Sunrise over Beadnell Bay in Northumberland
Sunrise over Beadnell Bay in Northumberland


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"A short tram ride". . .

A short story . . .

The tram clanged to a halt at the edge of the cobbles in front of our house, in the middle of a terrace of six. I liked to watch the trams because this stop was the terminus. As soon as the last passenger had stepped down the conductor took a long pole from two brackets on the side of the tram and reached up with it to turn the electrical contact arm over on top of the tram roof ready for the return journey. Meanwhile the driver strolled round from the cab at the coming end of the tram to the cab at the going end. They waited for a few minutes until it was time to leave.

I knew that they would only wait a few minutes. I'd seen it all before. We were going to my grandma's, my mum and me. It was only a few stops along the line. I'd been there lots of times before. I was ready to go with my fawn coat and brown beret on and my little dog on wheels to pull on its string. Mum was still getting ready, she took ages and we were going to miss the tram.

I had to get on before it set off. It was only a few yards from the front door, across the cobbles, up the two steps and onto the tram. I sat on those bench seats placed longways in the tram just inside the doors. There were other people on the tram but no one took any notice of me. They all thought I was with someone else, if they thought anything at all.

The conductor rang the bell and the tram lurched forward. When he'd finished collecting the fares he returned to the platform by the door. "Well where're you going sonny?" he said in that treacly indulgent tone that adults reserve for small children and pets. " My grandma's." I replied rather shyly. The conductor noted my embarrassment and assuming I was with the woman next to me he did not pursue the conversation.

I recognised the stop near my grandma's house and stood ready to get off, but there were no adults wanting to get off at that stop so the tram carried on to the next. Here several people got off with me amongst them. At this point the footpath was bounded by a stone wall with a tall boarded fence on top which I recognised. I ran back up the road to my grandma's house towing my wooden dog on wheels.

When I arrived my aunt was there with my cousin, who is the same age as me, in his pushchair. "Hello Frank!, Where's your mum?" she asked.
"Oh! She missed the tram. There's just me." I said proudly. "What do you mean? Just you! You haven't come on the tram by yourself have you?"
"Yes, mum was still getting ready so I got on before it set off." I said, feeling pretty smart. "You look after him here, mother." said my aunt, "I'll walk back with the pushchair and tell Muriel that he's safe here."

It was a good twenty minutes walk from my grandma's to my house so with the tram ride as well I must have been missing for well over half an hour by the time my aunt was able to tell my mum where I was.

I learned later in life that quite a search was underway but I didn't know anything about that. I don't even remember being told off for my escapade at almost three years old.

Frank Firth, August 1995