A trip back to 1938

A trip back to 1938

It's time for that short period, where a year ago today we were doing the last "normal" things without realising it.

In 1938, Neville Chamberlain was the Prime Minister, people in the UK were issued with gas masks and The Beano first went on sale. Meanwhile, that same year new trains were being introduced on the Northern and Bakerloo lines of the London Underground.

And a year ago this weekend, concious that the Class 483 trains were approaching the 'end of the line' in 2020, I hopped over to the island with a couple of friends to experience them before it was no longer possible.

And as the date approached, I'd become increasingly concerned it wouldn't happen at all. There had been quite a number of days - and a few weeks - where no trains were servicable.

But, we were in luck: one train was keeping going, meaning an hourly service in each direction, a big gap between train and boat back over to Portsmouth and an irritatingly short period of time to explore the island itself.

It's remarkable to me that when these trains were first introduced my eldest grandparent would have been celebrating their 17th birthday.

So I find it hard to complain that the ride was a bit too bouncy to be comfortable, and that every time the doors opened and closed again they really did look quite exhausted.

And as much as I think keeping these things going gave the line a certain charm, the Island Line is a working bit of public transport - it deserves better.

And the trains, millions of miles under their belts, deserve a quieter life.

And it's weird to think that, at the time, while I was very concious of the new virus and some of the risks from the disease - I'd been involved in the NHS response at work for more than two months by this point - I had no concept of what I now know was to come.

On the island, we ate in a beach-side cafe, and I can recall taking extra precautions - like cleaning my hands with alcohol gel before eating and after touching some surfaces - and Tim was very pleased to be able to get some anti-bacterial wipes (in significant shortage at the time), but it was otherwise quite normal.

Only having one train running meant there was a little more time to explore: on the trip back, we got off one stop early and walked the length of the pier and inspiect the rather 'unloved' tram pier.

The new trains (former District Line trains, actually) are in the process of being introduced now - a year later, and should start running in May.

And the lack of a chance to explore the island properly on that day - as well as wanting to ride the line with its new trains, in a celebration of geekery - has given me a nice excuse to book a long weekend there in June, anyway.

After this odd year, I'll definitely make the most of days like this in the future.