COLM TOBIN: Heuston, we’ve got a problem – with all the racket on the train

July 18th, 2022 11:00 AM

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I WOULD classify myself as an environmentalist in the broadest sense of the word. I know what goes in which bin every week. I cycle wherever I can. I mostly run my car on a battery round town. I really hope that I am more a part of the solution than the problem.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Greta Thunberg. I like the odd steak. I eat dairy products. I buy too much unnecessary crap.

Today, I am being a particularly good boy and instead of jumping in the car I’ve opted to take the train from Heuston Station to travel to Cork for a family funeral.

I am doing the right thing for the sake of my future grandchildren, the collected whale species of planet Earth, the corncrake, and of course Eamon Ryan.

And as I’ve been on four flights in the past month, it’s fair to say that there is guilt involved too.

I’m afraid to say that it hasn’t been a pleasant experience this far.

First of all, I’ve decided to travel on the hottest day of the year. Which is fine and dandy if you are sprawled on the sand in Inchydoney with a Pina Colada in your paw but not so fine if you are crammed into a tin can with the cast of Covid 19: Another Wave.

Secondly, the train was delayed by 30 minutes at Heuston due to ‘operational reasons’, that great hold-all phrase which could mean anything from ‘leaves in the track’ to ‘the entire train blew up’.

And to make matters worse, the concourse in Heuston was under siege during the interminable wait for the train.

This was thanks to a perfect storm of rabid Jackeen pigeons and extremely out-of-control children who were chasing them around the floor and up into everybody’s faces for well over an hour.

‘Where are the parents?’ I thought to myself, referring to the children this time, and not the pigeons. And then I spotted them far off in the corner, growing old under a mounting pyramid of Supermac’s, not a bother on them.

And now that I’m finally settled into my seat on the train, getting ready to launch blissfully into writing this column, I am being assaulted in quadrophonic sound by the same feral children.

This time it’s Paw Patrol at full tilt and the family is also putting the finishing touches to whatever fish-adjacent fast food they have just opened. The smell has begun to permeate the carriage and the place now smells like a fairground in Tramore.

A Michael Palin documentary this is not.

I’d move seats but there isn’t a free one within my eye line. Also, I’m afraid that if I stood up the smell of the fried food might go to my head and I’d keel over like a 19th-century handmaiden.

It’s trying, to say the least.

You see, l do love the romantic idea of train travel, in theory. Whenever I visit the Model Village in Clonakilty, one of my favourite spots to bring the kids, I am beguiled by the old films of the West Cork railway and charmed by the notion of it being reintroduced one day.

Imagine, being able to hop on a train west to Bantry or down to Courtmacsherry for a spot of lunch? Or take a day trip to Ballinascarthy for sausages? But perhaps my idea of the railway might be from some bygone age, when people had, you know, some respect for their fellow passengers. On the evidence of today’s journey, I’ll be bringing the car next time.

Pining for John Major

The reign of Boris finally ended in the UK last week but his impact is likely to linger in the air like a bad fart for many years to come.

Indeed, whereas most serial farters might have the good sense to leave the scene after the crime, Johnson is the kind of character who would prefer to stay on for three months and look you in the eye as the plumes of noxious air reach your nostrils. Never fear, because the Tory Party have some 2,000 upper-class twits waiting in the wings to vie for his position as party leader. These include, but are not limited to, Lord Killthepoor III Of Snotsbridge; the ambitious grandson of the Earl of Prawns, Michael Bastard; Jennifer Bumblebeard who many consider a natural successor to Margaret Thatcher having been forged in a Tesco Express self-service machine; and perhaps most outlandish of all, Nadine Dorries. Who would have thought we’d be pining for John Major?

In memory of a great man

I am writing this with a heavy heart, returning home to West Cork for the funeral of my grand uncle.

He was one of those West Cork men who could trace entire families and their interweaving web of relations across the entire region from Adrigole to Aghada.

He had one of those encyclopaedic minds filled with local knowledge – a treasure trove that cannot be replicated, downloaded or archived, despite the best efforts of their families and local historians.

I reflect today on how once these people pass away, a lot of that wisdom disappears with them.

It pains me to think the Ireland he grew up in will be so alien to my own children as to be almost unimaginable.

Still, I feel thankful today for having known him.

After all, we are all standing on the shoulders of giants. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.



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