(This post is dedicated to Charles Murton, who died of cancer last year and was a modern-day conservative with a love of public transport. He blogged at www.diogeneslamp.net, a site now taken over by the ubiquitous spam merchants.)
It was early evening when my journey began. The train was full, but not yet uncomfortably full, of people going home.... There was the charm, as we went on, of running out into evening sunlight, but still in a deep gully - as if the train were swimming in earth instead of sailing on it like a real train or worming beneath it like a real tube. There was the charm of sudden silence at stations that I had never heard of, and where we seemed to stop for a long time. There was the novelty of being in that kind of carriage without a crowd and without artificial light. But I need not try to enumerate all the ingredients. The point is that all these things between them built up for me a degree of happiness which I must not try to assess because, if I did, you would think I was exaggerating.
- C S Lewis, Hedonics.
What Puritanic element there was in this forgotten society must certainly be allowed for as part of the picture. It was mostly, among my people, a rather illogical disapproval of certain forms of luxury and expenditure. Their tables would groan under far grander dinners than many aristocrats eat to-day. But they had, for instance, a fixed feeling that there was something rather raffish about taking a cab. It was probably connected with their sensitive pride about not aping the aristocracy. I can remember my grandfather, when he was nearly eighty and able to afford any number of cabs, standing in the pouring rain while seven or eight crowded omnibuses went by; and afterwards whispering to my father (in a hushed voice lest the blasphemy be heard by the young): "If three more omnibuses had gone by, upon my soul I think I should have taken a cab." In the matter of driving about in cabs, I cannot claim to have kept the family escutcheon unspotted, or to have lived up to the high standard of my sires. But in the matter of their motive for not doing so, I am disposed to defend them, or at least to say that they are much misunderstood. They were the last descendants of Mrs. Gilpin, who told the chaise to stop a few doors from her house, lest the neighbours should think her proud. I am not sure she was not a healthier person than the smart lady who will be seen in anybody's Rolls Royce, lest the neighbours should think her humble.
- G K Chesterton, Autobiography
I number it among my blessings that my father had no car, while yet most of my friends had, and sometimes took me for a drive. this meant that all these distant objects could be visited just enough to clothe them with memories and not impossible desires, while yet they remained ordinarily as inaccessible as the Moon. The deadly power of rushing about wherever I pleased had not been given me. I measured distances by the standard of man, man walking on his two feet, not by the standard of the internal combustion engine. I had not been allowed to deflower the very idea of distance; in return I possessed "infinite riches" in what would have been to motorists "a little room."
... The odd thing was that before God closed in on me, I was in fact offered what now appears a moment of wholly free choice. In a sense. I was going up Headlington Hill on the top of a bus...
- C S Lewis, Surprised by Joy
Another eponymous engine, Tootle, was rebuked for running off the rails and playing. There was possibly a political message here, though whether of Left or Right it was hard to be sure. There were also happy little stories of Scuffy the Tug-Boat, The Magic Bus and The Flying Postman. These, unlike some of the more trivial books about fairies and elves, had conflict, danger and pathos, but all came right in the end.
- Hal G P Colebatch, Quadrant
Even more important than being drunk, however, is having the right car. You have to get a car that handles really well. This is extremely important, and there's a lot of debate on this subject --- about what kind of car handles best. Some say a front-engined car; some say a rear-engined car. I say a rented car. Nothing handles better than a rented car. You can go faster, turn corners sharper, and put the transmission into reverse while going forward at a higher rate of speed in a rented car than in any other kind. You can also park without looking, and can use the trunk as an ice chest. Another thing about a rented car is that it's an all-terrain vehicle. Mud, snow, water, woods --- you can take a rented car anywhere. True, you can't always get it back, but that's not your problem, is it?
P J O'Rourke, How to DRIVE FAST on DRUGS while getting your WING-WANG SQUEEZED and not SPILL YOUR DRINK
SEE ALSO: Erasmus' horse, and Boris Johnson's bicycle
NEXT! in this exciting series - Trotskyists and flower-arranging!
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