In which I continue work as a temporary cleaner at Reading locomotive shed, see a Terrier at Hayling Island and travel to Greece.
Reading Fireman - Steam Days, September 1992.
Close Encounter with a King - Branchline, March 2006.
Wednesday 1 August
I was again on the Coal yard shunter today, this time with No. 3715 of the 5700 class. The fire had been made up with dust and there was a vast amount of the same stuff in the bunker. This caused me some anxiety and at one time pressure dropped to 120 lbs. per sq. in. However, with the aid of the blower and the pricker I managed to bring her round. The bunker was filled up with large lumps on top of the dust which didn't help much. I felt more like a miner than a fireman at times. Another difficulty with this soft Welsh coal is that when a lump is being broken up it tends to burst or shatter into dust or very small coal which only makes things worse. The driver was very helpful. He told me the old rule "If it goes through the firehole its small enough!"
I haven't said anything about this ubiquitous class of 0-6-0 tank engine. The footplate controls are of the standard GWR pattern with right-hand side regulator, lever reverse and two live steam injectors the water controls of which are, one on either side, not through the floor but through the cab front. The injector is placed on the footplating, not behind the steps. As is quite general on the GWR, the injector is fairly easy to set, particularly on these engines. I found that it was possible to set without looking out of the cab at the overflow, and frequently it was unnecessary to adjust at all. On 9763 I used to open the water about half and then the steam about 1¼ - 1¾ turns. After a brief delay the injector could be heard picking up and then there would be a loud clang as it picked up fully. I've never heard any like these before but they work well enough and there is little wasted water. These engines are pannier tanks which means that the tank is slung over the boiler on either side of it. It is thus easy to walk on top from one side to the other. This can be a precarious business on a side tank engine. There are rings on each tank which are used to lift it off and on to the boiler. The boiler and tanks are low down and it is possible to look over them from the spacious cab lookouts. The huge dome with which these engines are fitted makes them look old and slightly comical. However, there is nothing comical about their performance. They can haul prodigious loads, the incline up from the Coal Yard can test their strength, and their short wheel base means that they can go almost anywhere. They are occasionally used on passener trains for which they are fitted for vacuum braking and train heating. There are three positions of the brake handle.
- Pointing towards the driver for exhausting when using the vacuum brake;
- Upright for the running position;
- Away from the driver for destroying the vacuum and applying the steam brake on the engine.
In normal shunting work the steam brake only is used.
We were relieved at 13.50. I came back feeling quite tired. The work wasn't hard (I had time to wash my overalls) but it was hot and the metal cab seemed to absorb the heat, certainly the hottest engine I have been on.
Thursday 2 August
I was on 06.00 shed duty today. This was the same job that I did last Friday although this time I was booked to do it. We had to take the engines down from the coal stage, turn them if necessary and then stable them. The driver was quite good and we got on alright. I was going to ask him if he would let me drive until I found out that I was going to be with him tomorrow (let him gain confidence in me). However, he asked me if I wanted to drive a couple - I took down Nos. 5993 and 5380. The latter one was the first time that I had driven an engine any appreciable distance with nobody else on the footplate. I took her down towards the table, back up to the top (east side) and berthed her behind another engine in No.9 road of the shed. I stopped her 6 inches from the other engine - this was by luck rather than by judgment - a fitter told me when to stop otherwise I would have gone on a bit further - the buffers stick out further than I thought. It struck me how difficult it is to see anything which is close to the engine.
By the time I left Reading later this month I was happy enugh to drive an engine around on my own and even leave the controls to go to the other side to look out. However, I never emulated some firemen I saw. To move a locomotive from one road to another at the east end entailed a fair bit of work. First the engine had to be driven up past the points and the brakes applied against the gradient. The fireman then had to climb down, walk to the points, change them, walk back, release the brake and drop back into the right road. Some would start the engine up the grade at a fair pace, close the regulator, put the engine in reverse and crack the throttle. As the engine sailed past the points on the way up they would jump off at the points and change them. It was then a matter for the engine to stop itself and come back down to them where they could climb up back as it passed and regain control. And this was done just outside Mr. Smith's office!
Castle class 4-6-0, No. 5067, "St. Fagan's Castle", the engine to be broken up, is still lying in the shed. They were changing the tender for one which is in even worse condition. It seems the depot is a graveyard for Castles. They are send here in bad condition to be completely worn out or as a source of spare parts. No. 5085 "Evesham Abbey" arrived here last week but it isn't in too good condition, the drivers' side cylinder drain cock won't shut at all. Another trouble with our vast allocation of Castles is the fact that there is only one job for them - the "Conty" (Margate to Birkenhead) and even that has been handled by a Hall.
Friday 3 August
I was again on the 06.00 shed pilot with the same driver as yesterday (Jack Webber). I did a little more driving with No. 6386 and No. 2841 but apart from that little else happened. No. 5904 came in to be coaled. This is the engine fitted with the tender from the sole GWR pacific No. 111 "The Great Bear". This tender is easily distinguished by the fact that it was the only one built by the GWR with eight wheels. I am not sure this is correct - there may have been a second eight wheeled tender and this one likely was not from "The Great Bear". No. 2216 came in a cripple - something wrong with the cylinders. Jack let me go at 12.00 and I took the bus into London and arrived home in Orpington around 17.15.
Saturday 4 August
Our neighbour, Mrs. Ogden's brother, Eddie, was down here this morning. He used to be a fireman and we had an interesting chat about railways. he said "Let's have a look at your hands". They weren't very calloused, he said "You haven't passed much coal!" He was one of the firemen who first took out "Mallard" when it was out of Doncaster Works. He didn't fire the engine on the record breaking run of 126 m.p.h. but I believe that he travelled at 120 m.p.h. on it - quite a difference from the Coley Flyer.
I've just remembered one of the arguments against arriving on time told me by one of the drivers down at Shoeburyness. "If you get in late they all rush out of their compartments and leave you their papers. If you get in on time or early they have more time to remember to pick up their papers. There was quite a business at the shed with the crews of the early trains bringing in second-hand papers. That was the only time I have seen a railwayman on duty reading The Telegraph!
Tuesday 7 August
There was a gale in the night and I caught the tail end of it when going to work - I was nearly blown off my bike. Started work at 05.25 as second man on the Low Level diesel No. 3269. The driver let me drive it from the new road right down to the yard. It is very easy, all you do is to put your foot on the dead man's pedal, put her in forward or reverse and then put the regulator in the first notch. It is essential that this position is found and after this the controller or regulator is opened as required. The driver was more interested in drying off his wet clothes on the stove and was a bit upset when he saw that I had got it up to 14 m.p.h. down the grade into Low Level. There was a sign which said "Not to Exceed 15 m.p.h." so I thought I was safe. I came back to the depot and got some steam in 9763 - the foreman was worried in case she dropped a plug. After that we (four cleaners) had some fun trying to push down the fire on the engine for the Conty - we bent a chisel bar doing it.
Wednesday 8 August
I came on at 06.00 and have just been mucking around. We took 2261 into the diesel depot to pick up a diesel mechanical shunter, No. PWM 653, for Theale Permanent Way Depot and after that I got two Castles ready.
Thursday 9 August
Came on at 06.00 and nearly managed a trip to Acton Yard. Unfortunately the booked fireman turned up just in time so I didn't go. Anyway, I went on the Theale goods with Hall class 4-6-0 4998 "Eynton Hall". This was a Banbury hall which reading had "borrowed". It didn;t have a firehole door deflector but we weren't about to put a reading one on a Banbury engine. I quite enjoyed this although I would have preferred to go to Acton. We did a great deal of shunting in the Permanent Way depot which is on the Newbury end of the station and is quite extensive. When we stopped for breakfast the driver took my shovel and put some water in the heel. The then sat on an upturned bucked and boiled himself an egg in the shovel which was inserted into the back of the fire. One of the problems of shunting at Theale is that we have to make a trip through the wooden goods shed. The guard would warn us at least half an hour before we were to do this so that I could run the fire down. The shed was an ancient wooden structure and the driver always took care to go through it without making any sparks. I managed quite well really and came back on shed with a nice low fire although I could have had a drop more water in the boiler. Two wagons couplings broke with the strain of shunting before we left. I didn't see the second one but the first broke clean - there wasn't a flaw in the metal. On our return the shunter back at Reading West Junction told the driver that he bet he couldn't make it three. The driver told him to couple them up and he would show him what he could do.
In making up our train we broke a wooden buffer stop when one of the wagon couplings broke. As we left for Theale the track gang were looking at the wreckage forlornly and the foreman was shaking his fist at us.
When we came back the gang were putting the finishing touches on the rebuilt buffer stop doing an artistic job with red paint. I watched the driver as he set back very carefully. The inevitable happened - a coupling broke and the brand new buffer stop was turned into a mass of splinters held together with red paint. The foreman was jumping up and down in anger. We had to pass them on the way back to the shed and hid in the cab as the engine slowly made its was past them.
Friday 10 August
I didn't sign on until 11.50 this morning. I was on the Low Level and the Coal Yard. We relieved the Low Level crew just outside the engine shed and shunted the Low Level yard until we were relieved at about 15.00. We then went across to the Coal Yard to relieve that crew because they have to make a trip to Basingstoke. On the whole, this is a very easy job with very little work to be done. We had engines Ns.9404 and 8496. These are, in effect the bigger brother of the 5700 class tanks, they have much more room and are more comfortable.
Saturday 11 August
Same job today as yesterday, this time with Nos. 9404 and 9450.
Sunday 12 August
I am now entitled to privilege tickets at a quarter fare so I decided to make the most of it and have a day out. I caught the 07.45 from Reading South to Guildford hauled by N class 2-6-0 No. 31817. This was quite a good trip and required some hard work by the Mogul in between the frequent station stops. I took the electric train to Havant and then the train to Hayling Island. This short trip was really the reason for the trip because this branch is worked by the famous Brighton "Terrier"class 0-6-0 locomotives which were introduced in 1872 - 90 years ago! No bigger engine is allowed over this branch because of the condition of the original wooden bridge over to the island. It is rumoured that this branch is to be closed at the end of the summer service.I have seen many pictures of these engines but the thing that struck me immediately was how small they were. The chimney is tall in comparison to the rest of the engine yet at platform level the top is about level with the top of my head. They are completely dwarfed by the coaches they haul which are of the modern full-width type. The engine must be about two feet less in width than the coaches. When you look out of the train you wonder where the engine is! There were three Terriers at Havant, No. 32678, which was about to haul my train and Nos. 32640 and 32646 which were to double head the next one down the branch which is worked by a token. The run in both directions was extremely lively. On the way there we stopped at all stations; Langston and North Hayling while on the way back we ran through non-stop.
I had a look at the sea at Hayling and then came back to talk to the driver of No. 32640 which was about to haul my four coach train back. I had a look up in the cab which is really tiny. The driving position is on the left hand side, the regulator pointing upward and being opened when pulled towards the driver. Reversing is by means of a lever which, like everything on the engine, is small and seems to have been scaled down. The firebox is small and square with a shallow brick arch. The firedoor is oblong-shaped with rounded corners and opens inwards as on the King Arthur class, the handle is on the driver's side. The injector overflow is in between the first two wheels on either side, the steam valve being of the normal type but the water regulator is slightly different in that it is held in position by a nut. I imagine the injectors must be a later addition to the engine because of its great age. A novel feature is the provison of a small mallet in place of a coal pick while the shovel is very small.
On the way back we must have gone for some way at 40 m.p.h., the sound from the chimney is well worth hearing. It seems practice for the crew to stand outside the cab for most of the journey, there isn't any danger from obstructions because the cab is so narrow. The smoke seems to smell different, it has a narrow gauge twang about it à la Ffestiniog Railway. Altogether the picture presented was one of efficient and quick running, it will be a pity if this branch does close.
From Havant I went on to Portsmouth and, after a short break, on to Southampton Central. The only thing of note was two more Terriers on Fratton shed. I walked down towards Southampton Docks and then back through the new town centre. The latter was quite pleasant but, on the whole, I was very disappointed with the town. I saw the boiler of a withdrawn LSW O2 0-4-4T No. 30217 on a bogie wagon complete with smokebox shell (but no chimney) and controls (regulator, blower and gauge frames). I left Southampton by the 15.25 train, earlier than I expected, which is a diesel electric unit and came right through to Reading General. I am very impressed with these units - we started up from Mortimer and and the controller was shut off after we had gone 40 yards (if that) and she rolled all of the way to the speed restriction at Southcote Junction. We must have accelerated from10 m.p.h to 50 m.p.h just by rolling!
Monday 13 August
I signed on at 05.15 this morning and was on the Down Old Yard with diesel shunter D3831. This is the only diesel turn at Reading which required double manning because it has to make trips to the New Up and Down yards as well as the Scours Lane and Tilehurst yards. I had quite a good time which included driving a train of wagons for the first time.
Tuesday 14 August
Wasn't booked out today so I signed on at 06.00 and was sent out on the Theale goods at about 07.00. I had the same driver as the other day as he does this job all the time because of some stomach trouble. We had Hall class No. 6976 "Graythwaite Hall" which had been "borrowed" from Banbury. It was obviously not one of our engines because of its filthy condition. Banbury evidently do not have any cleaners. The engine hadn't been prepared too well as the fire hadn't been pushed over and there wasn't a smoke plate (I didn't discover this until after I had left the shed). However, I knocked the fire over and had it built up fairly well by the time we left the yard with our train. She steamed well - it seemed a pity that we were only going to Theale as I just had the fire in good shape I could have taken her to Exeter. I don't know what it is but something has seemed to click - just when I have had to give in my notice too!
Wednesday 15 August
I wasn't required for firing this morning and have been doing odd jobs around the shed - mainly trying to keep out of the way of the charge hand foreman. No. 6000 "King George V", the first of the King class 4-6-0s was on shed this morning, a very unusual occurrence. This engine has the bell on the front footplate which was fitted to it when it went to the USA in the late '20s. Unfortunately the engine is now somewhat neglected and could do with a good clean. The cab controls are almost identical with the later Castles, the only difference being that the exhaust steam water regulator handle is placed in a better position close to the cab side. The cleaners badgered the charge hand foreman to allow them to clean the King but he wouldn't let them because it wasn't one of his engines. He did let me and another cleaner polish up the bell. I put on a shovel ful of coal. It went out light to Swindon later in the morning. I spoke to the fireman - he was in seventh heaven because his driver said he would let him drive it.
Thursday 16 August
My rest day today. I had a lie in and then took a privilege ticket to Marlow. I have not had the chance of having a look around before but it was spoilt today by the weather. It didn't rain a great deal but was overcast all the time. I came back to Maidenhead where I did some window shopping and then back to Reading. After going down to get my pay I did some shopping for my holiday - I've bought a pair of sandals and a cheap sleeping bag.
Friday 17 August
I wasn't required for firing today but was told to go with Jack Webber to prepare two engines. The first wasNo. 7906 "Fron Hall". This was the first time that I have got one of these ready but it wasn't too difficult. I didn't have any trouble with the fire - I brought her round from 60 lbs.per sq. in. to 210 lbs. per sq. in. and filled up the boiler in about 40 minutes. I didn't put any dust on at all and built up the firebed mainly by putting the coal on individually by hand (i.e. throwing on each lump). This does pay off because the lumps (not too big) can be placed with more accuracy than by usung a shovel. Anyway the fireman seemed pleased. The other engine that i got ready was No. 5076, "Gladiator" which was on the Conty. She already had 120 lbs. per sq. in. when we came on so the great trouble was to stop her from blowing violently. This time the back part of the fire gave a little more trouble as it had been made up with dust which had caked. Even so, she was blowing gently when we left at 12.30. Jack had seen that she was alright.
Saturday 18 August
Back to cleaning today. I helped clean two engines - thats all.
Wednesday 22 August
My last day on the railway today. I came on at 06.00 and was lucky enough to take a passenger train to Basingstoke. I relieved the fireman at Reading General and we left at 06.50. The engine was 2-6-2 tank No. 6161. This was the first time I have fired one of these. The firebox was longer than I had thought and we lost steam towards the end because I didn't put enough down the front. We came back light engine and got back about 08.30. From then, I did odd jobs around the shed including moving out No. 3821 to get some water (I got soaked when the bag flew out). I got my cards at about 12.30.
In reading my diaries 48 years later there are some people who stick in my memory who I didn't write about at the time. There was Titch, a very short cleaner who was only working on the railway until he was old enough to join the Grenadier Guards, "I want a bit of excitement in my life. I want to go around killing people."
Several firemen told me about "Snatchadrop". He was a driver who insisted on taking water on every possible ocasion. It turned out he had been caught short of water at one point and vowed that he would always have enough in future. He would make the fireman fill the boiler first to make more room in the tank and would always take water even if they were just about to go on shed and book off. The firemen generally didn't like taking water more than was necessary because it involved climbing and occasionally getting wet. In response to "We don't need to take water here do we?" they would get, "Well, I don't know, matey, I think we'll just snatch a drop".
Friday 24 August
I packed my rucsack this morning with enough kit to last for a month in Greece. I caught the 13.30 train to Victoria and joined the rest of the Brian Hughes party. The boat train left victoria at 13.30 and arrived Folkestone 16.57. Customs were a mere formality. The crossing was pretty rough with much rolling but luckily no pitching. Neither of us (Bob Wild) was sick. I had a look at two engines at Calais Maritime. I went up on the footplate of an American, Baldwin-built 2-8-2 fitted with a mechanical stoker and had a short chat with the crew in very bad French and sign language. The other engine was a 4-6-2 which handled our train (dep. 20.00) to Lille. It soon became dark and we couldn't see much of France. The train wasn't too crowded and Bob and I found a compartment to ourselves where we tried to get some sleep. I didn't sleep heavily, woke up at every station because we were afraid the train might be divided and that we would be separated from the rest of the party. Have vague recollections of Lille, Valenciennes, Charleville, Metz and Strasbourg.
Saturday 25 August
We arrived at Basel, Switzerland, at dawn where our carriages were shunted. After Lucern the countryside became rapidly better until we were in really fine Alpine scenery. My "A" level geography helped a bit. At one point the line describes three circles, one on top of the other, going into three tunnels in the mountains in order to gain height. On the last circle one could look down and see the other two. Got into conversation with a German speaking Swiss family from Lucern - our common language was French. They pointed out some of the scenic landmarks. The country eventually became wilder until we went into the Gotthard Tunnel, about 17 miles long. Once through the tunnel the change in climate was most noticeable - the sky cleared and the sun was much warmer. We went via Chiasso, Lugano and Como to Milan. Having had some food, we went for a short walk around - very hot. What we saw was dirty, smelly and seedy. The station is very impressive - very big concourses with many shops, great number of platforms. Our train was the 16.10 diretissimo to Lecce. We had reserved compartments. The carriage doors were locked and the Cooks men had a job to see that we did actually get our seats. The train left ten minutes late and was ½ - 1 hour late at Brindisi which was reached at abut 08.00. Our route was via Piacenza, Bologna, Rimini, Pescara, Foggia and Bari. At one station somebody asked "Where are we?" to which somebody replied "Uscita". At the next station the same question was asked. Realizing that "Uscita" meant "Exit" somebody pointed this out and said "We are at Gelato".
It was on the train to Brindisi that I met a man with the same surname outside my immediate family. He told me that the Churchers all came from the bastard descendents of the mad and randy Archbishop of York. That was when I lost my interest in geneology.
It was very hot and the train smelt a bit though not too bad - a dry musty smell. It was crowded. All Italians seem to carry great suitcases with them. They also have an accomplice who dashes into the train at the station and finds a place. The luggage and young children are then thrown in through the window - they certainly work very hard and run about like mad, all this being accompanied by much shouting. Once on the train there is much activity up and down the corridors trying to find almost non-existent empty seats. We put our luggage in between the seats and tried to sleep crosswise with two in the luggage racks. Didn't sleep too well.
Sunday 26 August
On the way down to Brindisi I saw a whole waste yard full up with derelict engines waiting to be cut up, including a Caprotti boilered engine and one which had a WD Austerity flavour about it. I also saw a tram engine in steam (at Bari?)
We had the whole day in Brindisi which is a hole and the people are just as bad. Went to the beach by boat (and were taken on the fare) and had our first swim in the Adriatic. The water was very warm and the sand was burning hot so we had to keep moving. Came back to the quay and I had a look around the Maritime station - we felt too tired to do anything else. I had a chat in French and sign language with the driver of a 2-6-2 engine on a boat train carrying through German carriages to Heidelburg. I went up on to the footplate. The driving position is on the right. The injectors are controlled by water levers, one on either side of the cab, but the steam valves are rather different. These work by pushing up a lever on the fireman's side similar to the Schools engines but these have to be pushed up, not pulled down. They are not automatic and have to be regulated in the normal way. Reversing is by means of a wheel. The coal was very dusty but the driver told me that there were some large lumps in the tender. The footplate was very uneven - the fall plate was about 6 inches below the levels of the engine and tender footplates. I noticed that the regulator was not fully shut by the scale and pointer. The driver said that they didn't care about steam engines as they would all go from this area by next March (1963) and on this branch by this October. There was a tank engine at Brindisi to bank out the boat train. This had Salter type safety valves. The boat "Maioulis" was two hours late.
Monday 27 August
I slept very well on the deck of the Miaoulis. My sleeping bag kept me warm and it certainly wasn't as cold as I had expected. I woke up at about 06.30 and Bob said that we were approaching the Greek isles and the sun was just rising. I couldn't have cared less and went back to sleep until 07.00 when I was woken up by water flowinf ast my face - the crew were hosing down the deck. We stepped on to Greek soil at about 07.30. The sun was pretty warm even at this time. We did some shopping and were quite pleased at the way we managed to make ourselves understook and cope with the money. We have each bought a straw hat which keeps us cool. I found that the Greeks are much more pleasant and friendly than the Italians. We bought a great water melon which weighed five kilos and cost 5 drachma (1/3), very juicy - more of a drink than a food. We departed Corfu at 11.00 spitting melon seeds into the water. It was very hot but there was a cool breeze, very little shade on the boat. The Adriatic is a wonderful deep blue. We saw a porpoise which swam by the bows of the ship for quite some time. Arrived Patras approximately 21.20. Some time was spent in unloading cargo from the hold amid much shouting and (presumably) swearing from the Greeks who were unloading. One man was controlling the movements of the boom and was really working hard. He worked up some blisters on his hands. I saw my first Greek narrow gauge engine on the front at Patras - fantastically highly pitched whistle. We departed Patras at 23.00 and again slept on deck. I vaguely remember going through the Corinth Canal but we will go through it during the day on the way back to Brindisi.
Tuesday 28 August
We arrived at Piraeus at about 07.15. It is quite an interesting port with a great amount of shipping. It seems that repairs are also carried out. We saw one ship that looked as if it had sunk and then refloated. We berthed at the passenger quay which looked reasonably new. Caught an Underground to Omonia Square which is in the centre of Athens. Its a very pleasant square with fountains playing in the centre. We took some time finding the Hotel Marion which is in the Plateia Vassis. We are sleeping on the roof, its quite warm enough. There is also a cold shower which was very welcome after the journey. Afterwards we went out to a restaurant to get a meal. The best part about the restaurants and cafes in Athens is that, no matter what you buy, it is invariably served with a glass of cold water. Quite frequently this is the best part. We drink vast quantities of liquid but sweat even more of it so that we don't go to the lavatory so much, water seems to be more inportant than food. Another feature of Athens is the large number of street vendors - shoe shine boys (men), people selling sweet corn, cakes and bread. There are innumerable kiosks avery few yards which sell literally everything (I even saw a copy of The Economist).
We went up to the Acropolis this afternoon. It is really magnificent, it wasn't an anticlimax as are so many of the world famus sites. The view from the top is first class. It was 15.00-16.00 and still very hot. Qe spent some considerable time up there. Walked back to the hotel and after a rest we went out to taste our first glass of ouzo (aniseed brandy) Bob doesn't like it but I think it is quite good.
Wednesday 29 August
Went swimming at the Phaeleron Beach this morning which is the beach closest to Athens. It was very enjoyable although there were some rocks and seaweed. The only difficulty was the sun. I have had to be very careful not to get burnt. Went back to the hotel prety early and then out for a walk down to the railway station. The standard and narrow gauge stations are next to each other. There was a diesel railcar in the narrow gauge station which looked very comfortable. Caught a glimpse of a narrow gauge tank engine with a marvellous "peep" for a whistle, similar to the one at Patras. There was an engine shunting in the standard gauge station and also a 2-10-2 engine on a goods train for Piraeus. This was very impressive, I couldn't get near to it but I could see that it was fitted with a Westinghouse brake pump.
Thursday 30 August
Went by bus down to the beach at Voudra Kamena. This was really wonderful, an entrance fee is charged but changing facilities and a safe are provided. The sea was 81ºF but this felt relatively cool because of the heat from the sun. Again, I had to take care that I wasn't burnt. Fresh water showers are also provided which work when you step on them. Came back early to Athens, collected out kit from the hotel and caught the Underground to Piraeus (my rucsack was caught in the door and we couldn't retrieve it until the door opened at the next station) where we bought tickets for the round trip Mykonos - Kos - Rhodes - Crete. Caught the "Marilena" to Mykonos which departed at about 20.00. It was quite an experience on the quay. There was a great many Greeks who watched us with interest, but they don't do it in such a nasty manner as the Italians. They are quite pleasant. They took particular interest in our sleeping bags. There was a little man selling doughnut shaped pieces of bread with seeds on the top. A Greek woman bought one of these which turned out to be dry. She really tore him off a strip. I don't know what she said, but everybody around started laughing at him. Poor little fellow - he strung up his bread and walked off. It seemed as if he was about to burst into tears. There was a tremendous crush to get on to the ship. We were on deck at the stern where we met up with a Canadian who had an air bed. As soon as he blew it up a family of Greeks took possession and sat on it! He had quite a time getting them off. We found the Greeks very friendly. We had a long talk with a boy who asked us to write to him.
Friday 31 August
We were disturbed during the night because the ship docks stern-first at Syros so we went up on the top deck. The ship also stopped at Tinos. We arrived at Mykonos at 04.00 and we had to embark on a very small boat in a gale force wind with quite a heavy sea. My stomach didn't feel too good. We tried to get some sleep on the beach. When it became light it turned out that we had been sleeping very close to a pelican, known on the island as Peter. We had breakfast at a nearby cafe of bread, milk, butter and honey and I felt considerably better afterwards. We wandered around the town for a bit and found the youth hostel where we checked in at abut 09.30. Afterwards we fond some shade and tried to get some sleep. Stayed there until 14.30 when we tried unseccessfully to find a beach. Mykonos is very touristy but nevertheless it is a wonderful place. The quay is fronted by shops and pleasant cafes. However, the best part about Mykonos is the layout of the houses which are very close together and all painted white. Mykonos is a jumble of extremely narrow streets, there certainly isn't room for a car in many of them. The fishing boats are drawn up on the sand which is inhabited by Peter the pelican and his wife. On the front, all types of goods are sold - fruit, fish, shells etc. There are many donkeys loaded with fruit and vegetables in pannier bags. There are several windmills but these are nothing like the English or Dutch ones. Instead of four sails, they have many more and the actual sails are triangular shaped pieces of calico. We went over one of these. All the moving parts are made of wood except the metal spindle which carried the grindstone. Everywhere was covered in flour dust and downstairs there were the inevitable cats which seem to be lean but not skinny. There is always a strong wind in Mykonos which makes the heat of the sun much more nearable. It is possible to look around and see how the people live, e.g. the women washing their clothes on stones close to the well. The actual countryside is rather unpleasant. It is very rocky and, at this time of year, burnt up by the sun. The only vegetation which survives in the dry soil is the prickly type plants and a little coarse, brown, dried up grass. Many lizards live in the numerous cracks and crannies in the rock. It gets dark very early, about 19.30. Went back to the common room and played a few hands of bridge with an American.
Bob with the pelicans on the beach at Mykonos