trainspotting – the north-east remix

A couple of days ago I was minded of trainspotting, and suddenly thought about S for the first time in ages. S was an old friend from when I lived in the North-East of England. I got to know him when I started at secondary school, at what it is fair to say was a rough comprehensive, even for the North-East. He was a bit of a misfit, and got picked on a lot. So was I. Think Milhouse and Bart. Well, more Milhouse and Milhouse.

S was bullied a lot more than I was, and I think after a while he built up a thicker skin than most. He decided to unreservedly like what he liked, no matter what anyone thought. He was quite inspirational about that, and in doing so he also did it with a good sense of humour, which I think was one of the reasons we got on so well.

His biggest passion in life was trainspotting. Every weekend was spent at the station. He took long trips around the country just to be on, and look at trains. And as a good friend he tried to get me into it. It just didn’t sit with me, for some reason I never got it. I think he had it as a passion from an early age, and that was the element I was missing. I think football had its place in my heart at that stage, and wasn’t about to be shifted. It certainly wasn’t a stigma thing (*points at wrestling blog*), it was just that it wasn’t for me.

S had a major accident when we were in second year. He was hit by a car when he ran out from behind a bus. This threw him in the air some distance. He landed on the windscreen of a second car, which his hands and head went through. He was then flung over the top of this car, onto the road, and did a short distance on the ground, picking up loads of gravel in his back. He broke loads of things. He also slashed both of his wrists going through the windscreen, and only lived due to a nurse coming off duty being on the bus he ran out from behind.

I went to visit him at the hospital a few days later with a mate. And we laughed at him. Not in a mocking way, in sheer shock. We barely said a word as he explained it all to us, unveiled each injury as he told the story of what had happened. We just couldn’t take it in that he was alive after it all, and the only emotion we had to offer was that. Very strange experience.

He took a long time to get over it, nearly a year out of school I think, not far off certainly. I visited when I could to his house, and we talked about the usual rubbish we normally did. I think I should have gone more, but when you’re young, you don’t think as much about such things.

One thing I do remember from this time was that S got into computers, and famously claimed at one point to have hacked the British Rail network computer and scheduled special train journeys of his own design. Impressive stuff, however I wasn’t convinced as he didn’t have a modem, and only had a ZX81. He would always make fantastical bizarre claims, some of which were made up, some of which weren’t, and it was hard to tell. Not in a bullshitter sort of way, more you were never quite sure when he was taking the piss, when he believed it, and when it was real. The running over was totally real, luckily that is the only time I have anyone ever injured that badly.

We stayed good mates until I moved away. Not long before I did, a new lad started at the school. He fell in with S and I, and we all got on well. After I had gone, they became best mates, and it was odd, it was almost as if he had been sent as a replacement. Anyway, he got much more into the trainspotting than I ever did, and they spent most weekends at the local station together. Until about six months later, when the new lad committed suicide by jumping in front of a train.

Didn’t know much about it, just heard it through the grapevine, but was all a bit of a shock. I stayed in touch with S for a year or so, and then we just gradually faded away, didn’t see each other, and stopped writing. Nothing happened to end it bar distance and general moving on.

Was just strange having all these memories triggered from the one word