Miles Kington Remembered: A priceless fragment of railway heritage preserved

3 August 2004

Share
Related Topics


I recently told you that I was a great collector of one of the last forms of living verse, motorway ballads. To my amazement, I met an old man on a train the other day, who said that there were plenty of railway ballads as well. Like what ? I said. Like this one, he said, and he told me the following bit of doggerel...

One day I thought I'd like to go

On a lovely trip by train

To somewhere nice like Oxford

And then come back again.

So off I went to Paddington

And found an empty place,

But just before the train went

off

This bloke with a spotty face

Got in and sat right next to me

And pulled out a machine,

All small and round and shiny

With a bright metallic sheen.

He placed it on the table

And chose a small CD

Which he placed in the player

With great solemnity.

And then he took two earphones

And placed one in each ear,

And then he turned the gadget

on

And this is what I could hear:

"Tikka tikka tik, tikka tik tik,

Tik tikka tikka tik tik,

Tikka tik tik, tikka tik tik tik,

Tik tikka tik tik tikka tik ..."

It dribbled from his headphones

Like water from a tap,

Like a leaky night-time

drainpipe

Or a tree, exuding sap.

It made me think of moments

Spent in the dentist's chair,

Waiting wildly for the drill

To lay the nerve end bare.

It might have been Stockhausen

Or a Xhosa language tape,

Or even Iron Maiden

Or Yes, or Moby Grape,

But all I could distinguish

Was this evil ticking sound

Which issued forth like poison

gas

And filled the air around.

"Tikka tikka tik, tikka tik tik tik,

Tik tikka tikka tik tik,

Tikka tik tik, tikka tik tik tik,

Tik tikka tik tik tikka tik ..."

First, I tried politeness.

"Could you turn it down ?" I said.

But of course he couldn't hear

me

With those earphones on

his head.

So then I took some Kleenex

And stuffed it in my ears,

But still I thought that I could

hear

Nirvana, or Tears for Fears,

Or whatever he was playing

– Philip Glass or Elton John.

I started to detest him,

This man with headphones on.

In order to escape him,

And bring solace to my ear,

I walked to the railway buffet

And bought a can of beer,

And coming back to the carriage

I saw that man again,

By an open window,

Leaning out of the train.

Nobody else was present

There was no one behind my

back

When I picked him up so

quickly

And tipped him out on the track.

Oh, then I went back to my

carriage

And the silence was lovely and

sweet,

But all at once I heard a noise

Which seemed to come from my

feet:

"Tikka tikka tik, tikka tik tik tik,

Tik tikka tikka tik tik,

Tikka tik tik, tikka tik tik tik,

Tik tikka tik tik tikka tik ..."

Yes, the sound of the wheels on

the railway

Had come to punish my soul

And whenever I go on a train

trip,

As soon as it starts to roll,

I hear the reproachful music

Accuse me of his death.

I hear the death watch beetle

Pointing his finger at me.

I hear the accusing ticking

As the sands of time flow free.

So, to drown the sound of my

murder,

I now take an iPod with me

And play my favourite music

To keep my sanity,

And the people around may look

daggers,

And put Kleenex in their ears

But I'd rather have their black

looks

Than face my secret fears.

And I never go to the buffet,

Eve if racked by drought,

And I never open a window,

And I never, never lean out.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The UCAS clearing house call centre in Cheltenham, England  

Ucas should share its data on students from poor backgrounds so we can get a clearer picture of social mobility

Conor Ryan
A study of 16 young women performing light office work showed that they were at risk of being over-chilled by air conditioning in summer  

It's not just air conditioning that's guilty of camouflage sexism

Mollie Goodfellow
Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes