The age of the train

Would probably explain the state of the suspension – though it is a lot better than the HST I took north back in March.  Still, it does make my touching typing a tad less accurate than normal – well, I say “touch typing” by which I mean I “typing” which requires me to “touch” the keyboard (I have no handy dragon).

Nonetheless, rail is my preferred mode of travel for almost all occasions – frankly, the railways already having invented, I have no idea why Messers Benz and Wright bothered with the car and aeroplane respectively.  There are few things more pleasant, on a lovely day like today, than rushing north admiring the beautiful, if flat, countryside of the eastern UK as East Coast ply me with food and drink.  To be honest, the flatness of the country cannot be blamed on the weather and may be fixed in time – but only geological time so I’m unlikely to see the Lincolnshire Alps in my lifetime


Rail travel isn’t perfect, boarding at Peteborough you usually find the vegetarian cooked breakfast has run out, as today had the brown toast.  It would seem that folk are healthier than East Coast realises.  Nevertheless, I’d still recommend East Coast and today’s crew are particularly lovely.  In a week or so I shall be travelling with First Great Western (of whose name I believe one – and only one – adjective is generally believed to be an accurate description of their work) to another of the Celtic fringes of these Isles.  They provide a much less substantial free food offering to the First Class traveller and no wifi to any traveller – so I am enjoying the delights of East Coast while I can.

The rail traveller also has to keep his (or her or its – this blog does not discriminate against its neuter or hermaphrodite readers) wits about them.  I have written before about the low animal cunning need to obtain the best ticket prices for your journey.  A little while ago I went to Brighton from London and found (by chance) that I could pay £10, £16 or £25 for a return to travel on exactly the same trains – naturally, I went for the tenner option but I’m sure many had to pay £25.  This could be considered either an upside or downside of privatisation – depending on how much free time you have to devote to the purchase of rail tickets.

Last Monday I returned to Fish Towers from London relatively late in the evening.  After my recent experience, I checked the detailed stopping points for the train and discovered that once again Whittlesford Parkway (alone) was omitted from the usual roster.  I am beginning to think Greater Anglia have a vendetta against the denizens of Whittlesford and environs – perhaps one its burghers had been beastly to the Dutch in days of yore.  As before, there were no audible announcements of the omission and the matrix display on the train gave no clues (or none that I could discern).  Nor was it mentioned on any of the posters listing all the engineering work for the month of April  Still, I disembarked at Audley End in the hope of a replacement bus back to my velocipede.

I was in luck!  Greater Anglia had laid on a luxury (no, really) 49 seat coach to take me (and no-one else) back to Whittlesford (it then picked up the no-one waiting at Whittlesford and took them on to Cambridge).  I hate to think of the cost – and I really didn’t have time to make use of more than a very few of the seats.  The driver was great fun and he and I swapped stories of my childhood days as a bus spotter, discussing the buses of yesteryear.  This provided further confirmation of my advanced age as his employer runs several Leyland National buses – apparently, they are now considered historic vehicles and are taken to rallies. This really isn’t on.  I don’t think anything should be allowed to be considered historic until everyone who remembers them as new is safely interred ‘neath the clay.  There’s a vote winner for whichever political party has the courage to tackle this vital issue.

Still, despite the intimations of mortality, I really enjoyed my bus replacement service (oddly, the driver lived in Hastings and just worked in Essex) – I now want a luxury coach to pick me up whenever a train or my bike is not available.  Sadly, I don’t think this makes much economic sense – though no less than it did for Greater Anglia.  Not stopping at Whittlesford must have saved the train less than 90 seconds on its journey to Cambridge – but I assume this meant it passed some vital point on the network before the entirely arbitrary time of midnight. It would seem that Network Rail has more in common with Cinderella’s fair godmother than anyone had realised –  I just hope the train made it back to Cambridge before it turned back into a pumpkin piloted by a white mouse!



2 thoughts on “The age of the train

  1. matathew says:

    I enjoyed many of the typos which appear in this piece caused (you say) by the motion of the train – among them “Peteborough” (twinned, perhaps with St Dave’s?) and I like the idea of Messrs Benz and Wright being “messers” (presumably they liked messing around with cars and planes). But I’m left guessing whether “touching typing” (I was indeed touched by it) was intended, or merely caused by going over a set of points; and whether your correct use of “its” on this occasion (hurrah!) can be attributed to an improvement in your grammatical skills, or simply a fortuitously timed wobble in the track?

  2. Stuart Ffoulkes says:

    I shall leave the typographic deviations from orthodoxy in place as a reminder of the dangers of trying to write on a moving train and also, perhaps, as a reminder that I need to visit an optician. Not sure if it was the movement of the carriage, the lighting or my ageing eyes but I found it really rather tricky to focus on the words when compiling this post. They seemed very poorly focused and this may be the calling card of presbyopia – which I think is the eye-defect of choice in Scotland given their reluctance to countenance the authority of bishops. I will have to see how my vision fares when it returns to the Episcopalian southern region of these isles next week. Let’s face it, sight may well be connected to a functioning bishopric given the importance of the word “see” to both!

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