Saturday, December 01, 2007

Better to travel hopefully

I've had an interesting week meeting various politicians and travelling to Brussels on the new Eurostar route for a book launch and to stay with dear friends. Meanwhile poor J has been working day and night and coming home to sleep at odd hours before rushing back to the madness at the office. Both of us are yearning for Christmas when we get three weeks off and can stay at home and see more of each other.

Kings Cross St Pancras International is a huge soaring cathedral of a space, only slightly marred by the huge tacky statue of about-to-snog commuters which looks like a Jeff Koons installation. Though it was raining heavily, light poured in as crowds of smartly-dressed people made a beeline for the chic champagne bar: what struck me was how cheerful and relaxed everyone looked as they prepared to start their journeys, or waited to meet people off arriving trains.

St. Pancras' refurbishment is a deliberate hark-back to the romantic days of steam railway travel, an age we now imbue with a golden glamour even though early rail travel was dirty and dangerous and there were many terrible accidents which killed and injured far more people than recent terrorist attacks. This week, travelling by train to the continent felt a very different experience to my usual route abroad: Heathrow's purgatorial delays and teeth-grinding hours shuffling through international crowds dressed in identikit jeans and sportswear. Nowadays it seems a price is extorted from every single airport traveller in mind-numbing boredom and irritated resentment - and all for a nebulous idea of security in a misnamed 'war' against an abstract noun. And now the Government want even more checkpoints and security measures at transport hubs. It's hopeless and pointless. If I was a terrorist with a rucksack bomb and I knew Kings Cross was heaving with armed coppers and CCTV and sniffer dogs, I'd just get on at Arsenal instead.

There is a good article in today's Guardian Weekend magazine by Oliver Burkeman about airport security. Meanwhile, I'm reading a brilliant book about terrorism - What Terrorists Want by Louise Richardson. It crystallises stuff I've been working on and thinking about for the last 2 years. I'll post a review of it up when I've finished.

I'm off out again, more trains, en route to a gathering of the inlaws . Have a good weekend.


Blogger Henry North London said...

I tried to sign the petition that Davide Simonetti put up on the Downing street website

It doesnt send the email to sign the form... Ive tried it a few times works with any other petition but not his

December 01, 2007 6:47 pm  
Blogger pierre l said...

Hi Rachel. I thought I would mention Bruce Schneier, a man who writes in the USA about all sorts of security issues (although his books were about encryption). He regularly has pieces on his blog about what does and doesn't work regarding airport security. He blogs at: He had a piece about HMRC's problems:

December 02, 2007 12:42 pm  
Blogger pierre l said...

Apologies! I should have followed the link to The Guardian before writing my comment. I won't be offended if you delete my redundant comments.

December 02, 2007 12:49 pm  
Blogger seth said...

hi rachel,

went to check out the st pancras website-looked interesting. btw does the "eurostar" use the chunnel between england and france?

here in the u.s. most long distance train travel is awful. i myself prefer driving a car despite the high cost of gasoline,oops petrol-which is currently around $3-$3.50 per gallon in most u.s. locales.

December 03, 2007 3:01 am  
Blogger SpanishGoth said...


I was going to be sanctimonious about your spelling until, being a clever twat, I checked it and it was all correct....damn.

Anyway, it was nice to meet you in Brux

hasta luego chica,

December 03, 2007 6:17 am  

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