These days, my ambulant abilities seem to be almost solely restricted to mechanically assisted travel – be it by plane, train or automobile. The only walking I really seem to accomplish is along endlessly long airport corridors towing a mid-sized wheely-bin load of cabin luggage supplemented by an eternally preferable mile or so of evening dog walking. So I thought that maybe it was time, if only because I haven’t had one for a while, to share a grumpy old moan about modern transport in Britain and beyond.
So – here goes.
Firstly: Driving. From now on, I vow to avoid the M1 at all costs. It is a hateful hell-hole of a road which just seems to have an endless series of speed restrictions and road works. If you need to get anywhere in good time you need to plan for an additional hour, or maybe two – particularly if your departure time matches that of the daily commuters. And if you dare to attempt to travel it’s length in the middle of the night, to get to an airport at stupid o’clock, then forget it: It will be closed at random places beyond any Satnav system knowledge and any diversion will sit you in a 3 a.m. traffic jam in the middle of nowhere. It is not a road – it is an obstacle course! Other roads to avoid include the M42, M5, M6 and the A1 North of Doncaster. Oh and the M74 – if only because of the ar****les in white vans hiding alongside bridges with speed cameras!
Secondly: It’s official. I really hate airports! I’m not going to boast about my supposedly extensive and exotic travels recently, as I want to be absolutely clear in expressing that international travel really isn’t glamorous these days. I’ve seen more than my fair share of terminals in recent months, particularly Heathrow T5, and though I still manage to maintain an air of pleasantry and smiles, deep inside all I can see is an endless myriad of:
- Parking nightmares. If you park within a mile of the airport it, you might need to up the credit limit on your MasterCard. In a word – extortionate!
- Transfer buses – a soulless mode of transport made worse by having to wait for one in a howling winter gale underneath T5.
- Queues – oh my god are airports good at queues – even if you are a fast-track flyer.
- Dragged hand luggage – just the best trip hazard going
- Security checks – requiring you to unpack, dismantle and repack a perfectly organised set of personal essentials in under a minute. I now understand why some people are so adept at dismantling and reassembling assault rifles.
- Pungent perfume smells, war-painted shop assistants and numerous pointless designer shops devoid of clientele.
- Miserable looking business travellers who huff at you if you cross their path.
- People rushing to get on the plane first. That one always baffles me – do they just want a nice big slot for their cabin bag?
- Overly long corridors: Yesterday I clocked up 2 miles …. inside two airports!
- Escalators up, then down and then in, out and shake it all about.
- Electronic passport gates that just don’t work and thus deposit you in another queue.
- Occasional dodgy foreign airport officials looking to bleed you of the odd dollar or fifty just to get in the country.
- Overly cheesy airline crew who try to convince you that flying with them is a pleasure
- And the treat of flying business class spoilt by a bloke in the next seat with a non-stop sneezing affliction and a disturbing twitch.
Thirdly: Rail travel. To be brutally honest, trains are my favourite mode of travel, but with a few conditions thrown in:
- I’m not travelling at rush hour and paying through the nose to stand next to a draughty door.
- I’m not sitting next to a student whose head-phoned music rhythmically psssts my ears like a night time blood seeking mosquito.
- I’m not sitting in the same carriage as someone who likes to shout down the phone and inform the world that he is “on the train!”
- I’m not sitting in a train with a small collection of loud mouthed, mildly threatening, drunk, tattooed prats.
- The train isn’t sitting at a red light for hours with the vague excuses of a “another broken down train blocking the line” crackling through the tannoy.
- My train’s departing platform hasn’t been changed with less than a two minute warning.
- It’s not cancelled!
All in all, travel seems to have lost some of it’s glitz. Yes, it is lovely to see new places and meet new people. Yes, I enjoy people watching and smiling wryly at those whose stress levels get a bit frayed. Yes, I like a window seat to watch the world below or the countryside whistle past. Yes, I sometimes like the challenge of getting from A to B without mishap and with just a little bit of comfort time to spare. Yes, I even quite like the occasional bumpy landing (thanks Storm Doris) or waiting on the runway during heavy snow and watching the plane get de-iced. But hell – I prefer walking!