Way back when, there was a brilliant advert for British Rail which made the experience of train travel appear like a deep, deep exhalation; relaxing, soporific, comforting.
In the ad, the camera lazily scans across a train carriage, occasionally drifting to a green and pleasant land blurring past outside the window. Inside, a businessman settles back in his seat and his stiff brogues transform into soft slippers. The long heel of a stiletto curls and tucks like a dozing cat’s tail. Bearded Grandfather plays chess with bespectacled Grandson, the black bishop and white knight yawn and sigh. A card-playing family sit alongside a woman reading a book – the Penguin logo comes alive, stretches and slides sleepily on its back.
It’s all set off with Leon Redbone’s lilting, half-slurred ragtime: ‘Any time you choose, kick off your shoes, rest your weary eyes and catch up with the news, a favourite book will be the perfect company, so relax.’ (Watch the advert here – it’s a classic). So memorable was the advert that, thirty years on, it has framed almost every train journey I’ve made since. It’s the journey I imagine, the one I look forward to when the tickets are booked.