Saturday, I walked down to St Pancras Station to check out the new Eurostar terminus. Another favourite walk, in the gloaming along Regents’ canal towards Camden, turning off at St Pancras Old Church (the story starts off in the churchyard, with the appearance of what appears to be a zombie), and sneaking into the station around the back. The place is quite as full as one of W.R. Frith’s paintings; the statue of Sir John Betjeman (who campaigned against the station’s demolition) is delightful; the long sleek trains look quite at home. The champagne bar that dominated the PR turns out not to be a vast length of darkly polished wood lit by low hung lamps and attended by louche customers and waiters in black waistcoats and white aprons, but a series of booths strung alongside platform 1, with a kind of hut affair at the entrance and no doubt featuring the longest walk to a restroom in the history of any bar since the advent of indoor plumbing. And unfortunately, the buffer end of the station is dominated by a thirty-foot staue of a man and a woman falling into an embrace. Titled The Meeting Place, this monstrous piece of committee-art is a bad mistake, I think. And since it is situated under a huge and beautiful period clock, it's a) superfluous and b) in the way. Also, as the couple are dressed in contemporary clothes, it will look tremendously dated in, oh, ten years or less.
But these are minor quibbles. The restoration of the station and its overarching roof is a triumph, and my neighbours have already taken one of the first trains to France and report that it’s as quick and smooth as any on the Continent. No more waiting outside Waterloo for the 1650 to Penge to clear the junction: I can now walk to a station in twenty minutes, and be in Paris inside three hours.
Presently reading: Michael Chabon’s Gentlemen of the Road.