Tucked just to the side of Monk Bar is the Monk Bar Model Shop. I have to admit I have only been in a couple of times to buy presents for young nephews, but it’s clearly popular with small boys, who can often be seen with their noses pressed against the window as they watch the model train chugging round the tracks.
My brothers used to have an electric model railway that crept halfway round the attic, and the trains used to to rattle and whirr endlessly through polystyrene tunnels and past tiny plastic cows, and matchbox cars. Perhaps because as the only girl I wasn’t allowed access to the trains, the sound always struck me as vaguely eerie, and I usually make a point of walking underneath Monk Bar rather than round past the model shop. To me, there’s something spooky about the miniaturised world of the model shop, and when it came to thinking of an uncanny influence on Roz’s brother, Mikey, in The Edge of Dark, this was the shop that jumped instantly to mind. I moved it to Micklegate for the purposes of the story, but otherwise, this is the, er, model for the one in the story.
She stopped, head poised at an angle, listening. ‘What’s that noise?’
A train, chuff-chuff-chuffing, round and round the track. A coldness stole over Jeff. ‘I can’t hear anything,’ he lied.
‘We’re not near the station, are we?’
‘It’s not that far.’ But already he could see Roz shaking her head, puzzled.
‘Weird. It sounds like a steam train. Or, no, a toy train. It’s sort of rattly …’ She fixed Jeff with her eyes. ‘What is it?’
‘I don’t know,’ he said, but he did know. He could see the model shop now, its towering shelves stacked high with boxes and miniature cans of paint and mock foliage. The long, narrow room was crammed with model boats and cars, trains and planes, with rows of tiny plastic soldiers joined together. He remembered the snap as he broke them off one by one, the little knobbles left where they had been joined, the heady smell of the glue as he laboured over the models he made. There were model houses and stations and miniature plastic people and plastic animals to stock a plastic countryside
He’d liked the models right at the back of the shop, where it was dim and quiet. To get there, you had to squeeze past the elaborate train track that filled the middle of the shop. Three miniature trains had circled relentlessly, rattling round the curves, and disappearing into tunnels before emerging again on the other side of the shop. They chuffed through the tiny countryside, complete with farms and little towns and stations where tiny plastic commuters waited rigidly for the trains that never stopped.
It was an ordered, precise, predictable world, and Mikey could have watched it for hours. The little figures never moved. The miniature world had no bellowing fathers, no meaty fists crashing through the silence. None of the giggling girls who had filled the house once his mother had married Patrick Acclam.
(c) Pamela Hartshorne, 2014