Gayle Letherby and Gillian Reynolds (2003) 'Making Connections: the Relationship between Train Travel and the Processes of Work and Leisure'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 8, no. 3, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/8/3/letherby.html>
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Received: 14/5/2002 Accepted: 22/8/2003 Published: 31/08/2003
...dictionaries commonly explain a 'tourist' as a person undertaking a tour or circular trip that is usually made for business, pleasure or education, at the end of which one returns to the starting point, normally the home. 'Tourism' is habitually viewed as a composite concept involving not just the temporary movement of people to destinations that are removed from their normal place of residence but, in addition, the organisation and conduct of their activities and of the facilities and services that are necessary for meeting their needs.
Transport provides the essential link between tourism origin and destination areas and facilitates the movement of holidaymakers, business travellers, people visiting friends and relatives and those undertaking educational and health tourism. Transport is also a key element of the 'tourist experience'...and some commentators view it as an integral part of the tourism industry (Page 1999: 1)
Every treatment of the subject of time never deals with time alone. The conflicts over time which are coming to light are strategic battlefields, political arenas.... in which it is a question of better understanding what directions social processes are pursuing and what options are open. Shifts in the patterns of the allocation of time....produce highly meaningful chronograms of a society. So much time for ourselves: so much time for others; so much time for work (paid): so much time for work (unpaid); so much time for buying: so much time for making; so much time for fundamental needs: so much time for luxury; so much time for waiting: so much time for getting things done.... Every categorization says something about the content and its quality at the same time, since the assessment results from the relation with the remaining pattern of allocation.
Transport technology is the material base of potentiality, and equally the material base of the traveler's space-time perception . . . . If an essential element of the given socio-cultural space-time continuum undergoes changes, this will affect the entire structure; our perception of space-time will also lose its accustomed orientation. (Schivelbusch 1986: 36)
You must learn to use your life experience in your intellectual work: continually to examine it and interpret it. In this sense craftsmanship (sic) in the centre of yourself and you are personally involved in every intellectual product upon which you work . (Mills, 1970: 216)
I use trains more than anybody I know. I travel into work and back 2, 3, 4 times a week, on average about 40 weeks of the year. . . As well as that I must go somewhere else for work at least once a month. And lots of times for leisure as well . . .Basically, if I want to go anywhere, I go on the train. (Gerry)
I only ever use the train if I am going somewhere for business reasons. I would never really consider using the train for leisure unless I am going into central London, which I don't do very often. (Kenneth)
. . . there are people who travel FOR work. Now I do do some travelling FOR work, but a lot of people who travel for work, I think they're the people that things like the Club Class cater for - travelling FOR work because work is paying for them. . .There are distinct kinds of journeys for me - leisure journeys and work journeys. (Gerry)
I write letters and references and . . . I always break up the journey by looking out for the sea. I give myself a little bit of a stretch by looking at the sea when we hit that part of the journey. . . I'll read a novel or just stare out of the window, which I do find very pleasurable, particularly at certain points on the journey (Rhian)
Kenneth: . . . the ideal situation is where you have a whole table to yourself but that isn't always possible but minimally you want the seat next to you free so you can put things on it because there is usually a big pile of papers that's worth spreading out. . .There was a chap the other day . . . and when [he] went to the bar or the buffet I moved over there and had to move some of his stuff over the table so I could spread my things out, so there was a bit of negotiation there.
GL: Did he say anything when he came back?
Kenneth: No, no he smiled, very friendly. I don't think he was deliberately commandeering the table for himself, he was just using the space available to him but I do think . . . that people behave in a very territorial way in trains.
. . . even though it's not as easy to work, I prefer the 2-seater ones because they're a bit more private.
One [woman] was on a mobile phone continually for an hour. She was making call after call, and being called - it was constant. So the other woman said to her 'I think it's really inappropriate that you keep using your mobile phone on the train'. And the woman using the phone, said 'some of us work, you know'. So she was working, she was doing her job. For me, mobile phones get in the way of me doing my job, whereas she had to use her mobile phone for her job. (Gerry)
... he [she related a conversation with a colleague here] said 'going on a train is like being in a public library, and I really like these places that are public but people are doing things on their own'. That's really interesting, isn't it? You have this little space - except that they don't have signs up saying 'no talking'. (Gerry)
. . . if someone were to come and look over your shoulder in a library, you'd think they were abominably rude. But if I'm sitting over the table from someone who is working, I'm really itching to look at what it is. So people are forcing that private work to become public. (Grace)
It doesn't happen very often, but people do try to talk to me when I'm working. I've got this piece of work, and I've got to do it before I get into work. And I leave it for the train. And if someone tries to talk to me on the train, then that's difficult to cope with. (Gerry)
There are a number of times when I have travelled when there have been quite a few incidents that have been quite interesting that have distracted me from working. There seems to be quite a lot of hassle that people working as guards on the train have to put up with. That can be quite distracting because you are put in a position where you think do I get involved? . . . (Rhian)
. . . that's one of the things that bugs me about [name of train company] where they cater so much for those in First Class. 'They're so important, and they have to work, and we have to give them little signs to put on their desks - tables - that show they don't want to be disturbed, and we must give them email and internet facilities - this, that and the other'. But every person on the seven o'clock train has got their laptop out or reads. (Gerry)
I would never pay myself to travel First Class as it's a ridiculous waste of money but if someone else is paying it seems no reason why not and yes I did have a First Class ticket on the grounds that I would be working on the train. But I can't say it obviously made much difference. . . All I want is a table.(Kenneth)
It's a work shaped space. A bit like a portacabin on wheels. (Grace)
. . . the train was late and I then was rerouted to various places and it ended up that the only way I could get home was to get a different train to Rugby in which I had to stand for 2 hours very, very cramped. . . there was no way when you could barely find enough room to stand that you could possibly do any work. So any work I had planned to do at that point was totally out of the window. (Janet)
Gerry: Well I'm in every day at 9 o clock and that means I leave the house at 6.
GR: But what's interesting there for me is that you say 'I'm in for 9 o clock', you don't say 'I get to work at 9 o clock'.
Gerry: Oh no, because I start work on the train.
GR: So actually your working day starts at?
Gerry: 7 o clock.
. . . the thing that distinguishes rail travel from driving is that you have the space and time to be able to work through it . . . There's nothing else to concentrate on - it's such an obvious thing to say but it's important to say it. If you're a driver you've got to be focused on the driving itself. (Jeremy)
I know people who travel to work, who don't really live that far away, that take 45 minutes, and that's completely dead time if you're using a car. There's not much that you can do unless you're dictating into a Dictaphone or something. But I know people that travel to my place of work, who spend 35-45 minutes in that car, well in that time on the train I could have marked 3 essays or written a first draft of a few letters or.... (Gerry)
. . .you have got long periods of time when you tend to be fairly uninterrupted so you can actually get into your work quite well. You need to get a long run at it so the longer journeys I do find them quite useful for working. . . Access to a table, not just one of those pull-down ones, distinct lack of people partying or playing with electronic gadgetry, be it children's toys or phones, it doesn't have to be that there is no-one else sitting anywhere near you, but those kind of things. So there is enough space to arrange your papers and write. (Janet)
I finish quite early on a Thursday afternoon and I take with me administration that I would have stayed and finished. . . I'm quite careful where I sit so that as much as possible I'm not going to be bothered by noise, but also it's something to do with I've got myself into a system where I say that I'm going to have done so much work by a certain station (laughs) so actually that's quite a good incentive. (Rhian)
Janet: For example the last train journey I took was for a conference . . . but the time of year was at the beginning of June, which meant that we were in the middle of exam marking so I spent my time on the train marking final papers, which tends to be mostly what I do on the train. Or if I am going to a final exam board as an external examiner at other institutions I will be revising or familiarising myself with what I've already said in terms of marking and what I am going to say at the meeting. So preparation for the meeting. . . . I may also do things like plan future work. . . working out teaching schedules for the next session or working out staffing the sort of administration that needs to be done a fair bit in advance because you have got limited resources and you are trying to work them through or in some cases writing memos or letters that the secretaries will write on official notepaper later. (Janet)
GL: When you go to an exam board do you work just on the way there, and not on the way back?
Janet: I tend to try and do both. Work in both directions. Usually on the way there it's work for the exam board and because of your workload you tend to carry some work with you for on the way back.
. . . I'll do anything moveable away from the office I'll use that time. (Rhian)
And on Sunday morning when I'm trying to do some work, I think 'what can I leave for the train?' There are lots of things that I leave, that I only ever do on the train now. (Gerry)
. . . work-time itself is contrasted with time spent on activities defined as 'not work' work as leisure time or play time . . . work time . . .implies a period during which work is undertaken primarily for payment.
I'll read a novel or just stare out of the window, which I do find very pleasurable, particularly at certain points in the journey. I'll sometimes do a bit of my own writing - I don't do that very often. I'd like to do it more, that's very pleasurable (Rhian)
[If you can't get a seat with a table] you can pull out the little table in front of you...and you can put your stuff on there. There's usually enough room, and also sometimes there's a net there as well, and if you're not using something at the moment you can put it in there. So if your table starts to get too crammed, you can get the thing you're not using and put it down, and put the thing you WANT to use on the table (Jake aged nine)
We only play our Travel Connect4 on trains - it's become a kind of tradition that we get it out for train journeys. Also (my son) hardly ever looks at comics except on a train. (Julie)
Well, I like it better than most transports. For one thing, you don't need - all the people who are there with you, one person doesn't need to be driving, like in a car. . . . I just like to play one game or something, and take my Gameboy. If I can complete a level, then that's enough for me and I turn it off. (Jake aged nine)
It's like you have lots of fun playing games. And it's like really good. When we go with our Dad, he's got this mobile phone that he takes with him, and we can play games on it, and that's really fun. I like playing with my Mum and Dad, and I can't play with them when I'm on a car journey cos my Mum's got to look for the right way. (Mark aged six)
On the way to Cornwall we usually play two games of Scrabble. Each game takes about an hour so that's two hours of the journey gone. (Jeremy)
And we play I-Spy on the train because you can often 'spy' something out of the window that's gone before anyone can guess it. It puts a whole new angle on the game of I-Spy! (Julie)
More and more travel is becoming the incomparable occasion to be somewhere other than the very place one habitually is. It fulfils its decisive function as spatial transformation, as a temporary change of location... Travel has been reduced to a pure experience of space. (Kracauer, cited by Rojek and Urry 1997: 6)
. . . the train system was established from the 1840s and so it went through particular countryside. The bus systems rely on motorways and so it's quite a different concept. (Jeremy)
I look out for the unusual, like spot a steam train or something, going in the opposite direction. Something like that draws a lot of interest, even if you're not actually travelling on it. People come down photographing, in my experience, and video-recording, and watching it through bridges and things. (Colin)
At one point the train slowed down and the driver came on the PA system. He introduced himself and then said 'Please do not - I repeat, do not - look out of the windows on the left hand side of the train'. Well, of course, everyone craned their necks to have a look, and it was a body lying beside the tracks. After we'd gone past and the train was speeding up, the driver came on again and said 'I just wanted to spare you that'. It was quite bizarre really. (Grace)
.... will involve an obvious intrusion into people's lives, which would be generally unacceptable. So the people being observed and local tourist entrepeneurs gradually come to construct backstages in a continued and artificial manner. 'Tourist spaces' are thus organised around what MacCannell (1973) calls 'staged authenticity'.
When we go to Cornwall particularly, there are rituals about different parts of the journey. I know it so well, I could fall asleep really and wake up and know where we were almost. But like there's one bit - Dawlish and Teignmouth - it's like a ritual. Whatever I'm doing I have to stop and look at the sea while we're going through Teignmouth and Dawlish. It's such a wonderful part of the journey, especially when it's rough and the sea is coming over the train. It's kind of like 'we're there now, we're there' - but there's still another 2 and a half hours to go! (Gerry)
. . . there's a part of the journey that goes through the Fens, and my heart ACHES because I love it so much. It's so flat and you can see for miles and miles. And because you can see for miles, then after a while you get to know each individual house and so on, even in the far distance. In winter it's very brown or grey, and if you go in spring it's bright green - the colours are variable. (Grace)
. . .sometimes if it's been a really busy week, I might decide to have a train journey off. So I'll be at work in the middle of a meeting, and I'll think 'I can read a magazine on the train journey tonight', and that's a real treat because I'm not doing any work on the train. So when I get on the five o'clock train I can stop work. (Gerry)
In First Class there's plenty of space on the fixed table in front of each seat to catch up with work. (Virgin Trains 2003)
'There's something romantic about travel by train, and there are some great railway adventures to be had throughout the world.
Commuters reading this might disagree, as they sleep walk to work every morning on overcrowded trains and return in the evening to find their favourite window seat taken by a grubby traveller who hasn't showered for a week.
I've been the suit-and-tied, nine-to-five commuter and I've been the curious traveller. And I prefer being the traveller in need of shampoo and hot water; sorry if I was in your seat.'
2 The fact that some of those interviewed in relation to leisure were children may also have some methodological bearing on our interpretation of the data.
3 There are of course exceptions to this and some people work together on the train. As an example of this we cite ourselves as some of the work for this article was undertaken on the train as we travelled to and from work together.
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