Another on of those poems learnt at school at 9 years old and never forgotten. From a Railway Carriage by Robert Louis Stevenson of which the header is the first line. You read it as if you are rattling along on a train and the words fit with that type of tempo.
The railway line from Bologna in the North to Lecce here in Puglia has been improved year by year and now there is no need to even change in Bologna to speed on through to Milan. It takes about 9 hours each way or 7 hours from Bari. Like trains in the Uk it is cheaper to fly especially with the low cost carriers Easyjet and Ryanair operating domestically but there is still some romance in traveling by rail. Indeed I often look on line at trains to London from Bari but even with the senior discount it is still quite an eye watering price to pay. If you enjoy train travel there is a great site The Man in Seat 61 which gives you all the gen, on how to do that trip and thousands of others. He started it as an hobby and it has grown into an huge business.
Today the government announced that it had agreed to spend some EU tax payers money on upgrading the line further though not this time to increase the speed but to improve what Mr. Stevenson was writing about; things you see from the window of the train. There are 46 railway crossings still operational on the line from Bologna to Lecce. ( Not many people know that as Michael Cane would say). Actually Michael Cane never said it, Peter Sellers said it when doing an impersonation of him
but I digress , what is amazing is that of those 46 an incredible 40 are in Puglia and they are a bit of a pain. They are automatic gates which operate by first flashing red lights and then the barriers slowly lower to block the road.
Now those of you that live here or know Italy well will quickly realise that this, to an Italian driver, is an irresistible challenge. Flashing red lights are like a red cape to a Spanish bull. Down the foot goes on the accelerator and the car or truck leaps froward or it certainly does in the north on those 6 crossings. Here on our 40 crossings it is a little different. The cars and trucks are older, indeed considerably older, well to be frank they are in their dotage and a foot pressed to the metal in a 1985 Fiat Punto with five up normally results in clouds of blue smoke and little else. So cars and trucks get caught on the line quite often with sometimes rather nasty consequences for train and vehicle.
The government ( E.U. tax payer) has announced a €40 million project to close all the railway crossings and build flyovers or flyunders to replace them all.
This is especially good news for beach goers. The railway line from Bari to Brindisi tracks ( excuse the pun) the coast and so getting to the sea can be a bit of a problem. Certainly if you are like me it seems the trains sense my imminent arrival at the crossing and down comes the barrier. They then obviously sit somewhere having a good wheeze at my misfortune for 10 minutes as I sit fuming that I didn’t gun the accelerator before they thunder over the crossing.
Here is the poem but remember to read it as if you are matching the clunkety clunk of the wheels of the carriage.
FASTER than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.
Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And there is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart run away in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone for ever!