When Isambard Kingdom Brunel was in his pomp, a hundred and seventy years ago, the possibilities of the world seemed endless. Government was tiny. We were a long way between state-manufactured wars, we had proper money which kept its value over time, and entrepreneurs like Mr Brunel could make the world a better place.
And so we roll forward to today, and what do we witness?
I decided, for my crimes, today, to visit Manchester. So how to get there? Fly? And visit the horrors of the government-managed bottom feelers at Heathrow airport? No thanks.
So perhaps the train? Fortunately, Mr Brunel had provided a direct link to Manchester, from one of his main stations, Reading.
Alas, that line was closed today due to government incompetence in managing the railways for 66 years, since 1945.
The three worst words in the English language are ‘Bus Replacement Service’, so I thought I would avoid that calamity.
So I had to go into the appalling horror of Paddington.
Of course, my train into Paddington was so crowded I had to sit on the floor, so crowded indeed that I failed to penetrate the mass of people between me and the relative comfort of first class, where for a measly 125% uplift in price, I could get a seat. So I squatted down in the vestibule with my cases and made the best of it. Sort of India, circa 1935, 3rd class.
Obviously, at Paddington the 19th century Hammersmith line was closed, due to government incompetence, so I had to travel to Baker Street on the dilapidated screeching Bakerloo line, and manhandle my cases up and down endless flights of stairs, due to the failure of government investment in modern 20th-century conveniences such as lifts.
Now I’m not complaining here. As a follower of Mark Sisson’s ‘Primal’ lifestyle, I actually enjoy the stone age conditions created by government management of the travel network, to give my body some work to do, but some of those pensioners I saw manhandling their cases up and down fixed stairs seemed a little put out. Government management = Stone Age, seems an appropriate equation.
Well, perhaps these older people voted for the government to manage this stuff? One would hope they expected better results if they did.
Ok, so I managed to make it to Euston, nice and fit from my primal workout. This time I just dived into first class, to take the upgrade cost in my stride.
Obviously the train got stuck before Milton Keynes, and then had to pick up a whole train’s worth of other passengers from a broken-down train ahead of us, making us an hour late into Manchester, but by this point I was expecting this level of government-managed incompetence.
So I just wondered what IKB would have thought about this, especially my sitting on the floor of a train on his old line, perfectly willing to pay a higher price for a seat, but simply incapable of reaching this seat due to the sheer press of bodies?
He would have thought, I think, that we government-educated proles were idiots for putting up with this level of nonsense, and this level of fourth-class treatment on the railways the government forces us to pay for, while the government’s senior mandarins and politicians get free first class travel on the same trains.
He might have said, if he’d lived long enough, that it all started to go wrong in 1913, when the government had been irrelevant in people’s lives, and then became increasingly important as the wars it instigated grew its powers until it became the behemoth of manifest stupidity, evil, and incompetence that we know and despise, today.
It is time for us to get off the floor, he might have said, and demand that these idiots in government disappear from our lives.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his ilk could then come back to save us from their incompetence.
If that’s what he might have said, then I concur.
Bring on the entrepreneurs. Let them build upon what they created, before the idiots in Whitehall cocked it all up so much.