Sunday, 31 October 2010

A different World

... for me that's travelling by train. And it's all Beeching's fault. For those that are too young to remember, he single-handedly managed to destroy all rail transport in the south west. Now to get anywhere, we are faced with the tedious process of bumbling along country roads by bus to reach a city. Mostly, we get up at the crack of dawn to bump along even narrower roads, festooned with cows or their skid-prone leavings, to reach a country station where they is a connection to London.

Several times in the past few weeks I have set out - feeling exactly as Scott did when he went to the pole. It's still dark and ahead of me lie lonely unmarked and unlit lanes in which, if you have a lively imagination, you might believe are ghost-ridden. They do, however, contain badgers and deer who have no respect for cars. Eventually, I reach the station in time to park and board a train, my seat neatly flagged up with my name on it. Such a civilised way to travel, until you are forced to disembark at Reading and pick up a commuter train that is wending its way south to Salisbury before eventually ending up at Victoria. Packed with merrimakers off to celebrate Halloween, bicycles, book-reading commuters, it bumbles along stopping every few minutes to deposit some weary traveller.

I had forgotten this is the way most people live - trundling up and down the steps of Clapham Junction or Redhill. This is the real England, scored by people determinedly making a living. I can't help wishing Beeching had left well alone - it would be so nice to reach the heart of England without quite so much hassle.

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