11 May, Wednesday: God’s Wonderful Railway?

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I wrote disparagingly of commuters the other day; at least those who deplored being on the train to work. Today, I was in that number, when the saints go snoozing in; even sitting on the floor I snoozed. But the train got me to the end of the line: ‘our last and final destination’ as a guard on the Manchester to London run likes to announce.

I was now awake enough to start composing this mea culpa in my head!

To paraphrase John Betjeman, the saviour of St Pancras station:

The old South-Eastern Railway shakes,

The old South-Eastern Railway spins –

The old South- Eastern Railway makes

Me very sorry for my sins.

(See his ‘Distant View of a Provincial Town’).

Sometimes in life we are carried along, all but willy-nilly, all but unaware of who is next to us, where we are going, of anything but our own fatigue, depression or pain. Though we may not acknowledge it, at such times other people make life possible: our families, the shop workers who are the last link in the food chain that begins in farms across the world; the driver and guard on the train.

Just as the Mancunian guard’s announcement can elicit a prayer that we will reach a last and final destination more humane and divine than London Euston, so we can give thanks for the food we eat and the many people who make that meal possible. Such prayers hardly need words or thought. I suggest that if we dig out a smile and a friendly word for the train guard or the checkout worker, we can hope that at journey’s end the Lord will not have to dig too deep for a smile and friendly word, even if we have snoozed half way to heaven, missing many delights and many opportunities as we go.


*Betjeman was writing of a journey on the Great Western Railway, ‘God’s Wonderful Railway’ to Bristolians! The picture shows a GWR engine at work in the South East on the Kent & East Sussex Railway.

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Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry

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