Posted by Glyn Wade

Here is my latest attempt to demonstrate that every picture tells a 1000 words. The picture is one of mine that I took on a club outing to Cheddleton on the Churnet Valley Railway. Again, Word tells me that there are exactly 1000 words to satisfy a certain Mr Critchlow…….

Cheddleton station sign

Cheddleton station sign

I’d waited beneath this sign before. Twenty five years ago to the day. For three hours, In the rain. Now, as clouds massed again, memories of that day swarmed through my mind.

I’d just left college and the world was apparently my oyster. Everyone was excited to be free of that place and ready to pave their way in a world that was apathetic to say the least. Where others had yearned for the day when they didn’t have to sit in classrooms and file in orderly fashion between classes I mourned the absence of structure in my life. ‘You want me to get a job? but why? I like learning, can’t I do that some more?’

My father thought not and, as it was his meagre wages supporting me, that appeared to be that. Either I got a proper job or a part time job to support further studies. But it always ended in having to get a job and that terrified me.

I’d never been good around people. I was clever and people didn’t like that. I was cursed with a shyness that prompted blushing whenever a member of the opposite sex came near. No matter what I did I couldn’t stop it and I was bullied constantly. I was told by my parents that the other kids were just jealous and that I would show them but I soon shrank into myself, kept my mouth shut, absorbed myself in my studies and was eventually left alone. And that was heaven.

I could sit there absorbing knowledge without being bothered. I knew where I was supposed to be and at what time. Time outside the classroom was spent either in the library or outside with a big pile of books to read. Now why would I want to swap that for some poxy job where I would have to try and fit in with people doing monotonous tasks and learn absolutely nothing? NO THANK YOU!

And then Kelly had come to sit next to me. A newcomer to school we hit it off straight away; eventually going to college together too. My shyness went out of the window as I opened up to someone who had the same thoughts and feelings as me. We spent hours learning and reading together while people shook their heads at what must have appeared to be mind-numbingly boring existences to them but was bliss to us. There were no parties, no discotheques, no drunken antics….but we were happy. And that’s how we wanted it to stay. Then of course there was the money situation when I left college and I had to say goodbye to my only friend. Kelly’s family were insisting that Kelly move away with them. They knew of our friendship and didn’t approve but then we didn’t expect them to. Kelly’s family were the epitome of the upper class at the time with reputation at the heart of everything. They tolerated our relationship for a time thinking Kelly would ‘grow out of it’ but when it became apparent that we loved each other, they stepped in.

I stayed in the grotty little town I came from and Kelly went back to a mansion in the country somewhere. And both our families thought that was that. I suspect my parents had hoped I would get some money out of it, even though they disapproved of us being together, but they seemed happy that we were now apart.

No-one deemed it necessary to ask how we felt. ‘You’ll get over it, find someone more…suitable’ they’d say. But when you’ve found the perfect person your heart will be broken. And ours were.
Of course we wrote to each other. And we tried to meet. But that wasn’t so easy if you were tied to daddy’s purse strings but Kelly tried. I couldn’t get near of course; the gated walls I’d heard about weren’t meant to keep me out specifically but they might as well have.

But then one day we managed to speak on the phone and Kelly said I should wait at Cheddleton station. I rushed there with excitement hitherto unknown to my predominantly emotionless soul. My clothes were pristine, my face scrubbed what seemed like a thousand times and I’d even splashed on some aftershave for the first time in my life.

The rain didn’t bother me for the first half hour but, as train after train pulled in with no sign of Kelly, every drop was like a tiny acid drop on my skin. The rain hid the tears but I waited a full three hours despite the obvious realisation that my love wasn’t coming.

It was a week before I got the letter. The apologies were profuse, the sadness evident but it was the sense of this being the final try that sealed a state of depression that pervaded my life for the next twenty five years.

Kelly wrote occasionally over the years as we both married someone most would consider more suitable. My wife was a wonderful woman and I loved her deeply. Our marriage was incredibly happy despite the underlying melancholy that she sensed in me but never forced me to explain. Which is why my heart broke again when just last year the cancer overcame her valiant fight and I found myself crying in the rain again but this time at her graveside.

The phone call of commiseration from Kelly was tinged with a guilty tinge of hope as I listened to the tale of a broken marriage and a newly single Kelly. Which two months later brings me back to standing under the same sign again.

The train pulls in on time and Kelly emerges looking as gorgeous as ever. Our eyes meet and we kiss, ignoring the looks we get. He is even more handsome than I remember and suddenly there is some hope of sunshine in the rain. The train pulls away but we don’t notice. Our future is what’s important now.