Tuesday 28th June, 2022

So – if Thursday 28th June, 1962 was Alec’s fortieth birthday – it follows that today would have been his hundredth had he not died in 2001.

We have decided to make this the excuse for a day out in his memory, and are planning to do something he himself would have enjoyed doing – and, in fact, did, many times. We’re heading off for a trip on a preservation steam line Alec loved, but which we ourselves have never had the chance to visit – the Festiniog.

We grab every available opportunity to travel on steam railways; we are, and have always been unashamedly, the people Alec decried so much – the ‘railway preservers’. Moreover, we are the obsessive sort who think Beeching was the worst blight to hit this country between the end of World War II and the rise of Margaret Thatcher. We acknowledge that this is pure romanticism and has not a thing to do with economic reality. However we agree with Alec in general terms – that freight (or, rather, ‘goods’) should be carried on the railway wherever possible. Of course, the short-sighted demolition of the network by Beeching (aided and abetted by Alec, it must be conceded) has made ‘wherever possible’ a far remoter prospect than it was before.

It’s very sad to have to acknowledge that one’s own father contributed to the destruction of something one has always held dear. I must admit that I was hoping, through these letters, to learn that he had been anti-Beeching all along, but the unpalatable fact is that he was not.

So, really, there’s something absurdly post-ironic about celebrating with a railway trip the life of a man who spent most of his working days trying to saw away the branch he was sitting on.

Alec probably wouldn’t have got the joke, but we certainly do!

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