Saturday, December 16, 2006

Per Ardua........

As far as I’m aware there is no record of the check-in time for Wilbur and Orville on that day at Kittyhawk when they started all this nonsense. Nor is there any mention of Louis Bleriot having passed through security controls on his way to England, although judging from the expression on the face of the Bobby who greeted him in the grounds of Dover Castle, he may have been in breach of a few regulations.

There is, however, ample documentation and evidence concerning my recent trip back home from London.

At Liverpool Street Station, I boarded the midday copy of the Stansted Express and settled myself in amongst the detritus left behind by earlier travellers. Foreign visitors may be tempted to look up the word “express” in their English dictionaries feeling that they may have misinterpreted the adjective as the train saunters its way eastwards. This sedate progress is probably just as well as the tracklayers appear to have taken a pretty liberal attitude toward the commonly adopted four foot, eight and a half inch gauge that most of the other railways have put in place. Or possibly, judging from the rocking and rolling, there was a heavy sea running.

But the discarded sandwich bags, crisp packets and old newspapers gave one a comfortably homely feeling. No doubt it was the cleaner’s day off.

Thanks to the skill of the driver, we reached Stansted Airport without incident, the train only needing to stop a couple of times to draw breath.

As airports go, Stansted is a pretty good one and, if we could only get rid of the passengers who clutter it up, one could have quite a jolly time there. I was in good time for my 15:15 departure and, having bamboozled security, had ample time to enjoy what is euphemistically referred to as the departure lounge. Not being much of a shopper, there’s not a lot to amuse me here, other than watching my fellow sufferers, but eventually I am allowed to board the big tin tube and have the entertainment of watching people trying to stuff obviously oversized bags into obviously too small spaces. It is the highlight of my day.

We arrive an hour later overhead Poitiers, which is by now shrouded in fog, and our driver announces that he’s all for going on to Limoges without taking a vote on the matter.

To put all this into perspective, here are a few statistics. In a straight line from London to my home is 487 kms. To Poitiers, 550 kms and to Limoges, 650 kms. We arrive in Limoges some five hours after I left London – and I’m still 200 kms from home.

The bus journey from Limoges back to Poitiers is enlivened by the fact that the fog has now rolled further south. Then from Poitiers, it’s another hour and a half crawl through fog to home.

Thankfully sucking down a glass of wine, I calculate the average speed for my journey from London to be about 27 m.p.h.

This is about the same speed that the Wright brothers achieved on day one among the sand dunes of Kittyhawk.


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