Thursday, 18 February 2010

Winter travels and travails

It is a truth often asserted, though perhaps not universally acknowledged, that private business does things much more efficiently than the public sector.

Today I put that proposition to the test. On behalf of my (private) company, I travelled to Exeter, down there in Devon, in the South West of England. Travel much further West and you fall off the edge into the sea. It meant leaving the house at 6:00 and not getting back until 6:30, and I’m not saying I was gone for half an hour.

And the goal of this process? A one-hour meeting.

A positive one. A constructive one. One that it was a real pleasure to attend. But still just a one-hour meeting.

As it happens, I travelled by train, which is the luxury form of travel these days. The car is exhausting, planes are just buses with wings. The train has a wonderful rhythmic motion to it, that calms you, that somehow feels natural. Sometimes it can lull you to sleep – and that’s the other great thing about the train: you can work, you can relax, you can even sleep. Behind the wheel of a car, all you get is stress (OK, and great radio, but it’s not enough to make up for the tension).

And the train has one massive benefit over planes: it stays on the ground. I’ve often thought that if God had meant us to fly, he wouldn’t have given us the railways.

In any case, it wasn’t really the question of productivity or efficiency that struck me today. It was that on the way home I spent a good hour or so travelling through the same kind of landscape as on the way down: not exactly bitterly cold, but far from mild; bleak in the way that winter is bleak; all under a grey sky. Then soon after we left Bristol, the country changed: suddenly everything was covered in a blanket of white. Beyond Cheltenham, we were travelling through falling snow.

It was wonderful and magical and also the fourth or fifth time – I’ve lost count, to be honest – it’s happened this winter.

What on Earth is going on? This has got to be the winter with the most snow I’ve ever seen in England. It’s probably about the coldest I remember, too.

Come on, Al Gore, I believe in you, I have faith in your message, I want to accept the inconvenient truth about global warming.

But I need to see temperatures a bit higher. And a bit less snow. Otherwise I have to confess that a certain scepticism might just begin to gnaw away at my certainties.


Bob said...

A warming sea yields more vapor and perhaps more snow--a banality not as nicely turned as your opening trope, Mr. Aus...err...Beeson.

David Beeson said...

Yes, and as I understand it the Gulf stream may be disrupted, so that the first effect on Britain of global warming might be local cooling... Science is so strange.

David Beeson said...

OK, Bob - I give up - I couldn't work out the reference to 'Aus...'. Please explain!

Bob said...

Oops. Sorry. My fault.

Your opening sentence reminded me of the opening of Jane Austen's "Pride & Prejudice": "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

David Beeson said...

Of course - and I deliberately echoed that opening sentence - I guess I think of Austen as quintessentially feminine and can't associate her name with 'Mr' - but that's only an attempt at an excuse for my extremely dumb reaction...

Thanks for the clarification anyway.

Awoogamuffin said...

You can get radio in the train too, can't you?

Worst comes to worst, just download podcasts of your favourite shows, which is arguably better anyway

David Beeson said...

Oh, I don't get bored on trains anyway. It's in the car that I really need the radio