‘Discover the Joy of the Train’


Sir, – In one of Thomas Love Peacock’s novels, the proprietor of a landscaped estate introduces an acquaintance to a prospect he extols for its ability to surprise.

“And what d’you call this quality the second time you show a visitor around?” enquires his guest.

While I yield to none in my admiration of the children’s classic “The Wheels of the Bus Go Round and Round” this, if anything, is its flaw.

After its 78th rendition on an intercity train recently by a lad of seven summers, and even allowing for the singer’s ingenious substitution of the word “train” for “bus”, it began to pall on the little songster himself, and selecting another from his repertoire, he revealed that now he knew his ABC.

This lyric, like its predecessor, lacks that element of suspense one associates with the oeuvre of Hitchcock.

The child’s next move, however, would have tested the nerves of the late director’s staunchest fan.

Finding that merely repeatedly racing his toy truck’s engine on the table (mercifully) separating us was insufficiently noisy for his taste, he took to banging it thereon to see how noisy that would be. The tension this engendered would have delighted the Master.

Which of those present would be the first to snap?

Would the pale curate, vein visibly throbbing in his forehead, empurple to apoplexy?

Would the lady crumbling Rich Tea biscuits to fragments suddenly break down and scream: “For the love of God stop that incessant racket”, or would the man beside me who, if I read his lips correctly, took audible advantage of the relaxed attitude to blasphemy, finally break?

It was to avert all or any of the above that I determined to enquire of the little fellow’s mother (who in fairness may have been deaf) whether the din I was making with my pen and crossword was disturbing her, when the train stopped at a small town and the two, he kicking and screaming, passed out of our lives.

If this vignette has done anything to counteract the current Iarnród Éireann poster featuring a calmly smiling couple with an idealised little boy and girl aboard an ideal train beneath the ludicrous superscription “Discover the Joy of the Train”, then our journey was not entirely in vain. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 18.