So far, I've had 43 'hits' from A Reluctant Sinner after he advertised my blog over the weekend. So thank you Mr A Reuctant Sinner. It is very exciting to be able to see where everybody comes from, and how you got here. One viewer lives in Hong Kong. Perhaps I'd best not talk too much about my opinions in that department. As I've been quite busy, I haven't had time to write anything yet, and it looks like I shall remain busy for a few days yet! Additionally, the computer I am using - not my own - is frustratingly slow, and so it can takes hours to do a simple task.
I've been reflecting on the recent £148 million Euromillions win this weekend, especially as the winning pair are not too far away from me at the moment. Funnily enough, I was talking with a few friends over Sunday lunch how we would spend the money if we won it, oblivious to the fact that somebody down the road had just done so.
I have long wanted to travel on the Orient Express. I travelled on sleeper-trains in Russia when I was a teenager, and I remember the experience with great distain. The burley soldier guarding the carriage locked the cabin doors , and, though it was winter at the time, the air temperature was unbearably hot, and the leather strap which operated the 1950s pull-down window was apparently just for decoration. I remember spending most of the night on my way to Leningrad cooling my face with the condensation from the frosty glass-panes, terrified when the train came to a steady halt in the moon-lit taiga forests, as my cabin was illuminated by the unscrupulously inquisitive torch-lights of railway policemen peering through the hazy window, all accompanied by the unsavioury gaseous sounds of my neighbour's bodily functions. When I opened my bag after arriving at my next hotel, all my clothes smelled of the train diesel fumes that I'd been inhaling for the past day or so.
That notwithstanding, I'd still like to try the Orient Express, though I do wonder what one does all day.
I would also like to spend a month, or even longer, if I had £148 million, travelling around Spain on local trains. I love Spain, and I specialised in Spanish history for one of my degrees. I enjoyed reading a recent book by Christopher Howse, called A Pilgrim in Spain. It is quite short, and only took a day to read, but it captured the essence of Spain in a few pages. And the railway is the best way to see a country, after all. Roads, especially in Spain, ignore the local environment and traditional routes of sojourn. Tsar Nicholas I may have called them the malady of our time, but the railway does allow one to experience a foreign culture - even our own culture - in a very unique way. Alas, high-speed railways are the sign of the times: even that little haven of cultural tranquility and nostalgia is being eroded by progress. The Virgin route from London to Manchester speeds through north Stafforshire, for example, allows the traveller to take in the beauty of the environment, and environment which will be destroyed by High Speed Two. At the moment, the zebra-striped train gently meanders beside the shallow River Trent, the ancient English boundary between north and south, spotted with stately homes, villages, convents and mooing cows. If the London executives were to have their way, the cow's melodic moo would soon be replaced by an ungainingly honk.
Am I too nostalgic? Yes, and I'm proudly so. I'd rather have cricket on a Sunday afternoon than more slimey city slickers speeding to and from one anonymous urban sprawl to another, interested in little more than self-aggrandizement and money-making schemes.
Just because somebody says something is progress, doesn't make it is a good thing.
Also, I'm not a train enthusiast.