Riding The Rails

About 18 months ago, I started this blog by quoting the opening paragraphs of one of my favourite books, John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley”, as a perfect evocation of my desire to be elsewhere.

It went like this:

“When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch.

When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age.

In middle age, I was assured greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job.

Nothing has worked.

Four hoarse blasts of a ship’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping.

The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage.

In other words, once a bum, always a bum.”

That’s the line that resonates the most as I sit here on the cusp of another journey.

The urge to go someplace else, to wander and to explore is a natural human instinct, one that’s always there, bubbling under the surface until it cannot be suppressed any more.

So, I’m off again.

This time, instead of walking across one or two countries at about 4km per hour, I’m going to be Greta Thunberg-ing my way from London to Warsaw over the next two days and then onwards around Europe for the next few weeks, all by train and with only a vague outline of a potential itinerary.

An inspiration

Having electively quit my job (again), the idea of channeling the spirit of Steinbeck and Woody Guthrie to ride the rails like a hobo around some historically significant European locations could prove to be extremely pertinent experience for a future filled with both possibilities and uncertainties.

The added bonus of not being physically present in the UK while a certain individual continues to be its Prime Minister cannot be understated either.

My earnest hope is that my European Train Odyssey will last longer than he does at Number 10, but I’ll be on standby to apologise en bloc to everyone in Europe for all the things that might be said or done in the meantime.

It’s going to be an interesting few weeks, and I’m really not sure what it’s going to be like.

But I can promise you this – there’ll be no red trousers and no Portillo-style blazers either.

Not an inspiration

That’s not how hoboes ride the rails.

I’m a bum, you see.

Edited to add a picture of Train 9116 for Alex:-

6 thoughts on “Riding The Rails

  1. Looking forward to this John. I did an inter rail trip in the early 1990s – one of the best experiences of my life; one month of dropping into one capital/ cultural gem after another. Always dream of repeating it.

    I loved reading the opening part of your blog – I know how you feel!
    Only just realised at the age of 54 I’m a bum too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. alexstanier

    So envious.
    There may not be other train fans following this blog, but on behalf of them all, please post train photos when you can. And a mission to apologise to Europeans for the UK politicians who are so offensive in the European Parliament, is a great thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. lois lloyd

    Hi dear, so excited to see you off exploring and train-ing this time and being as green as possible. This has inspired a few of my friends to stop flying so much. The house is strange without you and Daisy and David and I are missing you already but looking forward to this excellent blog of how to get from A to B as gently as possible for the planet Just let the experiences teach you what you need to do and how and whatever it is all will be as it should. PS I love trains too but mostly steamers xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for all your help and support, which makes this latest jaunt possible! It’ll be interesting to see how it goes over the next few weeks. The first connections have gone quite well – I’m now on board a funky Deutsche Bahn train from Brussels to Cologne. Talk later!


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