I’m walking around Victoria station, waiting at Charing Cross, lingering at Waterloo, sprinting up the causeway to London Bridge, drifting outside Euston, cursing my delayed train at Hither Green, yearning for shelter in the snow covered and blustery platform of Dulwich, I’m sodding bored, desperate, uninspired, emotionally shattered, and want anything other than to be peering into the WV show rooms that blight my view from Haywards Heath Railway station. One un-inspirational station to the other, they’re all different, they all have their place, and they’re all, frankly…rubbish!
There seems to be no respite from the dull drudgery that has found undisputed sanctuary around our stations. They stink of the same nothingness that is echoed in the Barrett home developments from the tips of Scotland to the seas of our southerly shores, to the…well, every Barrett home development seems to lack any sense of creativity. The word ‘new’ only seems to be chanted in their HQ when there is demand for fresh toilet rolls. As for charm in our stations, it is too few in our remaining depots and mainly to be located in the countryside and far reaching lines rather than our ringed suburbs and inner city stops which are frequented most…frequently.
This is where I’m quite confused…
Whilst I will heed and bow to the delights of St Pancras, glammed up for its new status as international stop point, a glitzy smooth and Sauvé entrance door to London central, it is our other grisly beasts, that while don’t have ‘international’ on their placards, play host to thousands of wide eyed travellers every day. For our international guests, it is these stations that they first lay eyes upon, it is the gateway to London and I couldn’t think of anything worse…well that’s a lie, I could think of plenty worse. Margaret Thatcher for starters, being water boarded for seconds, having your fingers chewed off by a starved mouse for thirds, buying a packed of wine gums with just green ones in for fourths…actually, maybe there are plenty more “worse” things…but then if I went on like this there would be no point to this hopefully point full blog...just a thought, loosing a company owned book on the train is pretty annoying.
Back on the stations, there seems to be an overwhelming discouragement to have people waiting in a place that by is nature, asks you to wait. You wait for your train to arrive, wait for it leave, wait for you’re friends, your family, your colleagues, your girlfriend. You’re waiting for the faster train, the next train. You’re waiting more because a snow flake touched a near by stone…hundreds of people waiting.
So the logic of removing every chair, stall, bench, any horizontal service from knee height up that remains relatively clean, excluding coffee stained metros and old McDonalds’ cups, seems a little odd at first. But that’s just a small aggravation of an irritating repetition of unimaginative design executed by the lords of these grand warehouses.
Trains, the journeys they took, the steam they bellowed into the roof tops, it used to be a place of wonder. Harry Potter doesn’t use an electrical, or even a magical powered train to transport him to Hogwarts, he jumps through a solid brick wall to take him to a magical hall of grand archways, Victorian brickwork, rich red carriages, and a gleaming, beastly, beautiful train that beats and shouts it’s way to its destination. It was an event! The buzz of the people about to board for their adventure away, luggage being hauled, people waving, crying, singing, falling, hugging, shouting, kissing amongst a rabble of others doing pretty much the same thing. It was a celebrated moment, and the magic shouldn’t be lost.
It’s a still a moment to watch people arrive and depart. To see people leave forever, for a day, for a couple of hours, for holidays, work days, wedding days. But our love affair with the train, the station and the whole event has been ripped so unkindly away and we’re left with consumerist crap, from the Upper Crust, Nero, Burger King, Costa, everything that you can find every where else.
These places are the kings of golden opportunities, and we are most, and whole heartedly, steaming past them on our quest to be somewhere faster. Victoria station is reamed with places to have people stop and stair, to share a coffee, to linger with an old love affair, to delve into a book, to have one last lunch with a distant living brother. They scream out to host the tales you’ll one day bore your grandchildren with. Yet we allow them to host the very worst of what’s on offer…another chain store that promotes the age of the generic, and stamps in the face of the independent charm. I’m not one fore living in the past, but most adamantly not wanting to cherish the current.