A lament for spontaneity in train travel
A Jacobite steam train crossing the Glenfinnan viaduct in the Scottish Highlands. Photograph: Christophe Boisvieux/Corbis
There are only two things British people like more than a bargain: a plucky underdog, and an opportunity to complain about our bloody awful trains. So it s no surprise that Jordon Cox the bespectacled blogger who flew to Essex from Sheffield (via Berlin) apparently saving 7.72 on the cost of a train ticket is all over the news. If this story were any more British, Mary Berry would be judging it.
People have drawn their own conclusions about the sense of spending 12 hours to get home instead of the 3.5 hours it would have taken by train. But Cox never claimed it was the most efficient way to get home, only cheaper and more fun for him, an 18-year-old who had always wanted to visit Berlin than the alternative. Besides, the train may be more direct, but it s hardly quick (3.5 hours to travel 174 miles is an average of 50mph).
As for the pricing, I can t have been alone in thinking that the 47 he quoted was relatively cheap for a train journey of that distance in the UK (the walk-up, no-Railcard price seems to be 86, so next time he makes the trip, Cox could probably go to Rome or Vienna and still not lose money). The only way to get a cheap rail ticket is to book in advance, which is great if you always know when you ll need to be where, less so if you occasionally want to be spontaneous, or have friends or family who don t know when they ll be ill. I long ago explained to my relatives that they need to arrange any sickness with a minimum of six weeks notice. We now need to treat train travel like air travel: book on a specific train, weeks or months ahead. But the whole appeal of trains is that they aren t like planes. You don t need ID; you don t need to decant shampoo into miniature bottles; you don t need to spend the entire time wishing you were dead. And if we want to free up our busy airports and save the financial and environmental costs of building new runways, making trains cheaper than international flights seems like the easiest place to start.
A Fiennes mess
Occasionally, my partner and I try to work out what happened to an actor we used to like. There are usually three potential answers: they ve been in some obscure corner of the hydra-headed CSI franchise; they were busted for shoplifting; or they re a woman over 35. Only recently we were trying to puzzle out where Joseph Fiennes had got to, but neither of us guessed that he was about to be cast as Michael Jackson.
I m a white, middle-class guy from London, said Fiennes, I m as shocked as you might be. I m pretty sure he isn t, or at least not as vocally, otherwise the casting agent would still be having treatment for a punctured eardrum. The drama will follow a car journey apparently made by Jackson with Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando from New York to Ohio. In this version, presumably New York will be played by Croydon, and Ohio by a small field near Okehampton.
I m easy going about the evolution of language, mostly because it goes ahead and changes whether I like it or not. But if there is one modern usage I would wipe from existence, it is the word monster as a description of something big, like the monster truck rally I went to (which should feature monster-shaped trucks, rather than monster-sized ones. The reality was a grave disappointment and my Go Godzilla banner remains folded up in a dark cupboard).
Now I discover that a monster spider has been found in Oregon. If ever there was a species (or should I say genus? I can t look it up: there might be pictures) which did not need to be rendered more alarming, it is the spider. To me, all spiders are monsters. If anyone needs me, I ll be standing on a chair, holding a really heavy shoe.
- ^ the bespectacled blogger who flew to Essex from Sheffield (www.theguardian.com)
- ^ Blogger says flying via Berlin was cheaper than Sheffield to Essex train (www.theguardian.com)
- ^ about to be cast as Michael Jackson (www.theguardian.com)
- ^ Okehampton (en.wikipedia.org)
- ^ monster spider has been found in Oregon (www.bbc.co.uk)