Saint Pancras

For those not of a religious nature and in fact those without a specific knowledge of 14th century saints, the name St Pancras means nothing, other than it being a somewhat magnificent London Railway Terminus.For those who may want to know more, St Pancras became a saint due to his martyrdom and rebellion against the Romans in defence of the Christian faith. He is not really a top ten rated saint compared to Animal loving St Francis, travel insurance expert St Christopher, snake repelling St Patrick and many others who get regular top billing both in the church and popular literature and films. Anyway if a St Pancras question comes up at quiz night, you will be the hero of your team now. St Pancras station however really is out there making a name for itself. This magnificent building which has a gothic cathedral like appearance from the outside was constructed in the 1860’s and was in good use for the first 100 years of its life but fell into gradual decline from the 1960’s and was nearly derelict by the 1970’s with only a small number of departures to the Midlands of England with most other services having been moved for various reasons to other stations nearby such as next door neighbour modernist Kings Cross,and near neighbours St Marylebone and Euston.Then a stroke of luck…the newly created international services of Eurostar to Paris and Brussels needed a larger terminus; the newly created high speed domestic trains to the Kent coast likewise, and also some other commuter services needed a station that could accomdate increased train lengths introduced due to traffic growth.That’s just the background and the ‘raison d’etre’ for the stations rebirth.And what a transformation….light, sculptures, classy shops, restaurants and champagne bars truly have brought the romance back to train travel.The full story of this transformation is worth a read…well documented on Wikipedia. For those not looking for the detail….just try to visit it if ever you are in London. You really won’t be disappointed.

Lost in London

London, like many cities mostly presents its underground railway maps in a topological format.

And when I say underground I mean the metro, but it is rarely called that in the uk. The normal colloquilism for London underground being ‘the tube’ . Topological maps show the stations and lines in an ordered and geometric way, which gives great clarity but totally distorts distance and indeed direction.

Native Londoners when outside their immediate geographic comfort zones of suburban home or city street will have a hazy and simplified comprehension of the geography of their city fuelled by these maps.

Tourists are even worse off with few if any reference points to assist in computing real distance and direction rather than just ‘living the tube map’.

I read recently that despite Covent Garden and Leicester Square stations being only 400 metres or so apart,

and a mere 40 second tube journey, some 800 people per week buy tickets for this journey between the two of them…blissfully unaware that a 4 minute stroll along the street will take them from one station to another in much more comfort and lots to see along the way…..

These are London’s two tube stations that are closest to each other but these are not unique with others equally near their neighbours.

Meantime back at the world of what to call the underground……

The metropolitan tube line in London was the world’s first such railway and the name, ‘ metro’ has been used worlwide for city underground trains. Except in London where the name tube has just stuck and is what everybody refers to it by.

In Paris, the abbreviation as well as the full name Metropolitan is in widespread use .

but in numerous other cities in Europe and beyond, the underground trains are called metros. Ok in New York it’s the subway,

and funnily enough in Glasgow, that same name too,

although colloquilly referred to there by some as the ‘Clockwork Orange ‘.

Why, well the trains are bright orange and it’s just one continuous circle. A unique experience with it’s own smell that cannot be quite defined! The continuous circle is now used in its logo branding for the stations too.

If you ever get the chance to visit Glasgow, give it a whirl.15 stations and a lot of people watching!

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Nothing on telly…

‘There’s nothing on telly’ was often the lament when I was a 1970’s teenager. TV back then in the UK was fairly limited…it had taken until 1967 for the UK to get to have have a 3rd TV channel (BBC2).

And not being a nation that rushes things, we had to wait 26 more years until 1993 for Channel 4 to arrive.

These days there really is everything on TV…reality TV has not only gone deep into the world of music with the X Factor and The Voice; Dancing has gone global and of course dating! Things taking quite a big leap from Blind Date to Love Island and even Naked Attraction.

If you don’t live in the UK you may not be familiar with all of these programmes, but they are mostly now fairly globalised!

But moving on, also now with every conceivable pastime from baking to sowing is having a competitive series making stars out of the boy or girl next door who can run up a dress or create a culinary masterpiece better than the pro’s.

Anyway, for anybody in the least bit concerned that the TV programme makers may have run out of ideas …fear not…. Tonight I saw a trailer for the latest reality show to hit our screens in the UK… Model Railways with teams vying with each other every week to create a railway layout with features such as dams, volcanos or mountains….or whatever the judges want the challenges to be!

Now no disrespect to people with such a hobby…but my limited experience of meeting such people is that they are unlikely to attract fame, adoration or even stalking from fans.

But we live in changing times…the ‘anorak’ might just be about to have its day!

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