Tag Archives | railway

Cerebral Branch Lines


The inner life, the one racketing around inside the brain, has a lot in common with the railway. Maps, connections, cows blocking the line. Welcome to the 10.39 for your Final Destination, change at Crewe for Purgatory & All Stations West. Here though there are no deadlines, just neuron engines pulling uphill to the summit.

A map of Inner Life would be more Gorgon knot than the cool geometry of the Underground.  In distant corners, trees have grown up to obscure thinking and blur memory.  More Wild Wood than Kensington Gardens.
Stray imaginings, like bemused but excited children, can be lost in the folds of the cerebral cortex for days. Eventually they will surface on the shiny lines of the frontal lobes, a little frayed around the edges but glad to see daylight.  Sub-branch lines wiggle along unproductively – the lists you thought you made last week, the anguish about world events since resolved, your magnum opus that never got past page 32.  You need the culling power of a Dr Beeching for those.

A kind of benign anarchy rules, including how Time works. Essentially, it’s a law only unto itself.  Not unlike the days when each railway company kept its own time and there was no guarantee that your connection at 3.34 would not be departing from Platform 2 as you alighted on Platform 1 (across the bridge).

There are some rather snazzy branch lines (immaculate destination boards, station name picked out in scarlet geraniums) which rigorous housekeeping keeps up to the mark.  No random ponderings, no political opinions, and definitely no sentimental twaddle about the boy you kissed only once in 1970 are allowed here.  Reach destination – on time – cleanly and efficiently – that’s the ticket.

Elsewhere, time is an irrelevance.  No matter how many pressing thoughts march impatiently back and forth across the concourse, somewhere it’s always a spring morning in 1958 where the paintwork’s a little rusty and the wheels are only just turning.

Putting the brain into neutral – meditating – is really a lot like leaving Liverpool Street at rush hour and arriving,  mid-morning, on a hill station in Pallamcottah where freshly picked tea leaves are waiting to be drunk in a china teapot on a wide verandah. Aah, that’s better.


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