The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 6 (December 1, 1931)
Ducking off by Rail- Or the Seasoning of the Season
A Leaning Towards Fattening.
December is a disseminator of distilled dill-water, or soporiferous soup. Likewise, it is a course of artificial respiration for those in peril on the seize, a sedative for the sadative, a straight answer to a crooked outlook, a crossing of the Bridge of Sighs, bliss after blisters, and hope after hiccoughs. For as everyone knows, December's strength lies in its leaning towards fattening. December's maxim is that the maximum is its minimum or Christmaximum.
After nineteen hundred and thirty-one years of journalistic jobbing it is difficult to find anything new to offer the perspiring public concerning the digestive season, except indigestion, but nevertheless Christmas is never the less for a’ that, and every year brings new problems and proddings in its wake to wake the welkin. For the harder the pace the greater the grating, and consequently the higher the handspring off the board of control when the bored get control. No one will deny that the past year is better past, and that the past has no regrets except that it took so long to pass, but with Christmas raising the wind we are off on the portmanteau tack with the binnacle boxed and the anchor pawned. Let there be no moaning at the bar when we put out to see what's to be seen.
Some pity the heathen because he has no trousers, but I pity him because he has no Christmas. Our early forebears were also denuded of more than their Christmas stockings; although they indulged in sock-as-sock-can and rotary clubbings, they never relaxed at Christmas, because they had no Christmas; in any case to relax entailed the risk of becoming a premature ancestor. Although Christmas is old it becomes newer as it gets older, because Progress produces, year by year, bigger and better methods of festivation. Back in the age of unreason, when Christmas was in the early stages of consummation, there was nothing else to do except to vivify the vitality with the vitamins of venison, soak in sack, mop up mead, mollify the metaphysics with mull, and fill up the gaps in the conversation with carved specimens of still life. Christmas was a multiplication table, simple abstraction, or absorption of weights and measures. Every man was sufficient unto himself, provided he had a fair spin and was not subject to lock-jaw. Loss of appetite was unknown unless the appetite was cut off at the collar-button, which was sometimes the case in single combat or double-crossing. The modus operandi of the festivity was restricted to gastronomy, and eating was a protected industry.
Playing to Full Houses on Empty Stomachs.
Let the Rest of the World go Buy.
Some time elapsed before the amalgamated hosiers introduced the Christmas stocking, and incidentally compounded grand larceny on a grand scale. They induced otherwise honest and impeccable paternal parents to don whiskers and mislead their young while London sleeps, with an impersonation of Santa O'Claus, which is nothing less than an injustice to Ireland and an insult to the Plunket system. But to-day Christmas is not confined to filling stockings, or even waistcoats, for the means of celebration are more varied than inside information at the races, or outside opinion after. Apart from the usual inner promptings, which certainly are not to be merely sniffed at, there is much to inspire the aspirations. Beach, bush, and “bach,” are more accessible than measles between twins. The sandfly is ready to bit the hand that swats it; the mosquito is at the old address, and all Nature longs to put the nips into the skin you love to touch.
The Charge of the Bright Brigade.
At every station railway trains are trained to a hair and wriggle like ringworms ready to ring the land, square the root of your troubles, multiply your pleasure, and decimate the dregs of depression. The iron charger is sur-charged and surges at its moorings. It sizzles at the sidings, that those who run may seize. Its heels are hot on the trail of Trouble and its cow-catcher is out to catch the “cow” and throw it off the road of happiness.
Galloping Mare's Nest.
Christmas without the railway would be equivalent to a smoke-concert by correspondence, an absent Christmas present, chilblains in the Sahara, or an anaemic blood-hound.
The railway train is Optimism's answer to the burning question of existence; it represents presence of mind over clatter, steam over stodge, and the pace that thrills.
Certainly, before the advent of the railway, Christmas was not devoid of entertainment, but it was static entertainment, like getting Santiago, Lumbago or Earache on the radio.
The difficulties of travel were greatly responsible for the expansion of the physiology at the expense of the psychology at Christmas. Travel was usually confined to rambling among the vitamins (from A to Z), following the gastric stream to its sauce, sailing through Beering Straight, wallowing in Greece, touring through the Eats and Wets, and seeing Gastronomy first.
Din and Dinner.
But nowadays, the railways make it possible to eat a Christmas dinner at someone else's expense hundreds of miles away from the origin of appetite. It is stated that the Scots are great travellers at Christmas, which speaks volumes for the cheapness of railway travel, compared with the cost of eating at home. Relatively speaking, the railway solves the problem of the Christmas dinner, for what is the use of keeping relatives if you cannot share their hops and joys at least once a year.
Of course, it is possible to surprise one's relatives by motor, but they are bound to hear one coming and conceal their real feelings. Besides the motor is only a coach in the last stages of galloping petrol consumption. On the other hand the railway provides the leisure and comfort to ponder the relative's means to a “bend.” To quote the words of X Wagon, the porter poet:-
The railway as a means of travel,
Is better far than chewing gravel,
While bounding o'er the wonky way,
In motor-cars that swoop and sway,
And skid where'er the gravel's loose,
A thing designed to cook the goose.
The railway train is sweet and smooth,
Its seats are built to lull and soothe,
No need to huddle taut and tight,
And lose your nerve and appetite.
The railway gives exhilaration,
And lands you at your destination,
Imbued with “beans” and nicely keyed,
Wherever you intend to feed
On Christmas day, without offence,
At someone else's sole expense.
The method we advise again,
Is “travel in a railway train,”
And keep the appetite intact,
Almost precautionary fact
In times of strict economy,
Considered with gastronomy.
In fact you'll gain such gastric zest,
They'll long to speed the parting guest.
In conclusion, dear reader, the railway is the biggest draw on the Christmas programme, and here's hoping that you'll be on the box seat when the “iron horse” flashes away from the barrier with Steam up.