It is 8.15am and we’re clearing away our breakfast things. According to the 4 year olds, the house is a birds’ nest – I am mummy bird and and they are my babies. We have to communicate in cheeps.
So far, so normal.
According to you, 6 year old, the house is a train station and you work on the railways. You are in your 60s and it is nearly time for you to retire – I can tell that you are totally absorbed in your character. This will go on for a while.
You continue………The rules of the railway are that you are allowed to work at a maximum of 10 stations, and this is your tenth so…..well, you’ve done your time. In fact, you’ve worked on the trains since you were 9; when you started working on the special railways for youngsters. Then at 16, you moved up to the regular train lines. You didn’t have any interest in following in your parents’ footsteps – they were both musicians. Violin and piano, you tell me. But now your children want to work on the trains too, and so do their children.
Apparently you live in Kings Langley, which is handily situated near the M25 and other major routes – you show me on the map. When you were 40 years and one day old, you went to live in Reading because you had always wanted to explore Berkshire; but then it was also your dream to work at Watford Junction (or ‘the Junction‘ as you now seem to call it); so when the job at Watford came up you realised that Reading just wouldn’t be practical with all the morning traffic. Kings Langley is working out pretty well for you.
You have always been one for detail.
Apparently I am off to Birmingham New Street, so I want that train just there – next to the wash basket. You are on your way to meet your friend Ave who lives up in Doncaster. Ave is only 23. She was born in Northampton to Indonesian parents who moved from Indonesia over to Milton Keynes. Before you go and meet Ave, you do need to get yourself some lunch – there are eleven cafes at the station, because you’re not allowed to consume your own food so it is really important that there is plenty of choice. You return with a plate of roast pork. Kindly, you’ve brought me some too – I can’t say this has ever happened to me at a train station before.
And I’m not sure how this has happened, but I now seem to be working on the railways with you. I have to wear a uniform, but I am allowed to wear my own socks, you tell me – this is a relief. I mustn’t worry about the fact I’m in my late 30s – some people don’t even start working on the railways until they’re in their early 40s.
This is reassuring, although it wouldn’t have occured to me to be worried until you mentioned it.
Slightly worryingly, you are doing a very good impression of a cranky, set-in-his-ways chap who is ready for retirement and is a little fed up that he has been put in charge of the new girl. It is very difficult, you tell me, for you to be showing me what to do whilst also helping people find their way to their trains. Look, there’s a lady who needs to get to Gatwick Airport – could I go and help her please? You can’t do everything; you tell me, clearly irritated. I might need to take the map with me but that’s fine while I’m learning. Soon I’ll be able to help people without the map, like you can.
I can’t wait.
It is now 9.30am. As well as getting myself a new job on the railways, I have had a shower, got dressed, and made four packed lunches. Thankfully, after 10 minutes the four year olds forgot that we all lived in a nest and were supposed to be communicating with cheeps only.
I suggest that you write down the life story of your railway worker, but you choose to get on with something else instead.
I don’t want you to ever forget it…..so I have done it for you.