I was just thinking... is the quickest way the best?

Royston Rail

Royston Rail - Credit: Archant

Colin Blumenau takes a look at the stories behind the news in Crow country

I WAS JUST THINKING about speed and straight lines of communication.

It strikes me that as the world has grown up the shortest distance between two points has somehow got shorter. I was thinking about this as I strode out one freezing morning along the byway which runs parallel to the railway between Royston and Ashwell – the ancient Icknield Way.

In the lea of the hills on which Therfield Heath lies, the railway runs straight and true.

Next to it, the A505 has not a single kink. The telephone lines follow a linear path too.


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I have no doubt that, somewhere beneath the tarmac, gravel, sod and scrub, fibre-optic impulses whizz their supersonic way in straight lines arriving breathlessly at their destinations almost before they departed.

No extra space is commandeered and, crucially, no second is lost – unless, of course, there is the wrong kind of snow.

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Or there’s a crash, often euphemistically called an accident, as though the perpetrator hadn’t been texting as they drove, or distracting themselves some other way, or falling asleep at the wheel because of the pace of their massively busy lives. Or the server has crashed.

As I walked I began to think about the cost of all this mania for speed and directness.

We can all relate to those poor people whose lives have been taken over by Blackberrys and iPhones.

The technological revolution is here to stay and we have all got to speed up or drop out. We talk to each other less and text and email each other more than was the case in the bygone era – whenever that golden era was. If it ever was.

As we sit on trains, fuming at their tardiness, or sit, motionless, on a traffic clogged dual carriageway, we count the lost seconds in terms of the significant impact of the delay.

The simple pleasure such as walking down a pleasant path to one’s destination has been compromised by the intersections with busy roads and usurped by other, more frantic means of getting there.

But perhaps these are not costs at all. Perhaps they are just indicators of progress.

I love getting to London in 35 minutes on the train. I love having broadband Internet access in my tranquil village so that I can watch programmes I have missed in astonishing HD.

And frankly, if I want to go for a walk, what’s wrong with taking a circuitous route?

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