Pram in the pit


After changing my shoes to catch my homeward train, I step back out onto the platform to tell the assembled multitudes they have 11 minutes till their train  A terrible sight meets my eyes.  A line of people are on the platform’s edge and there are several others including two children on the tracks.  A pram is being lifted up from the pit.  Oh my God! A pram has rolled off the platform and fallen on to the tracks

I lunge at the red button and scream “Stop the trains.  Child in the pit.”  Fortunately the control room crew are on the ball. They do their part without question.  I race to the platform’s edge and yell and reassure people the train is 10 minutes away and help people pull people out of the pit.  The two children, both under 12, race to the pedestrian crossing to get out.  The platform walls are as tall as they are. Everyone is terrified. The 18 month old child who was strapped the pram when it rolled onto the track is wailing hysterically.  Possibly indicating it is ok.  The incident is over in a couple of minutes.

The family – its one of those big school holiday families with three women and countless (about 8) kids, all running here and there – refuse an ambulance and also refuse to give their names.  I suspect they are afraid of getting into trouble. Someone left the brake off the pram and given the slope of the platform, designed thus to shed rain water, it rolled away.    No judgement here. With lots of kids, mothers get distracted.

The child does seem unhurt.  It yells and yells – plenty air in those lungs.  Then exhausted, it falls asleep.    A man brings his little boy over to see the child.  The boy saw the pram go over the edge and needs reassuring the little one is ok.  Later someone says to me I’m lucky I missed the actual incident.  It would stay in your mind that pram dropping over the edge.  I suspect they are right.  I’ve seen awful things in station work, fist fights over parking and over drugs, people threatening suicide, domestic abuse. But I’ve never been so close to tears before.

Trespasser on the tracks



Not a safe place to walk

The call comes out on the radio “All trains stop.  Trespasser on the tracks” and everybody’s heart sinks.  There are several disturbed individuals, known to us all, who get a kick out of disrupting trains and who despite being banned from railway property, return again and again to trespass where they can create the most havoc.

But this is not one of them.  15 minutes later the trains start again, and railway security are lecturing a slim man out in the front of the station about the dangers of walking on the track.  Apparently, he “overstayed” last night in one of the trains, woke up in the yards and alarmed some poor train driver by walking out along the tracks this morning. The guy is let go with a warning and the trains start again.  He goes over the Woollies opposite and treats himself to a hot potato gem breakfast (I know this because he comes back to the station to eat it) I suspect the “overstay” is no accident – someone looking for a safe place to sleep.  Though it’s a mystery how he managed it.  Station staff check every carriage for sleeping bodies before the trains go into the yards and there is nowhere inside to hide.



The loaded bike

Yesterday I was called to the front of Junction Station to investigate a man lying on the street.  I discovered two men with spanners who were dismantling a bicycle so that they could load it and a number of milk crates onto two other bicycles.  For about ½ an hour I kept intermittent watch on the complicated procedure – the jigsaw like placing and replacing of bike parts and the delicate threading of rope through the load.  It didn’t seem possible to put such a load on a bicycle.  But at last they finished and climbed on their bikes.  And rode into the station.  The main bike was so big I had to open the bypass gate for them.

“Will you fit in the lift?” I asked.

“We’ll just have to see,” shrugged the cyclists cheerfully.  They had that alternative lifestyle look and attitude.

Last I saw one of the cyclists was giving me a thumbs up from outside the lift to Platform 6

Blue Tongue Lizard time.

The lizard was about half the size of this Blue Tongue


The white coping on the edge of the platform is no place for a blue tongue lizard or for the excited children dancing around it.  The poor creature keeps swerving to peer over the edge of the platform clearly looking for a hidey hole or just an escape from the kids. But there’s nothing out there but a one and half metre drop and no purchase for lizard claws.  I grab my long-handled brush and shovel and go to scoop it up.  It bites at the brush and then it crouches down and makes itself as wide and flat as it can so that it looks like its swallowed a saucer.  “I’m too big to eat,” it’s saying. Finally it decides the shovel is a hidey hole and darts inside.


I lower the shovel down over the edge of the platform and before I’ve reached the ground the lizard jumps out and skitters into the safe shadows.

Who interrupts someone in the toilet?

Up at 5 and at work by 6am.  Still dark.  Buses replacing trains on one of our lines.

People are complaining about the lack of toilets and, yes, one has been engaged for over ½ an hour.  Two of us bang on the door and get no response except the smell of cigarette smoke.  Given the danger of overdoses in station toilets, we take the plunge, warn the person we’re coming in and open the heavy toilet door.  Someone is sprawled across the floor face down.  Skinny bare ankles and feet.

“Oh God!” says my co-worker. “We’d better call the ambulance.”  While she’s doing that, I push open the door again to check if there’s anything I can do.  The body has rolled over into a fetal position, a single dark eye open, peering brightly out from under a coat.

“Can we help you? Do you need help?”  We call.  “Are you ok?”

There’s a cushion under the guy’s head.  He mumbles, seems to be conscious.  The situation has changed. We call off the Ambulance.  We obviously have a rough sleeper.

The station Master arrives,

“Do you need help?  You can’t sleep here.  You have to get up.”

“Go away!”

“If you don’t get out, we’ll have to call the police.”

The door slams and we stand in the corridor talking about calling the police.  A minute later the door is flung open again and the three of us, all women are confronted by this huge angry man who screams at us…

“How dare you interrupt someone in the toilet! What sort of people are you to interrupt someone in the toilet? Don’t you know any better?”  He’s huge and he’s yelling. At me, maybe because I’m the tallest of we three smallish women. “Stop smiling.  How dare you interrupt someone in the toilet.  What kind of people do that?”  I feel a spark of terror because he’s really angry and big and it’s a small space. I call on my wireless for the ticket inspectors who are all men to come and give us back up.

The man slams the door again.

“We’re calling the cops,” says the Station Master as we retreat.  But we don’t need to. A few minutes later, the man appears cushion under his arm and stalks off towards the trains.

“What sort of people interrupt a man in the toilet?” he mutters loudly enough to be heard all the way.   Such wounded dignity.

It’s not yet dawn.  The beginning of a 9 hour shift.

Prowler at the Threshold. My first Call of Cthulhu scenario

Your first share house!  Its gonna be one long party.  But who or what keeps tapping on the windows at night? 

Four present day students move into No. 7 Cemetery Lane only to find themselves haunted by someone or something that prowls around outside at night.

A  modern day Call of Cthulhu one shot scenario for those that know the pleasures – and the horrors – of share houses!


Bubbles and pushchairs




Yesterday was glorious sun after days of cold rain.

In one hour I had two very different clients in push chairs.  The first client is a regular and kinda scary.  S comes to the zoo once a week with his carer.  He hates going home from the zoo and so his trip home is always one long tantrum.  I’ve seen this before with 3 year olds but though S has the mind of a 3 year old he’s actually a large 40 year old man.  He’s strapped into the chair because he can’t walk and I must say I’m guiltily glad of it.    He swears and tries to push his carer and bangs the bins and walls. But like a toddler, he can be very sweet too.  After he told me to “fuck off” one time I turned away crossly and said I wasn’t going to be talked to like that.  He said he was sorry and looked so woebegone that I forgave him. I asked the carer why he hates going home and learned that he lives in a share house.  He has no family.  His trip to the zoo is probably the only interesting thing that happens all week.  So now I do my best to talk to him and say nice to see you.  He seems glad of the attention and the carer is glad for him to be distracted.  After they get on the train the swearing usually starts again.

The second client was a real 3 year old strapped in her pram.  Out on the platform in the sun, she set off her new bubble machine. For about 5 minutes I was surrounded by cloud of golden and rainbow-hued soap bubbles.  I could barely refrain from dancing round in them.



Every Autumn these large puffball fungi break through the asphalt.  And always I am reminded of this poem by Sylvia Plath.


Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.

Good Samaritans and Russian Grandparents

“I found these people wandering around outside the zoo,” said the young man.  “I think they want a train I hope you can help them.  They only speak Russian.”

And so saying, he left.

The old man with the walking stick and the old woman in the beanie agreed that they were Russki but that was the end of our communication.  I bought them over to the ticket machine, but not only could I not explain how they got a ticket,  I couldn’t even work out where they wanted to go.  The woman was getting more and more upset repeating the same phrase and urgently tapping her map of the zoo.   I didn’t want to put them on the wrong train.

Thank God for the young man seating nearby!  It turned out he had studied Russian in school. A long and complicated conversation followed obviously slowed down by his having an unexpected accent.  At last he told me that these elderly people were expecting to be picked up by a car at the Zoo Gate. But when they got out of the gate they were confused because they didn’t recognize the place.

The first young man had actually brought them further from their goal! No that he could know that.   He’d clearly meant well and the elderly woman kept tapping the picture of the railway gate on her zoo map.

As the train came and and took my Russian speaking helper away, I lead the increasingly anxious and questioning Russians back to the zoo.  The zoo gate only seemed to make them more upset. It finally occurred to me why that might be happening.

The zoo has two entrance gates, a main gate and a railway gate. Visitors often assume there is only one gate and come out the wrong one.  Could that be what happened to these two?  I applied to the railway gate staff who liked my theory.  We handed the Russians over to an zoo volunteer who would take them over to the other gate.  I don’t know what happened after that. I didn’t see them again, which I hope was a good sign. I hope an anxious waiting child was reunited with anxious elderly parents.

But what amazing luck to find someone with schoolboy Russian sitting in the Zoo station waiting room at just the right time.  Someone was watching over someone that day.


Suspicious device.

I got to work around 11.00 to be greeted with pictures of this suspicious device that had stopped the trains and caused the Junction and the nearby building site to be evacuated that morning. All in a days work on the railways.