I’m 36 years of age, I’m a father with a responsible job and friends and family who love me, yet recently I’ve found myself watching programmes about trains on BBC4.
Things started out quite innocently.
I watched episodes of Great British Railway Journeys with Michael Portillo to while away hours of insomnia. Yet I began to enjoy it and quickly progressed onto Great Continental Railway Journeys and before I knew it, I was setting a series link to record episodes for when I was doing my ironing.
I now understand this to be “entry-level” trainspotting behaviour. Weeks later I was browsing Amazon for a re-print of Bradshaw’s 1863 Handbook.
It’s got to the point where I even watch Portillo with the little sign language people on in the bottom corner of the screen. I don’t care if he’s in Wolverton or Wolverhampton, I can’t get enough of his sunny disposition and boundless railway enthusiasm. It’s almost as if I’ve completely forgotten his previous parliamentary career.
This evening, whilst my beautiful girlfriend was in bed asleep, I watched a programme about how British Rail re-branded itself in the 1970s. How they designed the logo, the fonts for station signage, the uniforms, the Intercity 125 and tilting trains; and ultimately how they desecrated Euston Station. I found it so fascinating I drifted off into a deep sleep.
That wasn’t all, upon waking from dreams of draught beer served in buffet cars, I stayed up to watch something about Bangladeshi railways when I know I should have been watching pay-day loan adverts on Sky Sports News or sleeping.
I can only recall a passing interest in Thomas the Tank Engine from my childhood and have never been interested in steam trains in the past.
Now, in middle age, I have a found huge respect for Victorian engineering and architecture. I barely stop for a pint at Paddington Station anymore, I just stand and admire the roof.
In my head, I put it down to escapism, to a need to see more of the world. I put it down to wanderlust but in the pit of my stomach I know this behaviour means I’m getting old and my dangerous days are behind me.
I’m concerned that the next step will involve some level of public trainspotting or the purchase of an anorak which I fear may have a detrimental impact on my relationships at home and at work.
I know this is not “natural,” but if I’m not hurting anyone I can continue watching Michael Portillo parade around Portsmouth in an array of pastel jackets can’t I?
Kieran, 36, Luton