Last Friday evening I completed the final leg of my usual commute home from work by steam, on the Severn Valley Railway. It was, without question, an unalloyed, unqualified pleasure. During the week, from Monday to Thursday, I don’t make it back in time for the last SVR train to Bewdley. On Fridays however, I finish work an hour earlier and (saving any delays en route) I reach Kidderminster station with about five minutes to spare.
It’s not something I’d really considered doing before, thinking – as I did – that a) I wouldn’t make the connection in time, and b) it was somehow a little too extravagant. Nevertheless, last Friday, after a little last-minute research, I realised that I could indeed make the 4:55 and I figured… extravagance be damned and the Devil with the cost! And in fact it was very affordable, costing more than the invariably harrowing bus journey admittedly, but considerably less than a taxi fare. And what’s more, I’m genuinely taken with the idea of making it a regular Friday evening thing. There’s an annual pass with my name on it, in the offing!
I’d even dress for it! Seriously. The very idea of climbing aboard the ex-GWR 2857 steam locomotive, in my best interbellum double-breasted, afternoon suit and two-tone Oxford, wingtip brogues, is almost too delicious. And a hat – why on Earth did people stop wearing hats, for goodness sake? I long for the the style and the effortless panache and optimism of the 20s and 30s, you see. That was when people knew how to dress and when they knew how to travel.
And so there I sat, at the window, feeling for all the world like Hercule Poirot, gently swaying with the rhythm of the wheels on the rails, watching the world pass by at the perfect pace, and gazing with pure joy at the carriage’s beautifully appointed interior. Now, that’s how to travel home.
So, no longer shall I stand nervously at the bus stop on a Friday night, and suffer the indignity of being verbally affronted by some under-evolved ne’er-do-well, who failed to get that banjo-playing part in Deliverance because, well… he was just too weird-looking. Instead I shall travel in style, and imagine I’m solving some baffling murder mystery, that’s got everybody else stumped.