Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The Man Who Fell To Perth

A green buddy of mine surprised me recently with his views on the lack of wi-fi on trains. He, like me, spends a lot of time chuffing between Inverness and the lowlands. I observed that apart from the GNER (sorry, East Coast) mega train there’s no chance of getting on line while on track. My pal responded with Yes, isn’t it great!

One of the reasons I like getting the train is you can work on the move. This productivity is increased - if you’re a pasty office-dwelling thinking and writing type like me - if you can email and surf. However it seems my pal takes the view that it’s good during the working week to have some time for actual thinking, reading and digestion so the idea of being plugged in to the information superhighway at all times horrifies him.

Yes, my friend does wear bicycle clips and doesn’t own a TV. You can tell, can’t you?

Part of me agrees with him and in fact there are decent chunks of the journey - mainly between Dalwhinnie and Pitlochry - when mobile reception is non-existent so you can’t make or take phone calls.

Increasingly it seems we’re all plugged in to something, whether it’s a laptop, a phone, earbuds … it’s probably a bit sepia-tinted to think we should be cerebrally reflecting or engaged in conversation with our travelling companions rather than looking busy busy busy. I think a wee bit of wi-fi on long train routes wouldn’t hurt. Of course there’s a danger train carriages become “hot desks” when businesses should really be thinking of ways to minimise the need for employee travel in the first place.

Today’s trip was to the ancient city of Perth. I say city but of course it’s not one in the modern sense although there is a campaign. It certainly feels more like a city than Inverness. It has huge Georgian buildings, a massive grid of a city centre and has a history as a hub of trading, a seat of kings and a home to the Scots parliament. What does Inverness have? Nineteen thousand Tulloch homes.

I took a chance and took my bike with me, discovering a canal-side cycle path and walkway almost directly between Perth train station and my place of work. A ten minute journey with no traffic fumes and thankfully it wasn‘t raining - delightful. I also recommend the almond macaroons from Bayne’s Bakery. Mmm.

When I alighted at Perth I bumped into a friend also down from Inverness for his work and he observed how “green” my travel choices were. He and his two colleagues were preparing to share a taxi to their office.

I guess there’s only so much we can do by video conference, phone and email in a small country like Scotland where face to face discussions are often the best way of doing business.

Perth seems like a nice place to live and work - lots of green spaces, pedestrian shopping streets and they’ve made a genuine effort to encourage people to admire the silvery river Tay with a pretty smart viewing platform at the bottom of the High Street. I suppose Inverness has its bouncy bridges. If I had my way I’d bulldoze the Ramada Jarvis despite its Soviet Bloc charm and create a pedestrian boulevard from the train station using Union Street and going right down to the riverside. I’d also grass over the riverside road between the Mustard Seed and Johnny Foxes. It would be a place you’d want to linger rather than taking your life in your hands dodging traffic and then doing battle with the mutant seagull menace.

I can’t end this blog post on such a grubby thought. Oh, wait. I know. It’s a weird thing to get excited about, but the toilets at Perth station have been refurbished. No longer do you run in with your nose and eyes closed and hope for the best. They’re bright and clean. Attention Perth Marketing Board. I enclose herewith a new slogan for the city: “Perth - for a capital P!”

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