The poster on the toyshop window announced that Thomas and Friends were in stock. Another generation would grow up, as I did, with the railway characters created by the Rev. W. Awdry.
Growing up? It seems an odd concept, both for oneself and for one’s children.
Those whom you love are young children at one moment and the next moment they are adults in a world different from your own, adults who seem far removed from the people you thought that you once knew.
It was the Thomas and Friends poster that recalled my conversations with Ben.
Ben must be seventeen or eighteen now, but I still have a clear memory of sitting on steps one Sunday morning to talk about Thomas and friends. There were another ten minutes before we needed to move and there were few people around.
Trains have always been a comfortable topic of conversation, there is something reassuring about railways, a design, a purpose, a mind behind it all. There are many people who will take holidays just to visit particular railways.
I have never felt I would go to such extremes, but I think I can understand the fascination, particularly with the steam railways, the artistry and the craftsmanship have few modern parallels.
Sitting on the stone steps, Ben and I talked about the steam trains we remembered, each of them with their own character, and I tried to remember their colours.
“What colour was James, Ben?”
“Red,” he said.
It was 1025 and we got up from our seat.
Ben, who was three at the time, took his Thomas the Tank Engine cards back to the pew where his mum and dad were sitting, and I went off to finish getting ready for the morning service.
Any of the hundred or so people who had come in the church door would have found it odd that the Rector was sitting on the chancel steps talking to a small boy.
It was a magical moment, for just a couple of minutes the world was suspended.
Ben taught me a lesson that has endured since that distant Sunday morning.
He had a completely unselfconscious devotion to the things that mattered to him, and all the time in the world in which to do those things which he thought to be important.
Perhaps more attention to those moments by adults would mean children would turn out differently.