This weekend I spent many hours looking out of train windows as I shuttled between Kings Cross and Newcastle on Tyne. In between reading A S Byatt’s Ragnarok on my Kindle and doing email I watched thunder clouds chase us over early autumn fields and distant power stations. And I was struck how little of this view had visibly changed over the 40 years that I have been travelling this route. Living in a culture where everyone talks about change all the time –how can so many miles of English landscape remain so unchanged?
The changes I can spot seem trivial: the hay bales in the fields are now cylindrical not cuboid; what were dirty workshops and warehouse frontages are now the clean and polished retro frontages of offices and apartments. Inside the train things have changed significantly. The carriage is cleaner, no one smokes. We have free wifi and tea and sandwiches delivered to our seats. People are talking – but not so much to each other as to others elsewhere in the world. We are changed, in our locomotive of metal modernity rushing through a landscape that my father would have felt comfortably familiar with.