Climate Change March, Budapest, 29 November 2015

Well I went on the Climate Change March in Budapest.

I liked:

The friendly informal atmosphere, with everyone walking along and nobody trying to get in front of anyone else. There were leaders, mostly young students and the traditional mysterious Frenchman (Sartre? Camus?) but they weren’t too full of themselves. They pushed the sound system along on a bike and tried valiantly to get some chants started (but see below).

The organisation. At first I was worried we might be outnumbered by the cops, but in the end there was quite a respectable number of us, mostly youngsters and expats, with a few old hippies and punks (like me). I get a real thrill when they hold up the traffic for us as we walk past. Sorry, drivers, you must hate us… But it’s great!

I loved the samba drums – we could have done with more of them but the ones we had were great. I must get into samba drumming, it’s wonderful.

A beautiful final image – we were asked to pick up and carry autumn leaves and then at the end of the march, drop them in the Danube to symbolise the letters they’ve sent to the government (leaf and letter are the same word in Hungarian). Watching them fluttering down to land on the surface of the river was strangely satisfying, like playing Poohsticks.

I didn’t like:

The arguments I had with friends before the march – all saying, oh it’s not worth it, we’re doomed but not till I’m dead, what’s the point, one person can’t do anything, I’m sick of recycling, but I like eating meat… etc etc. I will get into the Competitive Austerity problem another time, but this really annoys me. The only thing that excuses you from a climate change march is having kids – and there were families with kids there. It’s important. Until we have sorted out the climate change problem, nothing else matters because climate change will KILL US ALL if we carry on ignoring it.

The speeches. Part of the problem was that they were mainly in Hungarian, valiantly translated into English as they went along. Now I’ve been here for two years, nearly, and even allowing 6 months off for having a stroke, I still don’t understand Hungarian very well. I can cope with a normal conversation, usually, but sooner or later the sentences will lengthen, the words will acquire a forest of endings and I will completely lose track. This despite a lot of work, may I say, so it depresses me. So bear that in mind when I say that I found the speeches too long and too complex, even when translated into English. Even worse were the points from an interminable pompous letter they had sent to the government. Honestly, I even felt sorry for Viktor Orban, though I’m sure he didn’t read it.

You need three points only, not ten. You need short punchy sentences. Like this. You need a poet’s ear for what people will actually hear.

When you’re shouting slogans, they need to be short and rhythmical, not long and well… lame. That’s why none of them really got going. Find a poet. There are lots of poets in Hungary, or there were. Chuck a rock into a kavezo and you’ll probably hit two. Even I can tell Hungarian poetry is wonderful, so I know you can do better.

See you next year!

The Mum, the Phone and the Baby

She was a nice-looking woman, with a loving smile for her toddler as they sat down in Miskolc station waiting room. He was clutching some pastry and sat next to her philosophically munching on it, with his little legs kicking high above the floor.

And then she took out her phone. Her toddler looked at it and his face sort of set. It was a patient weary look, but also somehow very lonely. He sat beside her, eating his pastry and dropping crumbs while she went on Facebook, texted her friends and played one of those addictive phone games, maybe Farm Story 2 which a friend of mine loves.

The minutes passed and all the mum’s focus was on the phone. She noticed when the toddler started scattering lumps of pastry everywhere, told him off gently, mopped up the worst of the crumbs and went to the bin with the toddler to throw out the remains.

Then she went back to the bench and focussed on her phone again. The toddler looked at her, looked at me. I smiled at him but he didn’t smile back, probably because I was a stranger. He looked at his mum again. Then he struggled his little fat body onto the bench face down, and started rocking to and fro on his tummy, rubbing himself on the bench.

We were up to 20 minutes now and his mum was still playing her game, hadn’t said a word to him. My heart bled for the little boy. She didn’t notice her baby comforting himself in the best way he could.

He stopped, tried to go to sleep but the bench was too hard. I really wanted to shout at the woman, tell her to pay attention to her baby, not her bloody phone, but I didn’t know how to express it in Hungarian pungently enough. Also in a long and loud career of tactlessness, I have eventually learned that people build walls of defense and pay no attention to what you say.

At last, after half an hour, the mum noticed the time and at last put her phone away. She put his little coat on and I used my useful position as a “néni” in Hungary – it translates as Auntie but basically means any woman over forty can talk to a mum about her baby.

I smiled and asked how old he was. “Two years old,” she said. “He’s very well-behaved.” I said and she smiled and picked up the toddler, gave him a kiss and rushed off to her train with him in her arms.

She was not a bad mum, in fact, I think that without her phone she would have been doing what I did when my kids were that age, talking to him, singing, playing games, going to look at engines – anything to keep the little bugger quiet, in fact. And considering how easily I get addicted to Facebook and games, I wouldn’t claim I would be any better than her now.

But oh it made me sad to see the little boy comforting himself all alone, next to his mum on the bench in Miskolc railway station waiting room.

Walking to the Other Travelodge

We knew we were taking a hideous risk when we went to D 23 – the Disney fan convention in the Anaheim Convention centre. The risk was not hiring a car. My logic was that Bill, my son, and I were only going to be there for three days, we were only going to the Anaheim convention centre and we had no intention of going anywhere else.
So some time in April, I got a friend to book a room at the Travelodge which was nearest the convention centre, a mere ten minutes walk away. It was confirmed etc yadda yadda.
We arrived off the plane, went to the convention centre to get our passes and then toddled along with our trundle suitcases to the Travelodge 10 minutes walk away. It wasn’t what I’d call a pleasant walk, since it was along Harbor Boulevard which is enormous and full of ferocious cars, but hey, it was only ten minutes.
I can tell you I felt pretty smug as we rolled into reception to get booked in.
They didn’t have our reservations and they were fully booked. Wearily, the plump girl at the desk rang the Other Travelodge at Ball Road, which I had never heard of. Oh, fancy that. The Other Travelodge had our reservations, in the name of Sinney, but never mind.I had specified one Travelodge, I got a different one.
Oh it’s only half an hour’s walk away,said the weary plump girl. So we walked a bit and then took a taxi.
The taxi went north on Harbor Boulevard, left on Ball Road, crossed a gigantic interstate by motorway bridge twice, and there was the Other Travelodge, tucked in next to a gas station and two random railway cars which looked like they had been some kind of dwelling but were now abandoned.
Now the Other Travelodge was perfectly adequate. The room was like a million other Travelodge rooms, the beds were clean, there was even a pool. But it was a long weary schlep from there to the D23 Convention centre. It was also a long ugly schlep, huge ugly roads stinking of petrol with inconvenient crossings. The crossings were a whole other kind of ugly. They basically seem to be designed to make mere pedestrians feel like insects as they scurry across the road under the psychological lash of the crossing lights. They play like this: two crossing signals. One a white light of a person, walking. The other a handshape in red. The white person lasts 4 seconds. The red hand gives you 30 seconds of countdown before the traffic will be permitted to crush you again. You can tell they want to, as well,as they vroom and honk you.
You really know you’re at the bottom of the social pile as a shameful pedestrian. What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you even have a car? Are you poor? Don’t you even have a motorbike? Just two feet? What are you, Mexican or something?
Nearly three miles of gigantic roads, impatient cars, macho trucks and constantly scuttling across inconveniently placed crossing places every morning for three days is enough to understand why Americans would rather give up their house than their car and why so many of them are consequently living in them. Also why they’re so fat, so many of them wearily hauling vast amounts of blubber around with them. They don’t walk because it’s such a nasty and dangerous thing to do. They drive everywhere, including the gym, because there’s no pavement between them and it and they’d die.
Plenty of people have remarked on this. We got our Other Travelodge room probably because of bait and switch – they bait with a cheaper room (not cheap, trust me, not in Anaheim in the summer) and a convenient walk to the convention centre or Disneyland and then switch for a different room much further away on the assumption you’ll have a car and won’t care. They bet you’ll moan and complain but you’ll take it because there isn’t anywhere else – and you do.
Other Travelodge wasn’t all bad. At least we were getting some healthful(ish) exercise walking three miles every morning and night, unlike the human hippos around us.
And we were really close to the Disneyland firework display so we could enjoy it every night at a quarter to ten.

Why I love Hungary.

I’ve now been in Hungary for 18 months – and I love it. Here are a few reasons why.

Men offer to carry my bag for me. I’m not Scandinavian so I don’t tell them off. I just give them my backpack and laugh as they stagger.

They have palinka.

Women say nice things about your clothes and hairstyle, shoes etc – perfectly genuinely. This is great because women are far more likely to notice those things anyway.

They kiss on two cheeks and the men do too, but in a properly distant way.

They have wonderful cakes. No, really, they do. Old fashioned cake shops are a little bit heavy, modern ones are heavenly (Central Kavezo).

Everywhere you go, even in the ciggy shop in a little village near Miskolc, they have excellent coffee.

They have an absolutely wonderful public transport system in Budapest (BKK) and a berlet (monthly pass) which you can use everywhere, even the Danube boats, for about 25 quid.

The trains have been known to run on time away from Budapest too.

They have Tokaji.

All the children I have met have wonderful manners.

People are generally, habitually polite. They say “koszonom” (thank you), “szivesen” (you’re welcome), “bocsanat” (excuse me), a lot. They say “Jo etvagyot” (Bon appetit – there IS no English translation) whenever they see you eating, even if it’s just a Twix.

They have four different ways of saying “you” both singular and plural: friendly, formal, friendly-formal and courteous. So eight. I’m still disentangling how this works and despite experience with French, I haven’t got the hang of it yet.

When two adults decide to stop addressing each other in the formal mode and use the “te” form they entwine their arms and drink palinka.

They do have dumb politicians who put up posters telling immigrants to go home (in very complicated official Hungarian). But they also have civil rights groups who put up posters in exactly the same style and colour, except these say in English: “We’re sorry about our prime minister.”

They are very affectionate and family-loving.

They are also capable of acting with amazing courage – as in 1956 when they took on the old Soviet Union and also in 1989 when they did it again… And won. Theirs was the honour of the first major breach in the Iron Curtain.

Boy, do Hungarians know how to party.

They genuinely love guests and although they’ve stopped taking the wheels off your coach so you’ll stay longer, if you can walk after a proper Hungarian dinner you’re… well, you’re a freak.

They are extremely good at the fighting sports like fencing, taekwondo and judo. However I have never felt the least bit threatened anywhere in Hungary.

They are very musical and have no snobbery about classical concerts only being for old rich people.

Their countryside is beautiful and so is Budapest.

Slouchy sullen young men with piercings in every pierceable bit of their face, get up immediately for old ladies on trams and offer them their seat.

They also do handicrafts at parties – very well. This is surprisingly fun.

They have a national health service which has similar problems to ours but worked very well when I had to use it.

They are brutally honest about themselves and will be brutally honest with you if you show you won’t be offended.


Why I don’t like Hungary.

The food is a bit heavy and can be a bit salty for an English wuss.

The children speak much better Hungarian than I do.

They have a special official government way of writing that is totally opaque, even to a lot of Hungarians. However the actual bureaucrats are often quite nice.

People in Budapest, when you ask them anything in Hungarian, immediately respond with a flood of excellent English which is a tad depressing when you’re trying to learn the language and have been told that your accent is really good.

Don’t call me Pat!

There are two kinds of people in the world.

There are people who, when you meet them, ask your name, listen to what you say and perhaps ask, “What do you like to be called?” Then you can tell them that you answer to Trish or Trisha, or Shitfer as in Shitferbrains or Moonflower Dancing Unicorn or whatever. And they call you what you prefer to be called and you ask them the same question and it’s all lovely.

And then there are the other people.

These people hear you say “Patricia” and then they arbitrarily decide to call you something different, like Pat. I don’t know why they do this, but they do. They don’t ask, they assume they know what your nickname is and they just say something like “Well Pat, what a lovely day it is…”

And I am left with a quandary. Because I hate being called Pat and I always have, ever since the day at school when the Religious teacher (are you there, Miss Coleman) said, “You don’t mind being called Pat, do you?” and at 11 I was too wet and shy to say, “Yes, I mind.”

Not that it would have done a lot of good because if you say to a person who has just arbitrarily renamed you something different, they get very shirty about it. They’re usually insulted, in fact.

Again, I don’t understand this but it’s true. They act as if you’d just spat in their face. “Oh,” they say, in shocked surprise, “Ok, sorry,” And they say it in that huffy way that you know means you will to them forever be a stuck up bitch and they’ll tell everybody else how rude you were to them.

If they’re completely clueless they’ll say, “Oh, don’t you like Pat then?”

If I say, “no, I don’t,” they’ll roll their eyes at this fussy irrationality. If I explain about Miss Coleman and all, sometimes they laugh and even say sorry. Then they continue to call me Pat. Next time they meet me, they’ll call me Pat. It doesn’t matter how many times I beseech them to call me Trisha, I’m forever Pat to them.

You can’t win this game. If you don’t protest, you’re stuck with a name that you hate because to you it denotes a tennis-playing redhead  with a quacking voice like a duck (long story). If you do protest, some kind of weird lock happens to their memory and you still get stuck with a name that you hate because etc.

Sometimes they get so indignant because they’re calling you Pat on the phone and you’re trying to explain you don’t like being called Pat, that they put the phone down on you for the wicked insult of you not liking the name they’ve randomly chosen for you without your permission. And then they sulk.

I call them Random Renamers. If I can, once I’ve found out what they like to be called, I call them something else. You know, like theý’ve just done to me. Sometimes this works. But not often.

On being a slob (4)

(I wrote three other blogs on this subject back in August 2011. If I coould make the link thingy work, you could read them here, here and here.)

I’ve just spent two hours cleaning my bedroom here in Hungary because it’s been six months since I did it and really, it was time. The dust bunnies under the bed, which I use for keeping things on and meditating, were becoming dust dinosaurs and looking worryingly lively. There was a lot of bicarbonate of soda under the desk, remembering the happy day when both the cats peed in the same place, under the desk, while staring straight at me. Yes, there’s now a nice litter tray there now which they have both disdained to use.

I have to do my desk tomorrow because I never tidy for more than two hours because I get too bad-tempered and bored. My back hurts from using the weird centralised hoover because I couldn’t find the attachment for doing the floor until I’d finished.

But at least it wasn’t an entire house. It’s just a room, where I sleep on a little camping mattress on the floor because my back insists on the hardest surface possible. And that’s marvellous because I’ve cleaned entire houses and if you think I’m crabby now, you don’t know what crabby is.

I know people who love tidying and live in tidy clean houses that make me feel very very nervous. I know it’s only a matter of time before I do something unforgivably slobbish. My sister in law is like this and I really admire her beautiful tidy house. Years ago I did a seriously awful thing (left behind an item of feminine hygiene balanced on the cistern because it was the middle of the night and I couldn’t find a bin and… Oh god. I’m still horribly embarrassed by this) and it took years before I could even visit them again. So you see I’m right to be worried in a tidy house.

My landlady is one of those unfortunate people who like a tidy house but don’t like tidying which I think is the worst of all worlds. At least as the mess and the dust bunnies build up, it doesn’t make me feel bad and upset, I really don’t notice it. She feels happy when it’s tidy and clean, and unhappy when it’s untidy – which is sad because she has a large house full of clutter so it’s much more often untidy than tidy.

Intellectually I know that tidy is better than untidy and clean is better still. But there’s a large part of me that can almost always find something less boring to do. So once every six months or so, I clean and tidy right down the the surfaces.

The rest of the time I’m a slob.

Only one country according to – Britain

This is going to be short. That’s because I am very very annoyed with the Student Finance UK people. My son Luke is going to the University of Kent in September 2016 (to study Anthropology with a year in Japan, thank you for asking and yes, I’m very proud of him.)

He needs student finance which you have to apply for online. The Student Finance website quite reasonably asks me to supply them with my own most recent financial information. Only I can’t.

I had an account with them about seven years ago for Alex my eldest and I haven’t used it since. No, I don’t remember the password or the secret question about musical instruments (whut?) They supply a phone number for me to call to reset my password.

Except this phone number doesn’t work outside the UK. Do they supply an international number for people who have parents living abroad – surely I can’t be the only one?

Nope. Not as far as I can see.

Do they supply an email for me to contact them and tell them I need a number that works outside the UK? Any other address?

Nope. Not as far as I can see.


Why I stole a French textbook when I was 15 (and never gave it back)

Last week I talked about the three witches in class 11/12 and how they know everything already. And I said I was them, once upon a time.

Kier Salmon asked me on Facebook – what flipped the switch? What changed me from the sullen stroppy fifteen year old who failed all but two of her school summer exams into someone who went to Oxford, got a play produced on Radio 3 and her first book published at the age of 18?

The play and the book I’ve already explained – my Hungarian grandmother effectively gave me a Masters in Creative Writing from the age of 12. But Oxford? How did I do that from 25% in French, among other catastrophic marks, in the exams the year before my O levels.

The answer is simple. It’s sex.

I remember it very clearly. I woke up in my extremely messy attic bedroom one morning in early September, the year before my O levels and I thought: “I will never ever find an interesting intelligent man to have sex with here in Hampstead Garden Suburb.” Perhaps I said it aloud.

I was still a virgin but not because I hadn’t tried. It was just boys seemed to find me frightening and ran away. The most humiliating was the boy who took me to Burger King after taking me to the cinema (I insisted on actually watching most of the film too) and spent half an hour talking about football. I fell asleep. He left me to pay the bill.

“Therefore,” I thought, “if I want to have sex with anyone interesting, I have to go to university. In fact I have to go to Oxford, Cambridge or Durham.” That was because I hadn’t actually heard of any other universities, but being fifteen, it never occurred to me to check because I knew everything.

I thought a bit more, lying there while the sun streamed in with early morning. “In order to get into Oxford, Cambridge or Durham I have to get at least two A grades out of three A-levels. In order to be allowed to do A levels I have to get at least 5 O levels and the grades had better be good because they take them into account at university too.”

And then I thought, “Oh shit. It’s less than a year to the O levels and I know nothing at all. Ohshitohshitohshit.”

What happened after that was a sort of miracle. Once the connection between sex and university had been made and once I had stopped saying oh shit, I became… different. I planned my next year like a military campaign. First I assessed the state of my knowledge and realised that out of nine O levels I was due to take the next summer, I could count on getting an A in one, English Language. The rest – English Literature, French, Latin, Geography, History, Physics with Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics – I knew pretty much nothing about. Maths was terrible because if you failed it you had to take it again. I hated Maths (I may do another blog on the stupidities of the School Maths Project) so I asked my mother to get me a good maths tutor and she hired a lovely man who had worked with my brother. It’s entirely due to him that I didn’t fail Maths, him and my amazing memory. At that time in my life I could read something once and remember most of it – I had no idea this was anything special, mind you, I thought that reading things once was how you learned.

What about Latin, History, Geography etc etc and of course French, my bete noire, Mrs Wood’s class? I bought a Latin Made Simple book, found the text books that were buried in my lift top locker desk. French was a problem because we had a textbook that didn’t mention the grammar (a silly 70s fad that has caused an enormous amount of damage). I sank my pride and asked Mrs Wood if I could borrow a textbook from the next set down which had the grammar and the verbs all nicely set out.

“There’s no point,” said Mrs Wood, “You’ve left it too late. You can’t catch up before your O levels.”

Maybe she said this to spur me into action or maybe she meant it. I went off with rage in my heart, waited until a short-sighted and kindly teacher was in the locked textbook cupboard and stole the French textbook I wanted.

I don’t remember much of the next year because I spent it studying. Some teachers noticed that I’d woken up suddenly and encouraged me, explaining complicated horrible things like moles, DNA and atoms in lunch hours. Most of the time I just worked, feeling a strange thing like a mighty serpent inside me, that powered tirelessly through the textbooks and rammed its head against any obstacle until it dissolved or broke.

Mrs Wood didn’t notice because I didn’t let her. I continued to sleep through her lessons – and I needed the sleep because I was staying up till past midnight every night, plowing methodically through all the books. When we had classroom tests in French on Fridays I made sure I got at least half the questions wrong.

I remember being very surprised by how easy school work suddenly got in the spring as I filled in the holes and caught up with my peers. When we took our mocks, I had increased all my marks by about 50%. I was particularly happy about my French mocks. From 25% the previous summer, I got 64% in the spring.

Mrs Wood didn’t sound happy as she congratulated me on my marks. “I don’t know how you did it,” she said and I knew perfectly well that she thought I’d cheated somehow. I just gave her a long hard stare and left her to know that she had nothing whatever to do with my knowledge of French.

In the summer, the results came by post to where we were on holiday in Suffolk and in fact I’d forgotten about them. My brother came to where I was reading in bed (it was probably raining) and said dolefully that Daddy wanted to talk to me, my O level results had come.

I went downstairs, literally feeling my heart beating in my mouth, shaking all over. Oh shit, oh shit, what went wrong? I wondered, desolately. And also: “now I’ll never ever have sex with anyone interesting.”

My father looked up from the little slip of paper and said very seriously “You’ve got seven A grades.” For a moment I didn’t understand and then he laughed and hugged me and told me how magnificent I was. I had got A grades in everything except Physics with Chemistry, where I got a B and Mathematics which I just passed. There was family rejoicing and I think a special trip to the Orford Ness restaurant where I gorged on smoked salmon.

For the record, when I eventually got to Oxford, I did have sex with several interesting men and married the most interesting of them.

The Three Witches

Actually I’d really like to call them the technical term for lady-dogs, but I’m trying to be nice and clean up my act. I’m calling them witches.
So. These are three girls in one of the classes I teach in Sajokaza. They’re fifteen or sixteen years old and they have total contempt for everyone and everything, especially stupid English women (if England even exists) who keeps talking to them in stupid English (it’s just noise because it’s not lovely clear Hungarian) and even expects them to write stuff down in their notebooks (whut?)
One of them is a pretty fat girl with lovely black ringlets and a round face who giggles a lot. One of them is a classic troubled teen, petite, boyish, constantly playing on her ancient mobile and flopping about with her feet stuck out in front of her and going to sleep theatrically with her head on the fat girl’s shoulder. Often she doesn’t turn up which is good news for me. One of them clearly has a good brain but doesn’t see any reason to use it and makes cutting witty remarks occasionally which the stupid English woman doesn’t understand, but mostly just plucks her eyebrows, gives herself a manicure and puts on her eyeliner and mascara (remarkably accurately considering she’s using her phone as a mirror).
I tried moving them to the side of the room, old fashioned lift-top desks and all, but they came back. They didn’t want to have a beauty party by themselves, they wanted to make sure nobody else got a chance to learn stupid English either.
And I want to say to them – I totally grok you guys. I’m like totally grooving…
No, I don’t. What I do want to say to them is: I was you, once upon a time. I wasn’t quite as selfish because I was happy to sit at the back of the class and write stories. I only broke out the attitude if some stupid teacher tried to teach me some stupid language like French and kept insisting I answer her stupid questions. I slept through most of the French lessons, head on the table, probably snoring. A friend from those days remembered me knitting through one lesson and when Mrs Wood told me to bring her the knitting, telling her I was only doing it to try and keep awake.
Occasionally I would triumphantly take the other girls’ attention away completely by letting them read my “Alias Smith & Jones” stories in the lesson.
I don’t think the Three Witches are doing anything as creative as writing stories, but then if mobile phones with games on them had been invented when I was a stroppy fifteen year old, I would never have done anything except play on them.
Of course I could tell them that they’ll regret all this when they get older and especially when the brainy one realises she could have done something better with her young life than (probably) get pregnant and that possibly learning stupid English might have helped her do it. They wouldn’t listen, of course, even if I could cobble together the Hungarian to say it, because they already know everything.
So I think, well, Mrs Wood, you should see this, it would make you laugh a lot. Karma’s a wonderful thing.

I’m on the train (again)

This is a rant. I’ve said how great BKK is in Budapest, how punctual, clean and genuinely useful it is. I’ve said nice things about Hungarian trains (they have lovely clean toilets on them, when they’re new rolling stock).
This is not nice. Because it’s not nice to advertise a train as arriving in Miskolc at 8.30 am when it’s really going to arrive at 9.00 am. It’s not nice to do this when a lot of the people on the train will be relying on connecting with a local train going to Kazincbarcika which leaves at 8.41 am – me, for example. It’s really unnice to do this with the last train at 19.30 on a Sunday which is supposed to connect with the Kazincbarcika train at 21.40 but doesn’t. I had to be rescued from Miskolc that time because it was that or an overnight stay on a bench in the station yard.
In fact I have never experienced a train to Miskolc which got in on time. Which is pathetic.
I’ve experienced similar lameness with trains in Cornwall although at least they usually hold the branchline train to Falmouth if the Truro train is late.
It’s more important to have punctual trains in country areas because in the countryside very often the next train after the one you missed is the next day. In some places buses only happen a couple of times a day, if that (in Sajokaza for instance). These areas are poor so people can’t just switch to a car. They’re stuck. In fact they’re worse off than their grandparents were because they aren’t such good walkers and they have to walk along the verges of busy roads, not pleasant country lanes. Footpaths? Don’t be silly, the area’s much too poor for that.
It’s worth pointing out that it makes it much more difficult to get a job if you’re stuck in the depths of the country with two buses a day and no car – a fact that probably hasn’t occurred to any politician because he’s got a car, of course.
Things like train networks always make rich-bubble people cross and they say nonsensical things like “it’s time to streamline the rail network” and “public services should pay for themselves.”
You can streamline a fish, you can’t streamline a network because it’s supposed to have lots of little twigs on it. If your body streamlined your blood system, your hands and feet would turn black and drop off.
And public services can not pay for themselves because they deal in distributed goods which benefit the whole of society but are not economic for an individual to pay for. Practically no train services make an actual profit because they can’t charge enough to the individuals – this is why every time South Eastern trains hike the ticket prices again, the roads get fuller of cars and people start muttering darkly about moving back to London to live in the broom cupboard that is all you can afford now.