Sunday, 5 July 2015

The Choo-Choo

“We’re going up to Dublin on the choo-choo!” he said to himself, in a sing song way, which sounded like the tune, “I do like to be beside the seaside.” It was amazing the way a train journey changed his personality. Firstly, he would never say train, it was always the choo-choo, and second, all his words seemed to come out in melody.

He danced from one foot to the other, in his highly polished shoes, while waiting for the platform steward to open the gate. He always insist on being right at the front of the queue, so he could get the exact right seat.

The steward, in bright orange bib, swung the gate open with a squeak, and Bernard thrust his ticket forward excitedly, before rushing down the platform, leaving me racing to keep up. He bobbed up and down as he skipped along the train, counting the carriages. He always wanted to be seven from the back, because that was the one which was the perfect distance from the engine, apparently. He also insisted on sitting in the seat, exactly half way between the wheels. I once asked him why it had to be the middle seat, and he informed me the reason was simple, sitting over the wheels rattled his bum.

When Bernard had selected exactly where the middle of the carriage was, I had to stand outside on the platform while he went in and took the seat at the window where I was standing. Once he was in just the right place, I was allowed get on.

As I walked up the carriage, I could see Bernard’s bum, wiggling in the air, while he performed the last of his excited rituals, checking the underside of the table for gum. I was about to slide into the seat opposite him when he frowned at me. I'd forgotten to check my side of the table. I ducked my head under, and scanned for sticky lumps of masticated confectionery.
“Nothing there,” I said, finally taking my seat.
“Good. No chew-chew on the choo-choo,” he said, smiling at his own joke.

Soon the train jolted forward and the wheels squealed, as we inched along the rails, beginning our journey. Bernard turned to me, and said in a more normal tone of voice, “we’d better go over the monthly figures one more time before the briefing.” 

I retrieved the sheaf of printed figures from my briefcase and wondered, not for the first time, how he'd ever become the Managing Director of a multinational company. 

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