Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Level crossing policy

Early on in my relationship with my husband, we went to see a concert at the Royal Festival Hall. I was early so got myself a cup of tea and found a seat, sharing a table in the cafe with another woman. We got chatting and I asked her what she did. She was the civil servant in charge of level crossing policy.

Oh that poor woman, she had no idea that she had just told this to a level crossing aficionado. 

I love level crossings - the excitement of seeing a train hurtle past, the slight danger than the signals have gone wrong, the idea that order depends wholly on people being told what to do by a mere wooden barrier.

"I love level crossings," I told the woman. I think she thought I was taking the piss. But I made her tell me all about her job, the pertinent issues in level crossing policy and the cultural differences regarding level crossing behaviour around the world. 

My mum puts this down to our regular day trips when I was a toddler, taking the bus to a local level crossing to watch the trains. It was, she says, a cheap day out and perfect for young kids.

I've not done this with my children yet. But our wooden train set has many exciting elements - a station, a ferry (with a horn!) that can take trains on it and that opens automatically as it touches the track, various loops and points and of course a level crossing. I buy the coolest bits for my husband as birthday or Christmas presents to him from the kids. I have noticed recently that, despite no day trips of the kind my mum used to take us on, my son is fixated on the level crossing, endlessly lifting up the barrier and letting it drop. I am so proud. 

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