J.B Priestley: English journey
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From a railway standpoint it is interesting in contrasting the modernity of travel by motor coach and chauffeur driven motor car with old-fashioned, dirty travel by train. The motor coach is welcomed as the first motor coach he had ever travelled in, and he "was astonished at its speed and comfort. I never wish to go any faster. And as for comfort, I doubt if even the most expensive private motorsthose gigantic, three-thousand-pound machinesare as determinedly and ruthlessly comfortable as these new motor coaches. They are voluptuous, sybaritic, of doubtful morality. This is how the ancient Persian monarchs would have travelled, had they known the trick ofit. If! favoured violent revolution, the sudden overthrowing and destruction of a sneering favoured class, I should be bitterly opposed to the wide use of these vehicles. They offer luxury to all but the most poverty-stricken. They have annihilated the old distinction between rich and poor traveller. No longer can the wealthy go splashing past in their private conveyances, driving the humble pedestrian against the wall, leaving him to shake his fist and curse the proud pampered crew". This modernity is also depicted in the contrast between the new factories along the Great West Road and the old northern industries.
In contrast "Just before you reach Lime Street Station your train runs into a deep cutting and daylight promptly vanishes, never returning, I feel, until your homeward train has left Lime Street and Liverpool well behind."
In Gateshead Priestley encountered the proletariat: "There was a railwayman present, and he told us that only that very day he had been called upon to give an exact account of his duties. "They thought they might be able to give me the sack, man," he explained, "but when I told them all I did, they thought better of it. There used to be three different menay, man, three of 'em doing what I have to do by myself now." He went on to tell us, no doubt with some humorous exaggeration, that the company's policy of keeping on old employees as long as it could and of not taking on any young men. had resulted in a droll state of affairs, in which you had to go round looking for a man strong enough to undertake anything that required a bit of muscle. If a heavy package arrived, the place had to be combed for a man still young enough to handle it without danger to himself "We've all got one foot in the grave, man," he cried. His father and grandfather had been railwaymen before him, he said, but railways were railways in those days. Gateshead, of course, was a great railway town. We are all proud of our splendid railway systems, but I have never caught the wildest enthusiast among us beaming with pride at the thought of our railway towns. I left this specimen of them without regret, though I was sorry to see the last of Bob. When I got back home I sent him a copy of a book of mine, and at once he sent me the water-colour sketch of his, of one of tbe Tyne bridges, that I liked best, though I am sure it was his own favourite too. Of such sttuff, it seems, are dangerous red agitators made, the fellows who ought to be locked up. I shall not join Bob'. party yet; but I wish I had a party fit for him to join."
It is a masterpiece of this form of literary genre which later manifested itself in Paul Theroux's and David St John Thomas's wanderings through Britain.