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- special bonus extract -

WAY OF THE WORLD:
The Best of Peter Simple


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Johnson, London, 1963
(price: 30s; 312 pages)



In 1963 Dr Beeching published his report on British Rail, which advocated the closure of vast numbers of the smaller railway stations, and the laying waste of substantial swathes of the network, a process from which public transport has never recovered. It was presented as a necessary piece of modernization, which is perhaps why it took a romantic reactionary like Peter Simple of the Daily Telegraph to lament this wilful destruction of British culture.

The list of stations due for death at the hands of Dr Beeching reads like a poem of English place-names, a roll-call of all the platforms where once perhaps or twice or many times we have waited for the train. Select your own names. Here are a few of mine; from these, if you wish, you can construct a kind of enigmatic life history.

Appleby, Arthington, Aynho for Deddington, Barnard Castle, Braintree and Bocking, Brownhills, Catterick Bridge, Chapel-en-le Frith, Dore and Totley, Exeter St Thomas, Finchley Road and Frognal †, Handborough, King's Nympton, Lazonby and Kirkoswald, Marsh Gibbon and Powndon, North Tawton, Pickering, Pontefract Monkhill, Ribblehead, Shepton Mallet Charlton Road, Tebay, Wootton Bassett; also Bala, Builth Road High Level and various melodious railway-names of Wales.

Only those who are so infatuated with abstractions that time and place, arrival and departure, morning and evening, hope and despair no longer mean anything to them but data for computers - or those who are so rich that they never have had to travel by public transport - can fail to be moved by this muster-roll of those about to die. (pp. 276-277)

Finchley Road & Frognal was in fact reprieved, and remains open as a station on Silverlink's North London Line.


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