Going Loco

Jersey number plate

In which Blog Fodder goes all misty eyed over his anorak days of yore…

Our son reminded us at breakfast that there are only 32 weeks until Christmas.
I think he’s trying to soften us up to buy him an iPhone.
He’s lusted after one ever since his uncle came to stay and demonstrated its amazing range of gadgetry.

He’ll be lucky.
We’re talking about a boy who’s lost two school jumpers, many pieces of homework, trainers, two Swiss army knives, a watch and a wallet containing ten euros which he was using as a football, in the absence of an actual football.

So no iPhone.
In fact, no phone of any description.
And that’s not the only thing he’ll be missing this Christmas.

For a start there are no open fire places in the house we’re renting, so there’s no way in for the big man in red.

We won’t be going on the annual Santa Special either, as there are no trains in Jersey, let alone steam locomotives.

Which raises another major issue.
Ben won’t be able to indulge, like his Dad, in the delights of train-spotting.

I remember only too vividly the happy days spent after school at Lincoln Central station, praying fervently for a Streak to come whistling through (that’s one of the A4 class of engines to which the record-breaking Mallard belonged).

Instead all we ever got were the old warhorse B1s with exotic names like Wildebeeste and Hartebeeste chugging backwards and forwards.

I was allowed to spent days on the platforms at Retford and Newark railway stations, noting down the numbers of trains as they thundered through on the east coast main line.
All I had for company was my duffel-bag containing sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper and a bottle of pop.

Oh, and my bible – the Ian Allan compendium of train numbers.
Every train spotted was matched by its number being underlined in the handbook.
Namers – trains with title-plates like “Sir Nigel Gresley” or the “Lancashire Fusilier” – were especially prized.

But best of all were those featured in photographs in the book – spot one of those and you could underline the picture.

My interest waned as the steam age gave way to diesel’s deadly dull uniformity.
Though I may have grown up at roughly the same time!

Even if there were still trains in Jersey I don’t suppose children would be allowed to hang around on railway stations. And 21st century kids have better things to do, mainly involving some form of screen.
I wonder if the software developers have come up with a virtual train-spotting game yet.

In the absence of trains, I’ve come up with a new way to indulge my collecting gene.

The island has a unique number-plate system – do you remember Jim Bergerac’s burgundy red vintage Triumph Roadster with the number J1610?
You’d be hard-pressed to recall the numbers of the cars Inspector Barnaby drives in Midsomer Murders.

Well, I’ve decided to try and spot the number-plates from the island’s first hundred cars, J1 – J100.
It’s not easy.
So far I’ve bagged just five – the pride of place going to one I spotted in a car park near St Malo.

Like their UK counterparts Jersey’s low number plates are highly prized so the chances are that most are still on the road – though probably parked in the drives of the island’s more expensive homes.

There’s no Ian Allen book to help me these days.

Chancing upon a new number is somehow deeply satisfying, but I fear the rest of the family think its yet another symptom of my advancing years, another small madness to be indulged because it’s relatively harmless, and cheap.

Ben, for one, isn’t going to be distracted from his quest for the ultimate number-cruncher, the iPhone.
Although by the time he’s earned enough to buy one, it will have been superseded by something we can’t even begin to imagine.

About Beta Mum

Here you can find the ramblings of a trapeze artist turned journalist who ran away from the circus to join the BBC. Cathy "mine's a Kir Royale" Keir then spent thirteen years working in Jersey, Guernsey and Devon, before downgrading to what you see before you. She has contributed articles to The Guardian, The Stage and Television Today, Junior Magazine and both the BBC and Bad Mothers Club websites. She has two children who think women can’t be prime ministers. She blames herself.
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2 Responses to Going Loco

  1. Elinor says:

    “I wonder if the software developers have come up with a virtual train-spotting game yet.”

    Here it is… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sensible_Train_Spotting

  2. Potty Mummy says:

    No offence Blog Fodder, but I missed the caption at the top claiming responsibility for this one – and was praying it was you and not Beta Mum by the time I reached the end. I mean, I know Jersey is not particularly racy, but things would have got really bad if she was waxing lyrical over steam trains…

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