Billy in Jeopardy

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Billy in Jeopardy

Post  Admin on Sat Dec 21, 2013 2:50 am

My Opinion regarding BD is still give him time, we are still holding our own in the Championship, this is one hell of a league with anyone beating anyone, for me I LOVE IT! i'm getting to the Famous City Ground most HOME games, could I, and will I be able to do that if we reach the Premiership, I think Not.

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NFFP. Not Fit For Purpose.

Post  Admin on Thu Mar 27, 2014 12:15 am

Nottingham Forest v Charlton 0-1

FOREST 0 CHARLESTON 1
CHAPTER 38

"I'd better warn you before we arrive. We've had a few steering problems."

Mister Strum stopped and stared quizzically at the back of the Old Man's head.

"Steering problems?" he said. "How can a train have steering problems? It's on a track."

The Old Man's shoulders seemed to slump a little.

"Well," he began patiently, "I don't know whether you remember, but the engine's wheel arrangement was 4-6-2. Two pairs of leading wheels, three pairs of driving wheels, and one pair of trailing wheels. You understand?"

"Of course."

"Well, now it's 3-6-2. One of the leading wheels fell off."

"Oh."

"And one or two of the driving wheels aren't too healthy either."

"Which means?"

"Well, they're a bit buckled."

"Which means?"

The Old Man seemed to shiver.

"Which means that if you're looking for a smooth ride, or expecting to go in one direction at a time, then this isn't the train for you."

The Old Man looked him in the eye, scanning his response. It was, as they say, decision time, which turned out to be two full minutes of the most inscrutable stare each man could muster.

Eventually Strum took a deep breath, and said: "I could say this sounds like another suicide mission, but you'd come back with some clever reply about there being worse things than suicide. I could say you were off your head, but you'd probably agree and not see that as a problem. I could say it's time for you to manage this one on your own, but if you could manage it on your own, you wouldn't be asking me for my help, would you?"

The Old Man's face gave nothing away - not hope, or doubt, or expectation or disappointment. Not a shadow. Just that steely, blue-grey stare from his one good eye.

"So, despite all my better instincts," concluded Strum, "I suppose I'll give it a go. After all, we've nothing to lose." Except, of course, everything.

Half an hour later they were swaying in the cab of the Big Red Train as it rolled drunkenly down the track to meet Charleston. Strum was sick twice. The Old Man just grinned.

*****

Everything about the Charleston encounter was wrong. Apart from being seasick, Mister Strum felt oddly uncomfortable in the cab, sort of sidelined, as if he didn't quite recognise his surroundings. All the components - the plates, the levers, the valve wheels - were the same as always, yet unfamiliar, like past friends you struggle to put a name to.

And they were travelling so slowly. The Old Man explained that they couldn't risk going any faster, because the engine was unstable. Strum partly understood this, as the train pitched badly to the right and, as the Old Man had warned, seemed to be progressing in several directions at once; but what he didn't understand was the Old Man's attitude to this. It was too measured, too resigned. The old pirate, who once roared his defiance in the teeth of overwhelming odds, was gone. What remained was, well, just a tired Old Man.

There were other things too. They were hauling no carriages. Why were they hauling no carriages? "Not enough people to justify the expense," murmured the Old Man. And that paper notice that was pasted to the front plate: NFFP it read. What did NFFP stand for? The Old Man's response was a shrug of the shoulders.

Strum's discomfort grew as they lurched through an unfamiliar territory. He recognised no landmarks in the deepening gloom. It felt like being lost in your own back yard. He found himself longing for the old glories - the roar, the flames, the head-on violence. But they never came.

There was no collision at all. Charleston turned out to be a wheezing little train on the up line, trundling past them like an arthritic horse. Charleston Arthritic. It pulled one carriage, full of faces pressed against the windows. A few faces sported derisive grins, but most wore stares of disbelieving pity. Somebody threw a missile which rattled around the cab and settled by Strum's foot. It looked like a brazil nut. And then they were gone.

It was over. Well, not quite. The Big Red Train suddenly righted itself, then pitched forward, grazing the track with a squeal of sparks, then lurched back again, leaving Strum on his arse at the back of the cab.

"That's the other leading wheel gone," said the Old Man. "Now we're 2-6-2. It is, as they say, what it is."

Strum's discomfort gave way to rage. "What the hell's going on?" he cried. "This isn't what I signed on for! Why didn't we ram the bastards off the track? And you. Just look at you. You don't seem to care. Where's the old spirit gone? The old fight?"

His words hung in the air like knives. The Old Man slumped over the regulator, as if something insupportable was bending his old bones to breaking point. When he spoke, it was in the barest whisper.

"Perhaps I should have told you earlier," he said. "There won't be any more encounters, not the sort you imagine anyway. Those days are over. The job now is simply to get the train to the end of the line."

"The end of the line?"

"Yes. The scrapyard. That's where we're going. The scrapyard. The end of the line."

Strum froze. They really were lost, then. They really were going nowhere. And with a sudden terror he realised what the paper sign NFFP meant.

The old train limped through the night, hauling itself painfully towards the end of the line.

NFFP. Not Fit For Purpose.



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