Monday, July 2, 2012

The Country Mouse Travels

If one has to travel – and travel is supposed to broaden the mind which is universally considered a Good Thing – then by air it is probably best to go from small airport to small airport. Smaller hordes, nicer officials, seem to be the rule.

So, on the way to 'marry our son' as the French expression would have it, we went from Bordeaux to Bristol, neither of which would probably be flattered to be considered small airports. On arriving at Bristol came the choice of renting a car or using public transport to get to Hereford in lushest rural England. I opted for trains as this seemed simple, only one change at Newport, time probably two hours. The great thing about trains, like buses and taxis, is that other, experienced people drive them, then take them away. Yes, yes I confess I did not like the idea of driving in England after such a long absence.

Unfortunately, a just missed connection meant a long wait at Newport. My punishment for cowardice, obviously. The wait was made unpleasant by cold weather and the fact that the station facilities were inoperative. The café was closed (not even 19h00!) and the vending machine (prop. A Merkel doubtless) announced in German that it was out of order. Just as well - it only dispensed chocolate in various forms. Fortunately, after twenty frustrating minutes the refreshments trolley with attendant from the third Cardiff Express to stop at Newport came down to the platform. We promptly kidnapped him and it. He went home a happy man with a lighter trolley and a £15 sale better off. We had a variety of alcoholic beverages to beguile the next forty minutes.

Then for couple of days we dashed between Hereford and Ross-on-Wye in a variety of taxis. Hereford is a very elegant cathedral town; Ross would probably win a national prize for having the most charity shops. The weather was sufficiently damp to give a proper blessing to the new bride and groom who will doubtless recount the event themselves.....

Then by train to London, post Jubilee, pre-Olympic Games. Oh dear! Security mania and an urge for 'improvements' have overwhelmed the common sense of the public authorities in London. There was a time when a human being could be dropped off at a discreet side entrance to Victoria station, walk a few yards to the Gatwick Express platforms. Then board the train, buy refreshments from a nice East European ladies whilst waiting for the train inspector to come along and sell you a ticket. The distinction has gone.

This time one had to buy tickets from a machine, cunningly placed to catch the sun so that it was difficult to read the screen. Then, encumbered by luggage, one had to go through a gate operated by scanning the ticket, a gate not wide enough for luggage and owner to pass side by side. To add a small insult to the ruffled ego, the nice East European ladies asked to see this same ticket before selling you a drink. Going to Gatwick Airport is no longer the mildly pleasant experience it once was.

It has occurred to me that those who are supposed to manage people flow through railway stations and airports ought to consult Dr Temple Grandin of Colorado State University. It is probably too late for London's Olympic facilities. Dr Grandin is world famed for her design of livestock handling facilities which cause the least possible stress to cattle.(see Travellers are now so numerous that they are harassed, herded and corralled like animals. We deserve better. We are the people.

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