Of course I don’t object to maintenance and improvement work on the Liverpool Street line. Heaven knows, it needs it. But once again travellers must suffer for the lack of the alternative line that would have provided a way to bypass the affected sections of track.
It would have delighted that man Beeching. The one-time chairman of the British Railways Board wanted us all on roads, not rails – and that’s where, for the next few weekends, I shall be.
My London colleagues are sometimes amazed at how much time I spend commuting. Often I spend more time on the journey to and from work than I do at my desk. The frequent delays can be irksome, especially late at night on the home leg – and of course Sundays are notorious for mucked-up timetables – but otherwise I don’t mind too much.
Sitting on a train gives you thinking time. And we could all do with more of that.
What do you do on the train? Do you, like so many, sit with earplugs in? Listening to music can be a good kind of thinking time, leading thoughts off in all kinds of random directions.
I spend much of my travelling time reading. Books mostly, sometimes a newspaper, never one of those dreaded electronic devices. Occasionally I’ll get absorbed in the puzzles – can I finish the Independent crossword before we reach Ipswich?
Sometimes – like right now – I’ll use my train time writing. Which can only happen because I’ve passed earlier miles in thinking. And that, at its best, means not thinking about anything in particular, but just letting one thought follow another.
If you’re asking yourself by now what this column is really about, that’s it. Just thinking.
It’s a thing most people do too little of. Or so I suspect. I’m never actually inside anyone else’s head to know for sure what, if anything, goes on there.
But if you can’t take pleasure in just thinking, what’s the point in being a sentient creature?
Thinking purposefully to solve problems is all very well – useful, perhaps. How can I fix this doorhandle? Where’s my next meal coming from? Where should we take our next holiday – and can we afford it? How can we get a better government? What would a better government be, anyway?
Regular readers will know that the last of those questions is one that nags at me a lot. Partly because if there is an absolutely right answer to be found, no one anywhere has yet found it.
But thinking with no particular aim in view is good too. Not merely pleasurable in itself, a satisfying workout for the brain, but a key part of what makes us human. And for now I have other essentially unanswerable questions to play with.
Like: why have there been more little grebes on the river this winter, but fewer godwits or shelducks?
Is Blackstar really the best David Bowie album for 35 years, or does the sad timing just make it seem that way?
Why do some accents make people sound stupider than others? Why is south Essex estuarine spreading so deep into East Anglia and elsewhere? And what, if anything, can be done about it?
How do graffiti artists get to some of the apparently unreachable places they beautify with their paint sprays? And how many hours of practice does it take some of them to get so good at it?
And here’s one for my forthcoming days on the road.
You’ll have seen those signs advising: “Speed limit for safety reasons”. Which invites the question, what other reason could there possibly be?
Artistic reasons? Sporting reasons? Political reasons? Philosophical reasons? Foreign reasons? Scientific reasons? Hidden reasons? No reason at all?
Just a thought. I’ll leave it with you.
An interesting response to my piece last week about wealth and fame comes from regular reader Rebecca Clifford of Norwich.
"Money," she says, "is a dark religion that requires vast human sacrifice." Which for me is a new way of looking at it, but a strangely compelling one.
She goes on: "Perhaps the desire for fame comes from the need to be acknowledged. An un-noticed child may later crave more attention than one that has known themselves loved and wanted. Our prime minister and his faithful companion Osborne may be good examples of that psychosis."
Perhaps this helps to explain why former boarding-school kids are so dominant in professions such as acting, TV and politics. That and that "dark religion".
It almost makes me feel sorry for them.