I’ve travelled on trains all over the World. In India there was the familiar chirping of children: chai! Chai! Chai! You passed your rupee through the train window and in return got a delicious sweet tea. Trains in China provided huge thermos flasks of water to make your own. Bunk beds: 3 tiers high for a cosy night’s sleep. The contrast of the shiny trains in Singapore: sleek, efficient and clean. I ate my first hot chili by mistake in the restaurant of a train in Thailand and my mouth was hot from Ko Si Chang to Bangkok. Trains create memories. All over the World I have loved the opportunities trains provide. Enabling discovery, and conversations with people who would normally pass you by.
Which is partly why I feel so let down by our trains. The trains in our beautiful country. The trains that are currently causing disruption and destroying our faith in people’s ability to manage. Strike upon strike Southern trains are making us endure. It is hell. It creates even more chaos in our already jam packed, chaotic lives. You think I exaggerate? I don’t know from one day to the next how my children are getting home from school. I am at work – it’s a horrible feeling. Have they managed to grab another lift from yet another friend? I’ve had a daughter stranded in London this week, while my step daughter, who needed to get up to London, couldn’t. But none of us have got the energy to fight – because it is Christmas and we’re all busy being stressed and fighting bugs. It is one fight too far. Anyway, who do we fight? The unions? The train company or the government, who are showing weakness in their passivity?
We just soldier on, incredulous. In shock that this can happen. A strike this week on a day when there wasn’t even supposed to be a strike. Forget Christmas shopping on Oxford Street and seeing the Christmas lights this year. You’ve got tickets to a show in the West End? Drive 20 minutes to another town and cross all your fingers and toes. The Southern Grinch is here.
They are even welcoming 2017 with a strike. The day exams start for hundreds of school children: Happy New Year! They don’t give a shit. You are left feeling helpless, frustrated and angry…so angry, with nowhere to vent. ‘Please don’t travel’, Southern is imploring us. How the hell can we put our lives on hold? Again and again and again. The schools say it is ok not to come in if there is a strike. What message is this giving our kids? I have so many questions and no answers are forthcoming.
I want to create memories in my own country this Christmas. I want to explore and meet people who I wouldn’t normally meet. I want to take my children to see the sites that our capital has in abundance. I want trains that run. That’s all I want this Christmas, and a strike free New Year. I’d write my wish list in a letter, if I knew who the Santa Claus was, who can make my wish come true.