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War & Peace

There are a number of books that are “suggested reading” and one of those would I suggest be Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”. However if one listens to this synopsis of “War and Peace in less than 5 minutes” that was crafted by John Crace, of the Guardian newspaper London, you can then make an educated guess as to whether it should be on your list.

It is read by the well-known actor Simon Callow and first broadcast on the BBC Radio 4 programme “Today” on 1st of January 2015 synopsis of “War and Peace in less than 5 minutes”

If you decide, after having heard this excellent synopsis that you would like to read it on your tablet or computer screen. Click here to read “War & Peace” or you could go along to your public library and borrow a copy.

Whilst I enjoy some of the “classics” I think I will stay with Sir Winston Churchill’s “History of an English Speaking People” where he presents my nation’s history with a light and very readable touch. If only I had been taught history by the likes of him I might well have stayed on at school.

Railway memories
I was sat thinking about suitable and relevant subjects to blog about when it suddenly occurred to me how many of my memories had railway connections.

• The earliest of my railway memories is from when I was about 3½ years old and I was caught putting bricks on the railway line and then watching what happened when the trains came along. Only problem was that the local policeman came along and took me home to my dad. One of the few times that corporal punishment was used and deserved. Sorry no pictures available of sore backside, only one of my favourite engines!

Streak

• The next memory has to be the pleasure of a Weekly Run-about Ticket during school summer holidays on the Southern Region railway in the mid 1950’s for all of seven shillings and sixpence, 37½ pence in today’s money or 50 cents US.

Arundel Castle

With this ticket we had the freedom to travel east from Portchester, where I was born and we were living, to Arundel with its castle and Bognor Regis, or take a short journey north to Rowlands Castle on the London Waterloo line or down to Portsmouth, the home of the Royal Navy and Lord Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory.

If we went west we had Fareham, from there we could either go up to Winchester, the home of King Arthur’s Round Table, or to Salisbury with its cathedral, built in 1220 AD and with a spire 410 feet tall, or Bournemouth and the beach. The merry band comprised my brother Richard, who was 3 years older than me, and my cousin Paul who is two years younger than me. My mum would pack us each a picnic and off we went, great days out.

King Arthur's RoundTable at Winchester

Now in later life I appreciate the freedom we enjoyed and how safe it was for us to play out and travel unaccompanied. This year we went back to Arundel and the memories came flooding back.

• Being in the Royal Air Force in the 1960’s provided low cost travel and by that time my parents lived in SE London whilst I was stationed outside Nantwich up in Cheshire. I was on a five day split shift pattern then followed by three days off. Initially I would use my ID card to get a low cost railway ticket to go home until one Sunday it took me nearly 8 hours to get there whilst two National Service (the draft) guys on my shift hitch hiked it in 3½ hours, remember this was before we had motorways. So I started hitch hiking and would just come back by train.

For my return to camp I would get to Euston Station and walk the whole length of the platform to seek out the prettiest young ladies. Choice made I would board the train and now fifty three years on the first one I choose is still putting up with me!

• My last memory of the railways concerns moving from RAF Locking at Weston-Super-Mare, after the finish of my second training course with all my kit. I had decided to stay overnight at my parent’s home in London, and then travel the next day to Felixstowe. Travelling was murder as I had all of my kit with me which included a large RAF kitbag, plus my own leather travelling bag, an air force greatcoat and other stuff. I think there was a seat from Weston to Paddington but not on the London Underground at rush hour, it was an experience that has put me off travelling on the underground for life.

Felixstowe Diesel
Felixstowe Diesel

Next day an early start, walking through the City of London at 3.30 am from Waterloo Bridge to Liverpool Street Station. An enjoyable walk past landmarks such as St. Paul’s Cathedral, St. Clement Danes Church, and The Bank of England. This was a walk that I did many times but would not feel safe undertaking now.

Then I took the Liverpool Street to Ipswich milk or paper train, slow but reliable, and then I took the two-car diesel train from Ipswich to Felixstowe. I remember this part of the journey as if it was yesterday, the light in East Anglia is so different and somehow uplifting when compared to other parts of the UK. I sat at the front of that train and looked out past the driver, as we speed towards Felixstowe, a place which I always feel is home.

Felixstowe poster

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