On the road to Milton Keynes…

Or Stony Stratford to be exact.

A couple of weeks ago I was ready to knock off for thr evening. I dropped off at Euston and 6 young guys came up and asked for Milton Keynes. So we haggled a price (paid for up front, natch) and off we went.

Milton Keynes is best known to Brits as a new town, unfairly described as soulless: unfair as the town has the highest index for happiness in the UK. Two things come to mind when Milton Keynes comes to mind; roundabouts and concrete cows. Some economists two other things come to my Milton Friedman and John Keynes. But anyway, we didn’t go there. We ended up in Stony Stratford 5 miles further on (cheeky passengers).

I’ve never driven this route before but have been passed many times on the train. Stony Stratford, being originally a coaching town, has inns and pubs of character in its centre surrounded by modern builds. I dropped off and braced myself for the 2 hour drive home. The first part of the journey was on the A5, the old Roman road of Watling street, that starts in London and finishes at Holyhead in Anglesea, North Wales – a strange a weird place in it’s own right. Next stop Ireland.

After the Act of Union between Ireland and Great Britain in 1801 Parliament decided that after 1,500 years the old Roman road needed upgrading to improve links between the two Islands. Thomas Telford was given the commission. Starting from Marble Arch in London it traversed England along the old divide between England and the Danelaw: an uneasy border established soon after King Alfred’s victory over the Danes.

Driving back at night along the A5 the Georgian buildings are still there: large blocky houses with oblong windows and next to them the mainline from Euston to Holyhead. Massive gantries like a series of iron fists punching their way north. You had a sense of urgency and confidence that the Victorian engineers possessed that almost contorted the puny buildings on either side of the track as if the very act of speed over a century and a half had pulled them out of shape.

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