“Not all those who wander are lost.”
I really do like to travel – and the pandemic only underlined how much I missed it. However, it has also given me a new eagerness to discover our own island – ‘this sceptred isle’, in the words of Shakespeare’s John of Gaunt in Richard ll. And I guess I am not the only one – ‘This Sceptred Isle’ is an upcoming five-part television drama that will air on Sky Atlantic and Now in autumn 2022.
As the country has opened up, I’ve been taking advantage of getting out and about again.
First up was a visit to Barra, to experience the world’s only scheduled airline landing on a beach. Booking for February always carried an element of risk – but just look at the tourist photo!
However, I am guessing that is not a winter photo. As our little Otter Turboprop battled northwest from Glasgow Airport against strong headwinds we began to wonder what the landing would be like. We need not have worried. A landing was impossible with the winds, so back we turned – and this is all we saw of Barra through the low cloud.
Now Paul Theroux famously said, ‘Travel is only glamorous in retrospect’, but I have to disagree. I really enjoyed the strange experience of flying 8000 ft above my own home as I headed in search of my late granny’s ‘hielan hame’. But I acknowledge that this kind of travel would not be to everyone’s liking.
‘Travelling is a fool’s paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
But again I take an opposite view – I remain constantly fascinated by different places and marvel at the sheer ingenuity of those who have built our transport infrastructure. Who can fail to be impressed by the spectacular railway terminus and pierhead at Wemyss Bay on the Clyde Coast.
"Some people wait so long for their ship to come in, their pier collapses."
This Victorian masterpiece was the very epitome of an integrated transport system and I had a wry smile to myself as I read over the weekend about the plans for an integrated transport scheme for the west of Scotland. It seems that every generation says it will develop this but perhaps, as times change, we need to keep reimagining and reinventing transport.
And as my north-south-east-west travels continued I ended up in Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland, to experience their integrated transport system. Interestingly at its heart is the wonderful Newcastle Central Station – refurbished in 1993. What a splendid railway station to roll into!
"For a certain kind of person there is literally nothing nicer than eating breakfast by yourself on a moving train with a good book.”
I headed to the north-east of England to hear a lecture by Britain’s most famous author on all things train related, Christian Wolmar. As the grandson and son of railwaymen how could I not be interested in these magnificent objects? Richard Ford believed that going to look at trains was not enough – you need to stand near them. And, when you think about their size and power, and the way they criss-cross the country, how can you not feel humbled?
“I read somewhere it is psychologically beneficial to stand near things greater and more powerful than you yourself, so as to dwarf yourself (and your piddlyass bothers) by comparison.
Now this is probably a nerd’s confession, but I then enjoyed an evening meal in the centre of Sunderland with Christian and heard more about his views on railways in Britain. And we were joined by the head of Transport North East! Railways and the wider transport infrastructure make for a fascinating after dinner discussion. Seriously! The economic implications of good and connected transport systems are clear but these are industries having to strategically adjust and adapt to new patterns of demand and usage.
So I’ve covered trains and planes – what about the boats? (More on cars and buses in the future!)
Well, a wee bit nostalgia. While on the east coast of England I took the opportunity to visit Scarborough and the famous Peasholm Park – which I first visited six decades ago. Scary!
And the boats connection? For over 80 years, Peasholm Park (one of the UK’s top ten parks) draws crowds every summer that want to see its famous naval warfare event - the Battle of Peasholm between imaginary rivals. War breaks out on the lake in the middle of the park when the 20-foot replica boats recreate some serious tensions during the Peasholm Park Naval Battle.
“Only the train of memories runs on a disused railroad!”
Mehmet Murat ildan