"Murray is the best kind of literary biographer" – The Financial Times.
For more information about the books of Nicholas Murray
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Winner of the 2015 Basil Bunting Award for poetry

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Of Trains and Alice and the Travelling Zoo

Having just returned from Liverpool on a nightmarish journey on Sunday night of well over six hours as a result of engineering works and a deceased train on the line ahead, my dyspeptic-traveller's reflexes are buzzing. We were diverted to Manchester to board a Virgin train for Euston where the barrier ticket collectors were backed up, menacingly, by a platoon of police in high-viz jackets (and bullet-proof vests?). Once on board, the overcrowding was horrible on these newish but cramped and overloaded trains. How nice therefore to open up Through the Looking Glass and catch this picture by Tenniel of a lost world of rail travel when compartments were spacious and comfortable and civilised. It's true that the Guard who was pursuing Alice for her ticket was deploying means of surveillance which we would judge "inappropriate" today in relation to a female passenger, but the goat and insect add a realistic touch - often these days one feels that railway compartments resemble a zoo. My theory of Technological Regress - that while some things like mobile phone or computer innovation go forward, other things are hurtling backwards - is brought out by contemporary rail travel. Only on those slow trains that glide around the Riviera does one see any more these spacious, comfortable compartments in place of tightly-squeezed seats aiming to make trains as uncomfortable as planes.

That small but perfectly formed readership which subscribes to the Rail for Hereford Bulletin will shortly be able to enjoy/suffer my diatribe against First Great Western in a piece called "Mr Grumpy Goes to Paddington". How could we get through life if there were nothing to moan about?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I should clarify, I only like empty trains, rush hour and late nights back from London are difficult.Most people just sit there and look disinterested or read their books, listen to their iPods or gaze out of the window,I agree with you Mr Murray that we do not want to be in the zoo,when we want to be on the train.