Coming back to London after Christmas, Jane and I were forced by engineering works on the lines to change at Birmingham. Not just trains, but stations. We had to cross the centre of Birmingham on foot, from New Street to Moor Street. And what an odd place the centre of Birmingham has become, part Blade Runner, part amusement park, part architectural folly, not at all unpleasant, but utterly deracinated, as seems to be the fashion in post-Gehry city centres. Moor Street station, on the other hand, was a rooted joy, and it didn’t even feel that refurbished. It felt as though people had simply kept it clean and in working order for all these years. Even the train to London, which took only fifteen minutes longer than the usual Virgin connection, came from an epoch when trains were designed to provide their passengers with decent window space and relatively roomy seats. Unlike the various Pendolinos employed by Virgin, which look more like bloodied suppositories than anything else and provide half the space of their Italian counterparts.

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