It wouldn’t be the twisted democracy of the Hedgehog if I didn’t poll its’ readership* for suggested content, then completely ignore the results before rambling on about trains again.
You see where Haddenham – a tiny provincial station – was blessed with 500 parking spots, 3 trains an hour, a waiting room, a uniformed parking jobsworth, a full time station master, a proper coffee shop selling non ironic skinny espresso’s and many suits. Ledbury has a peeling wooden shack hutted by Bob*, himself surrounded by a pre-Beecham photographic collection and an aura of extreme antiquity.
So a pleasant enquiry on the availability a Cappuccino, easy on the foam, skimmed milk, choco on top is met with an old fashioned expression, and a stern lecture to whit: I should thank my lucky stars there is even a platform, in days or recent yore, you merely threw themselves at a passing train in the hope that an observant passenger may haul you in.
There are – and Beared Bob is clealy not happy about this – some sops to modern life; Fewer large animals stroll on the lines than back in the glory years of steam, rubbish fencing and Fresian roaming***. Both platforms sport posh electronic signage predicting the arrival of next train and the one after that****.
And – according to these neon glows of technological wonder – the trains always run on time. Tending to the persnickety, this perfect schedule may be symptomatic of their obvious non connectedness to any real time arrival information system.
Nor do they need to be, as a sweaty, fat man leans out of the signal box and updates us all with a cheery “The London train is running 20 minutes late. Keith the driver forgot his sarnies and he’s popped back home to pick them up“.
The train to London dwarfs the platform to such an extent that the front half is servicing passengers at Coldwell, some four miles up the track. It’s absolutely huge. And old. And slam door. Legions of train enthusiasts/pointless wankers take brass rubbings and boringly relive the golden age of the Inter-City 125.
It wasn’t golden then and it’s not fantastic now. Bang up to date the naming conventions may be (Train Host, Train Manager and the whole “Welcome to our Service/How can we fleece you today?” experience) but not much has changed in terms of tired carriages or bumpy track. Forget that Wii balance board you’ve promised yourself; just try going for a piss between Didcot and Reading without spraying everything from the knees down.
The ickle turbo that fills my bikey commuting sandwich is actually a bit better. Mainly because you spend lless time on it, and all of that is in shorts and a t-shirt. I’m still full of childish delight that no bastard love child of the Gestapo and a Butlins’ red coat churlishly waves Railway Regulations at me, whilst triumphantly ejecting my bike from the speeding train.
And because it’s not London, the whole experience is significantly less deadly and – so far – completed with the correct underwear count. Okay it still took me 30 minutes to find an office precisely two miles from New Street Station. 28 of which were desperately circulating wet Dual Carriageways wondering if “Doncaster” might not be a good route choice.
So far, so groovy. Longest day tomorrow. Winter after that. Important to get a preemptive grump in before I start to really enjoy myself.
A final question unrelated and yet troubling. If your kids are lapped at the School Sports Day, and your representation to add “Nintendo Mario Karts” to the event list is mercilessly rebuffed, what’s the solution? All the non city kids clearly run twice round the farm every morning before indulging in a spot of cow throwing.
I could institute a strict regime of exercise to hone their athletic performance for next year. Or I could teach them stick out a leg and cheat. In my role as a guiding force for good and true parent, which do you think it may be?
* Good word. Could mean 1000, could mean 1.
** 1 of a part time staff of 2. Responsible for ticket sales, laminating of timetables, hut painting and repair, general airs of resignation and pulling of beards.
**** Which is generally tomorrow. And replaced by a donkey service via Reykjavik.