I came down from Newcastle at sunrise on the government-run train. There was a man in a kilt on the platform at Durham, someone jogging down a country lane, a foreigner asking "Is this normal class?" and "Which platform do I need to go to at York?" I settled down with The Observer and still had the main section and two magazines left to get through when we arrived at Kings Cross, passing so close to the Emirates Cesc Fabregas could've picked out my window with a through ball.
I changed stations, scanned my ticket at a gate, and checked-in - quickly, painlessly. The new St Pancras was glorious, a Durham Cathedral of Industrial Age Britain. The train, though, was just a little bit shabby, cluttered with luggage and frayed about the edges. Silence. No hollow exhortations to Sit back, relax and enjoy the flight. A cough, a page turning, fingers drumming on a seat back. We go from grey to black without me noticing, then back to grey and five mobile phones receive messages simultaneously. We speed up, and get to Paris just ahead of time.