I spend A LOT of time on trains. I know I am obviously not the only one. I accept that. But I do spend a LOT of time on trains. On average around 16 hours a week (including tube and train travel). That's a lot.
That's 832 hours a year.
If I were to commute to London as I do now from the suburbs, for the rest of my working life that would be a whopping 36,608 hours!
Even if you are stripping out delays, travel at weekends, trips abroad and up the country and the hours spent going literally no where freezing my ambitions, work ethic, moral and bottom to pieces awaiting a mythical South West Train to emerge on the horizon - spending the equivalent of just over 4 years of your life commuting could to some seem somewhat depressing.
So. A lot of time waiting for, on or around trains.
I am also not the first to lament the interesting, somewhat spiritual nature of Mr Louis Stevenson's creative transportation tool. Philip Larkin was fond of train travel, it was on the long Hals up to Hull where he managed the university Library, that he joule often write his poetry, and some of his best - in particular his observations of different nuptial parties making revelry and dancing at each passing station in the somewhat somber stanzas on The Whitsun Weddings.
I, like Larkin, and the railroaders of the southern states in the 1920s have always found something romantic about good, long winding journeys through the countryside, it's often when my thoughts turn to God, to his creation, to the sense in which we are all on a far greater journey, one that has no rails, but many stations, few passengers yet packed with metaphors.
Of course all too often the joy of such journeys are now, for me at least, harder to come by. All those hours on the tracks are much more likely to be experienced accosted under the armpit of a fellow rat racer or slung deep underground surrounded by tourists more concerned about the nearest McDonalds than what the creator of the universe might be up to that afternoon. But at least, every once in a while, daylight prevails, the fog at the edge of the mind clears and we hear the still small voice of the true conductor whisper to us in even these, hectic moments of the day.
It doesn't happen half as often in the UK nowadays, for one parishioner to turn to another and utter the sentence, which for many Christians may land like a sucker punch to the gut "how is your journey with the Lord going?". At least I know I can always say, well we really enjoyed the 7:38 to Waterloo this morning.