When I was a kid, aged about nine or ten, my treat on a Saturday was to travel by train from Cirencester to Swindon Junction, two carriages and a small, decrepit steam locomotive providing the means of motion. I'd spend all day on the station platform, writing down the numbers of every engine that passed and thrilling to the sight of the express trains, trains with names like The Red Dragon or The Bristolian, as they thundered through the station, whistles dopplering away. I didn't psychoanalyse myself to discover why I had this compulsion to collect locomotive numbers; I was a small boy. That was what small boys did in the 1950s if sports or girls hadn’t seduced them.
My mum packed my lunch. This would consist, in all probability, of cheese and HP sauce sandwiches and a Lyons Individual Fruit Pie, apple flavour. These pies were marvellous inventions - a lovely sweet, short pastry enclosing the thinnest imaginable filling of apple puree. Nothing in them was good for you and so they were ideal for preparing the body for a lifetime of excess. To drink I was provided with a bottle of Tizer, a sugary, fizzy drink, doubtless produced in cooperation with the School Dental Service as a means of promoting attendance at the surgery and some character building pain and suffering.
After eight or nine hours I caught the train back to Ciren. With luck I would have threepence left with which to buy my supper on the way home. This treat would set the seal on a perfect day. It consisted of a pile of chips (or fries, if you must), cooked in animal fat, not namby-pamby vegetable oil, served in a square of grease-proof paper and then wrapped in a sheet or two ripped from the local news journal. The concept of washing my hands before eating was not within my grasp then and anyway there would have been nowhere to do it. So I ate this delicious offering with fingers blackened by a day spent with grimy railway engines. Each chip came with a layer of grease, salt, vinegar, printer's ink and soot. They were absolutely magical, a flavour sensation as yet unbeaten by the cuisine of any other nationality.