Paddington and bigotry by rail

At Paddington Station I take my hat off to Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s statue in a show of respect to a man that could design a palace to steam like that without recourse to hallucinogenic drugs. He has taken off his own, far more impressive, hat too; and sits smiling amidst the wonders he has made.

“01042010 – 250 Paddington Station – Isambard Kingdom Brunel statue” by failing_angel is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The statue of Paddington Bear on the opposite side is light and shiny on the nose, crown and brim of his hat where the kids have touched him.

Reading town centre has a noisy, slightly manic quality, generally quite smartly turned out people making a sharp contrast with some striking looking serious drunks. One stares out blearily from under a hoody, with a red and weather beaten face that makes him look like Aragorn grown old as Strider. Another tall, stringy looking man walks along with an ID tag around his neck showing he is functional at least some of the time, while talking to himself and taking rather wide steps that waver tentatively before making a commitment to coming down. Every pace an adventure.

The train to Reading is named after a community activist who fixed things for his neighbours and played music in the streets, which may be the future. The train back is named after a GWR employee who won the VC in the First World War. Three other employees who died in it are commemorated along the body of the locomotive with brief biographical notes and photos of lugubrious looking men with walrus mustaches; who are definitely the past.

As was the frustrated football fan on the Euston to Watford line who looked like a bitter and twisted version of Andy Parsons and decided that the carriage would benefit from his slightly inebriated rant against woke this and anti- British that; partly directed at his mates; but using them as a backdrop and back up to talk to everyone who couldn’t avoid hearing. At one point, he looked directly at me, perhaps because I was wearing a pink shirt and was therefore a living rebuke to all things masculine. His most ironic line was that if Britain hadn’t defeated Hitler, no one would have the nerve to pull down statues. Which I guess means that Hitler was on his side in that. No one rose to his bait. He was, of course, not wearing a mask.

2 thoughts on “Paddington and bigotry by rail

  1. I am reminded about another station statue, that of John Betjeman who eagerly hurried to a talk entitled “The Pleasures of Reading” only to discover it was about the pleasures of books and not about his beloved suburbia. If I write a book I think I will title it “How to embrace the ordinary”.

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  2. There is a wonderful statue of Betjeman in the Eurostar terminal at St Pancras. He is looking windswept and holding on to his hat. looking up for inspiration ; or possibly at what the time is on the station clock. I think he was partly responsible for saving it in the sixties; when the spirit of Barry Bucknell covering anything crenellated with nice easily cleaned sheets of hardboard reigned supreme and turned Euston into the most depressing terminus in London. No natural light. No soaring arches. Low ceilings. Smell of diesel. Like arriving in a provincial multi storey car park. Have you ever seen Betjeman’s “Metroland” film from 1973? https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0861719/ I have two odd connections with it. At one point he is seen holding forth on the top of Ernest Trowbridge’s Castle Flats, just up the hill from me (the companion flats opposite make an appearance in Madness’s “Our House” video because they are so quirky in a comfortable suburban sort of way). There is also a short clip of a Sunday afternoon demonstration; and the contingent featured is full of people whose faces I recognise; a few whose names I can recall.
    “WHEN melancholy Autumn comes to Wembley
    And electric trains are lighted after tea…”I feel as at home with this and as much like cheering as I do when the Billy Bragg A13 song comes on (which isn’t often).

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