Railway Line

50 Years of Hard Road – The End of the Beginning

An excerpt from Chapter 1 of 50 Years of Hard Road by Nick Charles MBE.

50 Years of Hard Road - Nick Charles MBE

‘The trouble with dying is it’s so bloody final!’

I was lying flat on my back across a railway track, a hundred yards up from my local railway station with my head on the line, and spoke the words aloud to no one. It wasn’t that I was having second thoughts, but the insanity which ruled my every living moment reminded me my favourite football team had a game coming up, and I would never get to know the result!

I’d planned the exit from my troubled world with little precision; indeed, there was only one essential detail, a flask-shaped bottle of brandy. I reached for it hurriedly from an inside pocket before my guardian angel – always assuming I had one – had time to step in and stop me. It took no time at all to empty the contents, and I fought my body’s natural reaction to throw it back up, and then made myself as comfortable as I could with my head resting on the cold steel.

It was almost dark or maybe nearly light, time and tide were lost on me, but it was during the minutes when the planet gives the impression it doesn’t know what to do next. I had no idea it was autumn 1974. Normal folk know these things, of course. They have people to see, places to go, stuff to do; in their lives, it matters if it’s day or night. Time meant nothing to me, it was inconsequential and only offered more pain, more trial and tribulation, and the additional complication of working out where my next drink was coming from. Food didn’t present a problem as there were always waste bins, and begging for coins to buy a bag of chips was easy enough, unless I smelt so vile people hurried by or crossed over the road before they reached me.

Suddenly I realised the light was fading, it was night that was beckoning and I was happier with that, I would remain invisible to the human eye until they found me in daylight minus my head.

It was sunshine that greeted me when I opened my eyes and I couldn’t move. I tried but nothing worked except the fingers on one hand, but even then hardly at all and I was unable to understand why. I could hear distant traffic and the sounds of a civilisation I had long abandoned, and put more effort into forcing my limbs into freeing myself from invisible bonds. At last, and after a supreme effort, I rolled onto one side and was violently sick. I staggered to my feet after several false starts and began a long and painful journey to the station platform a couple of hundred yards away. The railway sleepers were an almost impossible hurdle, there were many and they seemed never-ending, but finally I reached the slope leading to the deserted passenger area. I pondered momentarily about a day, long ago, when I had caught a train and travelled first class from this very place. Then, I sank onto a bench with wrought iron sides and decided I needed a drink.

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50 Years of Hard Road - Nick Charles MBE