Monday, October 11, 2004

The decline of England

I now work in the office development at Canary Wharf in East London. The easiest way for me to get home from work near Selhurst station just north of Croydon is to catch an underground train on the Jubilee line to London Bridge, and to then catch a mainline train (there is one every half hour at 19 and 49 minutes past the hour) to Selhurst. When I started the job I found that I would leave work approximately on the hour or half hour. This would allow me to make the connection with the minimum possible time to change trains at London Bridge.

Inevitably, though, I did not always make the connection quite right. And on those occasions where I have missed my train, my subsequent behaviour has turned out to be eminently predictable. Like many railway stations, London Bridge has a bar. I have discovered a tendency on my own part to adjourn to this bar. Once last week I did something horrendous, which was stay in the bar rather than catch the next train after the one I had missed.

I find, sadly, that my aim is now to arrive at London Bridge about 15 minutes before (or alternately, after, depending on how you look at it) my train is due. I then go to the bar and have a pint before heading home. It is becoming one of the highlights of my day.

Sad really.

I think, though, that the railway station bar is an important thing, and while it is not threatened at major London stations like London Bridge, it is elsewhere. On a recent trip to Cambridge I discovered somthing horrendous. The bar in Cambridge station had been taken away, and replaced with a Marks & Spencer food store. The story about how Marks & Spencer's food business is strong while their clothing business is completely stuffed belongs somewhere else, but they are getting quite good at putting little food stores in relatively small locations.

But in a way I think it is sad. I can no longer stop for an alcoholic drink in a bar when delayed at Cambridge railway station, something I have done a few times over the years. The rather dirty and unimpressive little pub in the station is no more. Which is kind of sad. This is the place where Douglas Adams had the famous biscuit incident (as told in "So Long, and thanks for All the Fish"), which he always insisted really happened to him and which he did not steal from Jeffrey Archer). And an English tradition is being taken away and replaced by a store selling ready to heat and/or cook preprepared meals for stressed people like me who work hours that are too long.

Normally I would approve of such progress, but somehow here it is slightly jarring.

(This isn't a dead blog. But, sadly, it is now an occasional blog).

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