Friday, 22 August 2014


In the late 'seventies, with a couple of good ole boy mates, I was gloriously on the piss.  For a time, drunk - and untouchable - as lords,  we lived lives of complete fantasy.  It all had to end, we knew, and would invent elaborate, fantastical suicide options, for when the money ran out.  This was happening in Coventry and after - I think - Tile Hill and Canley Crossing, the next train station on the Coventry-Birmingham line was Berkswell.  I used to say that if I was goinna top meself, I was determined to take some bastard with me.  How ya gonna do that, Ishmael? Well, what I'm gonna do, is, there's a train leaves Berkswell at 4.10, every afternoon. Yeah, so?| And I'm gonna write out a big sign, on cardboard, in big lurid letters .  Then what, wossitgonnasay? It's gonna say IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT, YOURS.  And then what? Then I'm gonna park my car a coupla miles from Berkswell, stand in front of the train, holding the sign up in front of me and pointing at it, as the driver's jumping, to no avail,  on the breaks, shitting himself. Oh, wow, Ishmael, that's really fucking sick, that is, poor sod gonna spend the rest of his days not knowing if it WAS actually his fault, if he'd fucked you about unknowingly, and smearing yourself all over his windscreen was the only way you could get your own back,  If you could find out his name, and write it on the sign, that'd really fuck him up;  they'd never let him on a train again, British Rail, maybe we could find out, what his name is, shouldn't be too hard.

And so it came to pass that Taking the Four-Ten From Berkswell became a common euphemism for suicide;  if somebody dropped out of sight we'd say, You don't suppose he's.....What, Taken the Four-Ten from Berkswell?  Nah, not him, hasn't got the balls. 

 There's an old Western, isn't there, the song sung by Frankie Laine, I want to ride again, on that Three-Ten to Yu-u-ma;  I think it came from there.  Fancifully sardonic and playful though my confection was, I nevertheless could see that being a train driver did lay you open to the most bizarre form of workplace harrassment that there could ever be. And there's a lot of it around, Network Rail has a special depot, where trains go to get a good, deep, underarm cleansing after some fucker's taken the Four-Ten and is splattered all over the wheels and undercarriage.  I think they should be fitted with big, fuck-off cowcatchers, the locos, like they have in the States, just sweep the kamikaze nutters the fuck out of the way and not having them splash their insides on the windscreen, three inches from the driver's face.  Bound to upset a man, that.

But I was loooking at one of the filth sheets just now and fuck me, Jesus, but some bloke's just gone and done that very thing, that Four-Ten To Berkswell thing. He split  up with his partner of about nine years and no matter what he said or did, she wouldn't have him back. Only trouble is, she's a train driver. And yesterday he went and stood in front of her train.  Instant strawberry jam, he was;  she, of course, is shocked out of her mind, had to be drugged-up. 

 Can't be too careful, not in this life. Not about what you think when you're pissed, nor about working as  a  train driver.  Fuck that shit. Imagine, you got your partner out of your life, or so you think;  next thing, he's hurtling into your windscreen at ninety miles an hour. And that's all you're ever going to see, everytime you close your eyes.  That's like Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Only it's a man.


Doug Shoulders said...

She’ll need councilin’ that’s for sure. Bit like that Robin bloke. “But what was he really like?...You know to live with and all that?”

“What was he like?.” “he threw himself at the train I was driving! That’s what he was like”

Alphons said...

Well the world now has one less idiot to contend with.

mongoose said...

Yeah, Tile Hill has the same effect on me.

tdg said...

Fear of death is the deepest childishness, eradicating it ought to be the first priority of the primary school syllabus. Then you could not shock the world with a six inch knife.

Rosevidney Rustic said...

What was the strongest emotion, I wonder, self pity or revenge? Whichever it was they have caused deep hurt in those they professed to love. I find it very sad.

Bungalow Bill said...

What is the incidence of bi-polar disorder/ clinical depression among the dirt poor of sub- Saharan Africa or other areas where the next meal and clean water are the only concern? I have been diagnosed as clinically depressive with BP but I am afraid that we may need to get our heads out of our arses. There is developing, has already developed, a precious cult of self-termination in which the suicide is regarded as the helpless, tormented victim of Life. There are, I recognise, distinct classical and romantic traditions on this, the former rather more clear- headed; and yet both are oblivious of others and enjoin acts of pure selfishness, the more so when as with Williams there are loved ones to clean up the mess. Is not the fetishisation of suicide, as our host argues, part of the euthanisation programme to which we are being insidiously subjected and are not all those in love with death and the idea of death (let us not exclude the Decapatiation Masturbators of Islam ) to be resisted on virtuous existential grounds? Or are we content that life should be another disposable commodity if we get tired of it?

Mike said...

When I worked in the City in the 80s I was waiting for a tube at Holborn. There was an announcement: "A passenger has fallen under the train at the previous station and been killed. There will be a delay".

The woman standing next to me turned and angrily shouted: "Now I'm going to be fucking late!"

callmeishmael said...

I wonder just how much turbulence this has created; it should have puzzled and troubled all who read it, except that it was in a newspaper which specialises in distorting the humdrum and allowing its readers their comment, which, in this case, consisted of the cyber equivalent of the laying of garage flowers and the shocked whispering of RIP.

The train-topping always troubles me; I cannot, yet, imagine the fatalistic calm required to stand or lie in front of hundreds of tons of fast-moving steel, nor, however instantaneous, the pain but there is also something, I know not what, about instrumentalising the driver and - to an extent - the witnesses and passengers in one's own death. Seems indecent but to those seconds from instant death where lies and ofmwhat value is propriety

This example, in which the driver was doubly victimised, seems wholly bizarre, cruelly retributional, yet, at the same time, whilst utterly, childishly pathetic, quite understandable; a new twist to Sorrow's vengeful heartache - If I can't have you, nobody can have me, sort of thing. Maybe this was just a continued and continuing profession of love, mr rr, a defiant one, incomparable. It is unlikely that the woman will ever again be treated to such a demonstration of her power over another, another's over her.

Isn't all Grecian, Wagnerian, epic; is it, even faintly, admirable?

callmeishmael said...

I thought that it was hard-wired into us, the fear of death, mr tdg, is. what brought us here, you and I, from the swamp; how can that be taught out of us? Or do you refer to some Buddhist acceptance, maybe a Christian one?

I don't believe that political mountains should be moved by a six-inch knife but I do believe that I should be.

But I also hope -and here might ge the case for efucation - that I would not, merely for the sake of my survival, prostrate myself acquiescently before the feet of Johnny Headchopper, maybe the primary school catechism could start with There're worse things than dying......

call me ishmael said...

That's the city, mr mike, that's all one needs to know.

call me ishmael said...

What you say is properly prosaic, mr bungalow bill; extreme forms of medical science will endlessly refine and label all the ills that flesh is heir to, once hunger snd thirst and shelter are taken care of; it is a logical development of planned obsolescence capitalism, the diagnosis of Self and one for which I have little time; what, outside compulsory personality annihilation, can one do about, say, Gordon Brown; what, short of incareceration, can be done for people such as Tony'n'Imelda Blair, the actions of whom are murderously larcenous, criminally insane; what is the point of harmless folk endlessly being retuned, never quite harmoniously, by PsychoBioCorp?

As for the DeathCulters, be they in the desert or the House of Lords, well, perhaps the remedy is contrary yet apposite, kill the fuckers, see how they like it.

tdg said...

The brain is neither software nor hardware but mostly firmware: difficult, but rarely impossible, to change. What one does after the age of procreation matters little to the survival of the species. There are, as you say, many things far worse than death, and suicide -- were it not for the visceral horror of it -- would be peerlessly effective.

But there is also something absurd about it, at least when it is hard to have sympathy for the pain it seeks to extinguish. There is, at the foot of mount Fuji, a forest so dense and forbidding that many find it a convivial place to hang. The government is tired of pulling out the corpses, so signs now hang amongst the trees, urging the suicidal to take their death elsewhere. I wish to add my own signs, of another tone: "Why deprive a murderer of a special pleasure: call this number now". Etc.

Alphons said...

"Call me ishmael said

..., kill the fuckers, see how they like it."

That is certainly a good idea, apart from the fact they will not reply to you when you put to them the important question!!!

Anonymous said...

Amidst all this gloom I have been searching for some 'good' news. At first in vain amongst the MSM, blogs etc. Then I happened upon it in Mr Meades' rather excellent 'Encyclopaedia' where, in a footnote to a discussion about some of the characters involved in the Porton Down 'research' back in the fifities, he reports that "The Ceausescus of Connaught Square died, hideously, on 23/09/2016". Cheer up all - not long to go now! SG

call me ishmael said...

There have been such happy coincidences of want, have there not, mr tdg? A contract made between a cannibal and a cannibalee, in Germany, where else, I recall.

I have thought about this over the years, not about doing it but of the fact of it, arriving at the point, sustained for some time, now, that this person, the suicide, cares for nothing in this world, has neither hope nor desire, is, by his action, absenting himself from such fractured commonality as we share, why should I waste a moment on him?

Admittedly, I depart from this resolve in these two commentaries but with the Williams pantomime, somebody must counter the showbiz hysteria, mustn't they, the self-deceit which sees a thousand Guardian readers eating their own puke at the cheesy feet of Russell Brand?( I recall, by the way, our difference, when he emerged, regarding his talent.)
As for the death-by-train, I thought it was noteworthy, maybe an escalation, perhaps eventually meriting a TeeVee show, the Big Brother Death House, maybe.

As for the utility if age or otherwise, haven't we, until recently, valued the role of Elders, for what they know, rather than for who they might breed, and isn't such a valuation as you posit skewed very heavily in favour of the one gender; men can procreate until they drop.

tdg said...

Yes, there is more theatre in the story of the jilted lover than in a thousand "creative" lives of the kind Williams so ineptly left early, but it takes your neoelizabethan eye to see it.

We are not directed by our genes, as many biologists stupidly insist, but merely constrained by them, and most of the constraints operate through the older, emotional parts of the brain that are not answerable to reason, even if reason often bends itself around them. Most societies place greater value on younger lives except where age is an indicator of greater powers of survival in relatives of reproductive age, i.e. within a genetically defined clan. The breakdown of the family unit will discount the old through that mechanism amongst others.

jgm2 said...

I have to say that the first thought that pops into my head whenever I'm delayed because somebody has been 'hit by a train' is 'The fucking selfish cunt'. What's wrong with slitting your fucking wrists in a hot bath and sending a letter to the coroner ie somebody who is paid to deal with suicides - telling them where to find you? Send the letter first obviously.

Why do these selfish fuckers have to ruin hundreds of thousands of people's evenings? Or mornings?

I was standing at Bournville station ... ooooh ... over 30 years ago when, just as an express was coming through, some young lady, carrying a hand-bag (weird, I seem to remember she jumped down with her hand bag - wouldn't want to leave that behind - somebody might nick it?) hopped off the platform into the middle of the track, looked over her shoulder to make sure she was nicely lined up and then .... well I turned away. Told my mate to turn away too. 'We don't need to see this' I said. I knew what was coming. I knew I didn't need to be having fucking nightmares for the rest of my life. Fucking glad I did.

Still heard the horn, the fcking great thump and the squeal of brakes mind you.

Went down to tell the ticket guy at the station that he might want to call an ambulance and the police. Dopey fucker wouldn't believe me. Why the fuck do you think the train just came to a halt? Had to give a statement to the police the next day. All very exciting for a school-kid but had I been a little less awake I might still be having nightmares.

Eight o'clock in the morning. School kids, commuters, train drivers, uncle Tom Cobbley et al and she decides this is the place to end it all?

Fucking self-centered and selfish I call it.

Anyway, as luck would have it, I'm waiting for a train today. 2044 (I think) Minsk to Warsaw. I'll look out for Stan. Weather in Minsk is fucking horrible today. Should be back in UK on Tuesday provided my Belarus visa passes muster - which is by no means certain.

Hope all is well in Fucking Scotland.

call me ishmael said...

No longer George Cadbury's Quaker, proletarian paradise, Bournville, criss-crossed by the number two and the number eleven, skewered by that urban traintrack, hemmed-in on all sides by offence-taking multi-culturalism, eh, mr jgm2, not like it was when we was lads; notvso bad, though, as to occasion the horrors which you describe.

Maybe if you had smiled at her, I am sure you would have, had you known her purpose; maybe if, en route, someone had engaged her, but then we are all force-fed the vulgar belief that time is money, that our time, our career, our head in the property noose is simply all that matters; vote for prosperity-in-slavery; sometimes, I think that existence has been rendered so bleak that it is a wonder that any train ever reaches it's destination undraped in the multiple corpses of Ruin's disappointees.

It might have been Bill Drysdale or Ted Jones but it was probably Dave Hill who taught me that No man is an island thing, send not to ask for whom the bell tolls. Now, just because something is writ down in a poem and taught by idle teachers don't make it so but that one has always worked on me, each man's death does diminish me.

I intend no pious rebuke, I would probably react similarly, compelled to participate, as you were. It's just that, in involving unwilling members of the public in their messy demise, these people are telling us something important. And not just to them.

Good to hear from you, if you see stan, tell him I said Hello.

call me ishmael said...

That's right, the more I have dwelt on this, mr tdg, the more I see it as a magnificent, unparalleled vengeance, the sort of culminating event around which operas used to be written; he is free of his pointless obsession and has gifted it to her; no man will ever make such an impact on her, she willl never be free of him, as he now is of her, not unless she joins him in self-slaughter; from his last-second point of view it is perfect.

Doug Shoulders said...

She may never be free of him as you say Mr Ish. But if she were to receive the simple observation “You’re well shot of him” She may obtain some kind of relief from torment.
I know of a similar situation which occurred a number of years ago where the set-upon (Male this time) had been on the receiving end of behaviour of the type you read about. (And films are made about).They call it stalking nowadays. Months of the bloke trying to work with dialogue.. decided that ignoring her was the course of action.. After this he received a message from her daughter… her mother had “died last night” And “Thanks for doing that”
Weeks of torment went by until he discovered that it was another ploy. She had not killed herself. Imagine the effect of the guy and his own friends and family of that miserable punishment.
In my cultivated cynical nature; I’m inclined to think that the news item was spiced up a bit. That he chose the train the ex-lover was driving makes for good horror.
Whether or not it’s true the fact of the matter remains. – Right up until the point of the news story breaking; the receiver of the obsessive behaviour was the victim.
Then when the obsessed performs the ultimate act of vengeance they become the victim.

call me ishmael said...

Yes, quite so, mr shoulders, operatic, and a vivid demonstration of what it is we are playing with, when we play the Game of Love.

And I omitted the fact that he leaves a nine-year old boy, to whom he said he was devoted, and whom he saw every week.

Perhaps a man wantonly self obsessing, perhaps a mind at the end of its tether.

It is not even a drop in Ruin's ocean of tears, this, but I do believe that a hand of Kindness might have nudged him toward another track and that to damn him utterly renders our decent intervention in some other tragedy more unlikely than it already is. We condemn and punish far too readily; no wonder that Goodness is so fucked-up, so easily colonised, parcelled up and sold off, by the likes of Tony Blair.

Doug Shoulders said...

As you say Sir..operatic. But not love. Selfish obsession.
The world is brimful of innocents in need of a little human kindness. Like the boy left behind and the woman who have to endure his legacy.
That he was wrong in the head is obvious...for him to do that. Maybe some support from others might have helped as you say.
In the end...nobody made him do that.

call me ishmael said...

And nobody made him not do it, either, which is my point, mr doug shoulders.

As for love, isn't it that very thing, a beautiful obsession, until one of its partners bails out?

I hope the boychild finds someone less maladroit than the others who have thus far peopled his life.