Train tracks are indiscriminate in the places that they link. The connections are often surprising. Although a short distance, the track between Liverpool and Euston has some unlikely bedfellows and some extraordinary likeliness. The overpriced day return ticket permits views of places old and new, famous and inconsequential, ugly and beautiful.
Liverpool will celebrate its 800th birthday in 2008; it is, by many standards an ancient city, but it was not until the advent of the industrial revolution and steam-powered boats that the full impact was felt at a national and international level.
This city sucked in goods from the North and spat them out to foreign parts. The destruction of war, and worse, the lack of vision and consequently investment into the docks, brought a downward spiral of fortune.
Liverpool folk indulged in the past and developed an inner nostalgia which allowed the world to bypass it. It is only now that life seems to be improving as we understand what an extraordinary resource they possess.
London also allowed its docks to disappear.
These two great ports, which represented the mouths to receive the rich pickings of the empire, became gagged by lack of courage and a refusal to take risk. London's geographical position and status ensured that no downward spiral occurred. It continues to receive and accept a cosmopolitan population. Even so, the docklands lay in degradation for decades, while the Port Authority continued to pretend it still had a shipping industry to operate.
Both London and Liverpool have new towns relatively close to them. Liverpool in part spawned Runcorn, which in its day sported housing by James Gowan and Jim Stirling. At this time, the idea was quite new, in spite of Welwyn Garden and Harlow, and towns were marketed as wholesome places to reside in.
These towns were supported by motorways as well as rail links to encourage the commuter.
This lifestyle was a poor man's version of the stockbroker belt; enjoying a better quality air at home without the rough edges of the city.
Both Runcorn and Milton Keynes, London's version, have promoted this lifestyle most successfully, resulting in the 'market-led' attitude of housebuilders who insist that this is how people want to live. They continue to squander vast tracts of the British countryside.
There is a lifestyle that is completely new which has emerged from this style, and that is one of living in the middle of Britain and being prepared to travel anywhere;
subsequently putting pressure on our roads.
The home becomes the centre of the universe and the wage earner sits in an ever-thickening traffic soup. The children's school is a major factor in deciding to live this way. Call centres thrive on the labours of those left in the home.
No longer do people relocate, they simply travel further and return home exhausted and beat up the family, resulting in divorce.
The two stations in the centre of my journey are Crewe and Rugby. Both these towns enjoyed rapid expansion as important railway junctions. In both cases, their decline was initiated by Dr Beeching. As you roll though both places, you witness a landscape littered with rail detritus, which takes on the air of an archaeological dig. Perhaps both these places could re-emerge as inland ports, taking goods by train deep into the heart of Europe. This is unlikely, as the workforce is lost in an unreality of a windowless retail environment.
My train journey exposes the realities of change, and underlines the wicked conservative attitude we possess that prevents an acceptance of change as opportunity, as opposed to an inevitable diminishment of life.
WA, from seat 7F, Flight No G7-745 Brussels to Trieste