I love the railways, always will. Such delightful memories – a younger sister with three older brothers, what fun, what mischief we got up to! Our holidays (one a year – a week) were always spent on a ‘Run-about ticket’. We didn’t have a car, neither did many other kids on the council estate I grew up on in Winchester. On our run-about tickets we set off for for the day, always coming home late at night and collapsing into our beds. These run-about tickets I believe were the princely sum of 7s/6d (adult! ½ price kids). We had the choice of two routes for the week, one being the Bournemouth line, the other (which we always chose) was Southsea, Littlehampton, Bognor, hence the Hayling Island connection.
I well remember the station master calling “Havant for Hayling”- “Havant for Hayling” as we waited at Portsmouth for our connection. A gathering excitement would well up knowing once more we’d be on favourite train, going to our Best destination. Hayling Island was always a favourite for one it had a funfair – we didn’t rate any place without one, as kids – and two its lovely sandy beaches and peace and quiet – we loved to see the two-seater bikes riding about the island. I believed they belonged to a Holiday Camp and I could only imagine the joys of staying in such illustrious places and wheeling along in these. Mum said they were for “rich people” and I wondered what that meant. The most we could hope for was a 20 minute slot on the pedal boats at Southsea and even then I was in chronic danger of my dear brothers pushing me over the side! No wonder I soon learnt to swim.
Dad got one week off a year as a bricklayer, he soon decided to have a ‘quiet’ week while our dear (rather deaf) mum took us off on our railway journeys.
My brothers were absolute devils and of course we got up to mischief when mum wasn’t looking, she was quite laid back and oblivious as she heard very little of our plottings.
How well I remember the Hayling Billy, a single track railway which went so slowly on stilts across to the island – we absolutely loved it so well. We often held crisp packets out of the windows to catch the wind.
My three brothers were really dreadful, they often placed a stink bomb under the heel of their shoes and we all hung out of the windows, suddenly spotting some far off bird or vision. We delighted to see the confused and embarrassed passengers looking at one another; we had to keep our heads out of the windows to avoid suspicion! Mother was oblivious to this and by the time she had cottoned on we had arrived at Hayling station.
Mother’s delight was to visit the bric-a-brac/furniture store near the station whilst we waited impatiently to get to the beach. When we left, mother was puffing and blowing with her voluminous bags about her.
We would take a pack of cheese or sausage sandwiches and a bottle of drink. We usually got ice cream there if we were good. I cannot recall the weather; we did not give it a thought as we peeled off our clothes, put on our stretchy costumes which were three times bigger when they were wet, and tumbled into the waves, the boys splashed me head-to-toe making me cry. We had to be dragged away at the end of the day, with our sodden costume and towels. We had to carry our own kit and usually this was on a drawstring, back across the shoulders. Yes we were pretty tired as we trudged along the long road to the station.
We loved to be back on the ‘Billy’ again and once more headed home. Of course a few more tricks and train spotting on the way home and then off to bed again, exhausted, only to be repeated the next day. Such wonderful childhood memories and always this smoking, whistle blowing cute little train which took so long to get us to our beloved destination.