The romance of travel

"A fanciful view of future airship trave&...

“A fanciful view of future airship trave” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whenever I watch an old Indiana Jones film where they sneak their way onto an airship, I always feel a pang of jealousy that they are using a mode of transport that I probably never will. Modern aircraft feel so claustrophobic with their closely packed seats and tiny windows. The only way to stretch your legs is by dodging the trolley dollies and the toilet-goers in the extremely narrow aisles.

Airship gondolas are always depicted in films as luxurious, spacious affairs with uniformed attendants serving dinner at large tables. Because the gondola hangs below the airship, the passengers have an unimpeded view through the large picture windows. Progress is sedate and dependent on the wind direction, but I can’t imagine a more pleasant way to travel.

I really wouldn’t mind if it took me days to get somewhere. Fit wireless internet and you could even work up there, although if the films are anything to go by, you might get interrupted by the odd murder or gun-toting Nazis looking to take over the world.

I’m not sure I’d feel quite so nostalgic for travelling by ship. If I was travelling on business, according to company policy I’d be in steerage. According to Wikipedia, steerage means limited toilet use, no privacy and poor food. Sounds a bit like economy class on most airlines. The only trouble is that ships are slow. Living in cramped conditions with poor sanitation and loads of other people for extended periods of time leads to disease.

Steam trains hold a special place in my heart too. If I could get aftershave that was eau de steam train, I would buy bottles of the stuff. I simply can’t imagine a nicer smell. There is nothing like the drama of a big steam train pulling into a train station amid clouds of sweet-smelling steam and then pulling out again to a gradually increasing clamour of puffing.

I remember when trains had compartments and really comfortable seats. You also had a reasonable chance of sitting on them too. Trains seemed to be much less busy back then.

With the exception of personal transportation, like the motor car and motorbike, it seems that although transport has become much more efficient, it has also become much more cramped and uncomfortable. When are we going to see a new transport development that takes us back to travelling comfortably without breaking the bank?


Whatever happened to my treasured possessions?


Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. ...

Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. Title page. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Owing to a recent rodent induced flood (don’t ask), we have had cause to reassess the value of lots our belongings in the Bailey household. Many items have slid down the treasured possession scale from “don’t throw away under any circumstances” to “discardable tat” with frightening speed. Thanks to the household insurance, almost everything can be replaced. What surprised me was how distinctly unattached I felt to all of my possessions – they’re just easily replaceable things.

It never used to be that way. When I was growing up, everything I owned was almost sacred. I had a massive collection of plastic soldiers which I played with endlessly. Rain, wind or shine, I would be out in the garden digging bunkers and conducting world war across the lawn. I was obsessed by World War II and I had a big boxful of Commando comics which I read over and over.

Whilst these were important to me at the time, they paled into insignificance compared to two hard backed books.

The first was a ladybird book called “In the train with Uncle Mac”. I don’t know where it came from and it was well-worn by the time it came into my possession. It was the story of a journey on a steam train with a kindly uncle. I read the book incessantly. So much so, that it started to fall to bits. As a young boy, I liked all kinds of machines, but especially trains. Time after time, mum had to perform running repairs with Sellotape just to keep it in one piece. By the time she finished, there was more Sellotape than book.

The second was a similarly sized hard backed book with a plain dark red cover. It had no dust cover and at some point in its life, it had been in the wrong place during some decorating and white paint flecked the front of the book. It was presented to me by my uncle Martin. I could tell by the solemnity of the way he gave me the book that he was handing over a precious heirloom. It was a copy of a Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

With gravity, he told me that the book I held in my hands was his favourite story ever. He then read it to me. I can’t say that it converted me to being a Charles Dickens fan, but the moment possessed a certain magic all the same.

I feel guilty that I no longer have either of these books and for the life of me, I have no idea what happened to them. I could buy another copy of both these books to replace the ones that I’ve lost over the years, but somehow it just wouldn’t be the same.