khabar...bila lagi nak ke sini? selamat berpuasa!

Mrs N, yes, I remember - baju semua kotor - bukan tu saja..our faces covered in soot!! that's hilarious. Ya, it was uncomfortable, the seats were hard and it was hot in the coaches - mana ada fans or air cond.

Kak Teh said...

KG, the english countryside can be mesmerising. I'd have my book in my lap or my lap top switched on for work, but I'd be looking out at the changing landscapes.

Selamat berpuasa ...mesti banyak buat kueh, kan?

ZABS said...

Selamat berpuasa KT and AG.

Pernah beberapa menaiki keretapi dari London ke Tourqay untuk ke Dartmouth.

Anonymous said...

I live in Plymouth and rarely people travel to the south west. I agreed with you that it's very beautiful scenery along the train journey.

Suka bila train lalu sebelah laut near Dawlish. :-)

Selamat berpuasa!

KotaStar said...

Salam Ramadan,

Very touching topic as it brought back our train journey to Somerset and the Lorna Doone countryside few yrs back. Indeed we spent few days at Minehead after stopping at Taunton. We would't mind returning to that part of south west London. Mind you we have a cousin from Taiping who lives there. Re Bukit Mertajam you are right on the spot. Somehow passengers from the north have to disembark and move on to the next train. Now you go to Butterworth for the connecting train. After a Vespa ride in 1957 around Europe,I had the luxury of the train journey along the Rhine up to Vienna when the Atomiam at Brussels) was on show. Thanks for touching the soft spots of the choo-choo train ride.
Salam to you and family

Pak Non ( AlorStar)

Kak Teh said...

zab, selamat berpuasa to you too. Tourqay is one place i have never been. Must make an effort to go, one day.

Keindahan alam, thanks for the visit. My husband loves train journeys for this reason - and also because he could read in trains and not planes!

Pak Non, what an honour and I am glad we share same sentiments about trains.

mekyam said...

salam ramadan, kt!

though you were probably hurtled much much faster through the english countryside, i read this and is reminded of rsl's...

"from a railway carriage"

faster than fairies, faster than witches,
bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
and charging along like troops in a battle
all through the meadows the horses and cattle:
all of the sights of the hill and the plain
fly as thick as driving rain;
and ever again, in the wink of an eye,
painted stations whistle by.
here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
all by himself and gathering brambles;
here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
and here is the green for stringing the daisies!
here is a cart runaway in the road
lumping along with man and load;
and here is a mill, and there is a river:
each a glimpse and gone forever!


p.s. btw kt, just sharing okay... i know on the good authority of one's h's physicist friends, a brit actually, that mr murphy's law, in current rude parlance, is "sod's law". :D

Kak Teh said...

mek, thanks for sharing. It makes us all the more richer when knowledge is shared, kan? and i like that sod's law - as in, when things go wrong, you say, oh, sod it! :)

mekyam said...

yeah, that's the one. sod's law dictates that what can go wrong, will... so sodit! :D

but that doesn't mean i can't go: oops! i meant to type "rls" there and not "rsl". can't have robert louis disturbed in his rest in samoa, can we?

Justiffa said...

KT selamat berpuasa & beribadah. ish ish time really flies, dah seminggu dah kita ni.

Hope u & family are doing well :D

Naz in Norway said...

Salam Mak Teh,
T and I took the train from Bangkok to Alor Setar once. Once the night train arrived, we boarded and looked for our seats. A lanky, unkempt Thai man in his 40s were sleeping soundly on our seats. Let me tell you, that guy was born to be a contortionist!
Our attempt at waking him up was to no avail. So T had to raise his voice and the poor guy woke up startled, walked away and sat a few seats away mumbling and no doubt cursing us along the way.
Apparently, it WAS free seating. We were cheated by the ticketing guy in Bangkok!

Temuk said...

Salam Kak Teh
I think I did experience a few train trips (Reading-London) way back in 1973-74. Unfortunately I can't recollect much about those trips, although I do remember the countryside was really enticing. Suka betul tengok kawasan yang ada ternakan!

I like your IPADIO programme very much. I have always been listening to Penawar Rindu by Orkid Abdullah. Terlupa pula Rafeah Buang pun ada menyanyikannya. Selamat menjalani ibadah puasa & menyambut hari raya nanti.

Sha Yusof said...

kak Zaharah,

i love the train rides and the excitement..wow!!

Salam kak, sha here..remember when iwas in liverpool before and you did bring us around london once.

Well akak i lost your contact..and please let me have yours...+60126075183 or tqanadia@yahoo.co.uk..

So happy to hear about abang wan..awang goneng

Cat-from-Sydney said...

Meow! Yoohoo! Anybody home? Oooohhh...cobwebs everywhere. Anyway, just dropping by to wish you EID MUBARAK!!!! To everyone in your family too, especially Uncle AG and Tabby... purrr....meow!

White Melur said...

I love train rides! No routine train ride is the same. Same destination but different passengers and different journey:)

SFGEMS said...

Selamat Hari Raya,

Meant to wish you and other Muslim bloggers but laziness got the better of me.

Anyway, the wishes are full of my best regards for you.

Love the way you write! :D