In my mind, my brothers and trains are inextricably linked. As very small children, our favourite game was Night Train which consisted of bundling Mike into a laundry box while Phil and I would push it up and down the landing from London to Scotland. I reckon I was a pretty accomplished guard. I am less proud of myself as an appallingly sulky, foul-mouthed twelve-year-old, traipsing round Crewe Works a few yards behind them, muttering that their interest in trains and train-spotting was completely and utterly moronic.
So when we started planning a siblings break, trains had to feature. The problem with planning now is that the speed of deterioration in mobility and increase in pain is difficult to predict. Undeterred, we took the first class day train to Inverness which gave us the luxury of spending time with each other. But by the time we arrived, neither of my legs could really remember how to move. The three steps up into the Cullodden House Hotel annexe, which I had assured the manager would be no problem, were very definitely a problem. But instead of whistling through his teeth and shaking his head sadly, the manager summoned a colleague and together they carried me in my wheelchair into my room and later up another eight stairs to the dining room without even breaking into a sweat. What could have been a disaster turned into a hugely pleasant break. The sun shone the whole time. As a surprise, Phil had brought a box of ancient slides and a viewer and there, amongst the 200 slides, was tiny Mike curled up in the box. Now, half a century later, very definitely promoted to tour leader. As we toasted our successful trip in the bar of the sleeper I felt hugely blessed to have such wonderful brothers. I’ve seen Anna and Seb grow to value each other over recent weeks and it makes me happier than almost anything else.