Adventures with Alfie Day 8

Friday9th November 2012

I had a strange dream in the space of time between when I awoke early to make sure Bes was up for work and the time I got up to prepare breakfast and lunch for the lady of the house and then take her to work. I dreamt I was carrying Alfie over the iron bridge that is near our home and I tripped and fell. I cannot remember what happened to the pushchair, Alfie or myself but I am sure it wasn’t pleasant!

What was pleasant was remembering when I woke up that it was Friday and Alfie had stayed with us overnight. When this happens the bed beside me is cold as the lady who normally keeps it warm is downstairs watching our little man. In that room which I often think of as a little bit of paradise created by the lady of the house for our grandchildren. It’s a little haven of peace and tranquillity and contains a cot for the babies and a bed for the supervising adult – always the good lady – she loves it and the grandkids love having such a special lady so close. It’s a great idea and a great place to stay – one day soon though as time goes by, the cot will become redundant – unless God send us some more little treasures.

Alfie gave me one of his best smiles when he saw me, his whole face lights up and it’s like he’s just about to burst with excitement. I can’t think of many other better ways to start a day.

The weather looked OK so we decided to go to Bridgend on the train. This is always a treat. I visited Bridgend some months ago in my pre Alfie days and returned home with a pair of brand new M & S moleskin trousers. I thought I would dig them out and wear them today…just for the fun. I stopped wearing them a while back because I couldn’t stop feeling them – they are very suede like to touch – and I began to get some strange stares on the train and the bus as I sat there stroking my trousers. I smiled as we left the house as I thought about the fact that I was wearing almost everything bought from a charity shop. The moleskin trousers from The Air Ambulance shop in Bridgend, my jumper from the Red Cross in Penarth and a shirt from Oxfam in Cardiff. Poor Alfie …..going out for the day with this old unshaven guy who looked like he was an ambassador for the United Nations.

I needed some cash for the train fare so I decided to walk down to the other end of the village to Dinas Powys station; this had two benefits for me. One, I could get some cash from the machine and secondly I wouldn’t have to carry Alfie in his pushchair up over the iron bridge. In my life dreams often come true! I actually enjoyed the walk, I was tooted several times, I am not sure whether it was some pretty young thing trying to flirt or whether I actually knew them!  I waved to several people not having a clue who they were and the one I did know… Sian Jones…I gave an extra big wave. Alfie was enjoying the autumnal breeze on his face as we made our way along. I hate November usually, but today being with our little man, the grey overcast day did have one little ray of sunshine and he was sitting in the pushchair in front of me.

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We arrived at Dinas Powys station earlier than I had anticipated, so rather than hang about in the cold; we decided to catch the earlier train and change in Barry. First I had to negotiate the reverse of what I dreaded before. The crossing at Dinas Powys station is via an underground passageway, reached by a steep flight of steps down then up the other side. I was very careful.

The train came almost immediately and we got on very excitedly. I was annoyed as the ticket collector came for my money just as the train was approaching where the Sully Branch line used to join the main Barry line. I was hoping to investigate and see if there was any evidence left, but when he left me we were approaching Cadoxton. We changed at Barry Town station, scene of one of the best Gavin and Stacey episodes and for me it was a trip down memory lane. For three years when I was in college in Barry I used to catch the train home from Barry every day. In those days it was a proper station with a café with china cups. I loved it. You could gaze over at Woodham’s scrapyard where there were hundreds of rusting steam engines. The rows of redundant steam locomotives were a picturesque sight for holidaymakers travelling to Barry Island, and became a centre for pilgrimage for steam enthusiasts from the emerging steam railway preservation movement.

A total of 213 locomotives were ‘rescued’ from Woodham’s yard. Over 100 have been restored to working order. Dai Woodham should be knighted! I often used to sit in lectures and watch the low loaders taking the trains away as they crawled up College Hill.

This morning we were able to see two old, rusty, magnificent engines.

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There is no proper café now just a Mind charity place selling teas and coffee, with a few second hand books. When they move into selling clothes I may give them a visit. The old signal box is still at the end of the station and I took Alfie to see it. He wasn’t too impressed. It looks like it is used as a mess hut now for the railway workers.I dreamt of how busy it would have been years ago.

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Alfie and I watched a plane flying low overhead coming into land at Cardiff Airport…he enjoyed that!

Our train came in and we got on. Annoyingly three things happened – firstly, the train had no tables so I had to sit down the end in the part where people can put their bicycles, secondly there was a bike already there, which meant a squeeze for Alfie’s pushchair and the owner of the bike was smelling to high heaven. I was gagging. Thirdly, Alfie fell asleep! I was just about to explain all about this line running through the heart of The Vale of Glamorgan and he was away dreaming of the steam engines at Barry!

The old Barry-Bridgend passenger service finished on 13 June 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts, but passenger trains on the eastern part of the line from Cardiff to Barry continued, and the western section continued to be used by through passenger trains between Cardiff and Bridgend when the main line via Pontyclun was closed. This still frequently happens at night and on Sundays and train operators often run empty coaching stock and empty mail trains via this route to retain train crew route knowledge. The scheme to re-open the line was promoted by the Vale of Glamorgan and Bridgend Borough Councils to the Welsh Assembly Government in August 1999. New stations were built at Rhoose, Cardiff International Airport and Llantwit Major.  At Bridgend, the Barry Bay was re-laid and a new platform built. The section of line between Barry and Bridgend reopened for passenger services on 12 June 2005. It’s such an interesting ride. The train leaves Barry station and instead of the sharp turn left towards Barry Island it goes straight on and passes Romilly Park. I think all visitors to Barry should come in this way. The West end is the best end and has many impressive houses edging the park. I checked Alfie he was still fast asleep. After this it crosses the Porthkerry Viaduct with wonderful views out across the Bristol Channel. The next stop is Rhoose Cardiff International Airport.

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It’s a hoot…no expensive facilities here, just a small platform and a coach waiting to take passengers to the Airport to be jetted off to some far flung destination. The coach driver was asleep just like Alfie. He must have the world’s most boring job… I’ve never seen a passenger use it!  After Rhoose Cardiff International Airport the train runs along the coast. The sun had come out and the channel was like a silver ribbon glinting in the Autumn sunshine. We passed Fontygary Bay, RAF St Athan – sadly no jet fighters here any more. I used to love it when they flew down low over the camp at Boverton when we took schools there. You could feel the heat off the engines and the noise was deafening. We all loved it!

After St Athan it leaves the edge of the coasts it nears Llantwit Major and then makes its way towards Bridgend. The Vale of Glamorgan is a beautiful place to live and this train ride is a great opportunity to see it in all its glory. I checked Alfie… still sleeping! Thankfully my smelly travelling companion left the train at Llantwit Major and took his bike with him.

When we arrived in Bridgend, I remembered the place with little affection it, it makes Barry seem like Monte Carlo. The sun had disappeared as I walked down Station Hill, I made a note… going down was fine but the walk back up may need some extra time. Bridgend has what most towns seem to have these days, an Eastern European Accordion player, a few Big Issue Sellers and a growing number of charity shops. The accordion player woke Alfie up. He was sitting outside the Air Ambulance Shop. I had a few coins in my pocket and as I thought about giving him a few, I remembered the moleskin trousers and the prospect of finding a moleskin jacket or a moleskin pair of pants or a moleskin hat to go with them proved too much. Despite the very pleasant playing and a cheery ‘Dobry wieczor’ I kept my hands… and my coins in my pocket.

Nothing! We left the shop with long faces.

I thought Alfie might like the market next so we made our way there. It was OK, but it wasn’t too special…no fish stall or animals or even pig heads and ox hearts…Cardiff is so much better.

I was thinking Bridgend is not a very child friendly town. No parks or gardens, no museums, not even any old steam trains, just shops and a lot of people dressed in jogging bottoms and young, heavily made up mums pushing heavily laden pushchairs. Alfie looked a bit bored and ready for his lunch. There is only one place to go for lunch in Bridgend…

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SEBS Fish and Chip Café.

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Bridgend can do one thing right. We headed there and I ordered my usual OAP special fish and chips, mushy peas and a hot drink. Bliss! They had no high chair so Alfie had to sit on my knee and eat his Hovis sandwiches with mature grated cheese, a fruit pot and some biscuits. He was ever so good and ate quietly and happily amusing all the other customers with his smiles and occasional shouts. He is trying so hard to talk and it’s hilarious. There was another family close by, a mum with her daughter both very overweight, who had two monstrous kids. Alfie though was superb. The café was full of interesting people. An elderly couple who came in holding hands, another couple him small and mousey looking, her very overweight with a tiger print top and she kept looking and smiling at Alfie. On the other side, a young lady, on her own, who looked like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders. I will never know her, but I wish her well. Alfie sat on the seat next to me eating his biscuits, while I tucked into my fish and chips. He enjoyed sharing my mushy peas and we just enjoyed being in each other’s company.

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After SEBS we had a little walk around before attempting station Hill; Alfie loved it but I struggled a bit and pretended to stop and look at the view at regular intervals.

When we got on the train we found a table seat and prepared for the journey home. Alfie loved it! I was so pleased!  He got excited as the train began to pull out. He had been watching a big old raven hopping along the platform, which flew up as the train pulled out.

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He loved the trees, the fields, the sheep, and the horses. He banged the window and shouted. It was magical. If this little lad grows up loving train rides, he will have one happy grampy! I watched his eyes as the train raced along they were flickering from side to side, trying to take it all in.  He loved the sea as we neared Fontygary.

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The journey back, all fifty minutes, went by far too quickly and we soon arrived back home. No iron bridges to cross this time, so we slowly made our way back up our little Close.

Alfie wasn’t tired when we got back and as his dad was off playing football, we had an extra hour or two to enjoy playing together. The farmyard caught his eye and we played ‘farms’ until his eyes started getting heavy. Some real farmyard smells prompted me to change his nappy before settling him down for a little snooze before mum came to pick him up.

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I watched him sleeping, my day had started with a bad dream but we had a lovely time together and I found myself humming an old John Denver song, funny how old songs come back into your mind at a time you are not expecting them….

I watch you sleeping innocent and free,

I don’t know what your dreams may be,

You don’t know what you mean to me.

I watch you sleeping little angel face

And on behalf of the human race

Welcome to this crazy place.

I won’t be here forever,

But as long as I’m around,

I promise you I will never let you down

To help make a world you can feel worthy of

I will teach you to fly on the wings of my love.

Thanks buddy for another lovely day! See you next Friday

4 thoughts on “Adventures with Alfie Day 8

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