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The Lighter Side of the Mayo Train
By Celia Anderson
31, Dec 2001 - 11:13

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Once again you stand at the station, glancing at your watch. 14:53! After months of travelling to and from Dublin and Castlebar, you are no longer worried when 14:47 comes and goes and no hint of a train is in sight. You calmly watch the “new ones” and the “hard of learning” who impatiently pace the platform, craning their necks to see the first glimpse of the train. You have learned with experience that you hear the whistle blow shortly before it arrives, therefore you no longer strain your neck for no reason.

The train pulling out of Castlebar Station

You see the train gliding around the corner and calmly walk to the wall where you had left your little bag. In Castlebar the chance of someone “nicking” you bag is as possible as winning the lotto (no disrespect intended).

The new ones rush to get through the door, cramping to get a seat, although at this stage of the journey, the percentage is about 10 to 1 for any person looking for a place to rest their weary weekend bones. Without much ado you settle in your seat, dig out your crisps, book, magazine, mobile, ciggies and any other luxury you might need for your four hour journey and sit back to relax for a nice quiet ride through the “green Jewel” of Ireland. But alas! That is not to be. Next Stop Manulla Station.

You glance up, disturbed by the horrific noise and are faced with an enemy advance of a gaggle of seniors on their way back home from a relaxing weekend in the country. This is not bad you say??? Have you ever been overrun in a confines space by people with various degrees of deafness?? (Now all the seniors most probably think….just you wait till you get older) Once you start getting used to the raised volume of cackling, you notice the degree of competition. Each candidate competes for the highest points of sympathy. One seems to be gaining on points. Her deafness (selective I might add) outweighs her lack of sight, which she demonstrates by bringing the train ticket up so close to her nose that she leaves smudges of lipstick on the edge of the ticket, which she then tops by spilling scalding hot coffee all over the floor (conveniently missing her foot). I suppose, there is a limit to sympathy. You don’t really want to experience actual pain. A bevy of helpers fuss over her after responding to her fourth or sixth wail of despair. At this stage, you are having great difficulty controlling your giggle in fear of being branded a psychopath by her helpers. You mentally pass her a medal and give her the highest score.

You settle back to your book, people come and go and soon the seniors have competition crowding into the carriage. They are the “Super Troopers” consisting of 5 to 7 young people all aged between 16 to 20. They struggle towards their seats, weighed down by a month’s supply of Bulmers or something close to that, counter weighted by fags and cd-Walkmans. The noise gets out of hand. The Contest is in full swing - varying between one group exchanging degrees of “lockness” and the other groups snide, sniggering, whispered remarks about the youth of today, which by some miracle can be heard clearly by 90% of the group (did I mention selective hearing??)

There is a point to mention here. Who needs a book or magazine on the train? The Dublin to Westport line includes entertainment, although it is not mentioned on the ticket, it comes free of charge.

The fare of course also comes with a live fashion show. All types of slim to not so slim prance passed your seat, displaying the latest ranges of trainers, hipsters, “belly piercing” and “belly rings” (nothing to do with metal objects). Soon the convoy of snackers passes you in a drunken, swaying motion and not all due to the train, only to return heavily laden back to their allocated places, to resume their previous doings. Some in “higher spirits” than others.

By now you might think the entertainment has come to an end. No Way!! As it is said “the show is not over till the fat lady sings”, in this case its group no. 2, the none deaf ones – but alas, you envy the seniors now!!

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