qatsi (qatsi) wrote,

It is better to travel hopefully ...

Book Review: Station to Station - Searching for Stories on the Great Western Line, by James Attlee
Again this was from the work book sale, though it was one of three volumes that had already been on my wish list. Attlee traces the route from London to Bristol, with one or two diversions. It's a mixed bag: there are some interesting sections, such as the owl retained at Paddington station to keep the pigeons under control, or the lowly and seedy historic reputations of Maidenhead and Marlow compared to Slough, but it doesn't quite capture the imagination or keep the interest the way travel writing by someone like Jan Morris, or train writing by Christian Wolmar, does. The early sections on Hanwell and Southall were unexpectedly interesting, though not necessarily for good reasons: the first is the site of a former lunatic asylum, and the latter the location for a third of all railway suicides nationally (in 2007). Regeneration of central Slough and the new Reading station get prominent mention, though the ugly replacement footbridges that have sprung up at one or two stations along the way, presumably in preparation for electrification, are omitted. A diversion off to Cookham takes in Stanley Spencer; a diversion to Oxford is about the Saïd Business School (and the station that once stood on its site), and Kenneth Grahame. Didcot has, it seems, always been grim; and Bath has always been a cut above. It seems a bit of a stretch to assert that the Uffington White Horse is visible from the railway (though I admit I've never looked for it the few times I have been out that way), but it's interesting to hear there is evidence the horse has climbed the hill over the centuries. Brunel is a recurring theme of course, all along the line, though there is ample evidence of many less-than-perfect decisions as well as of energy and vision.
Tags: books, london, places, travel
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