Do You Remember?: Friday Nostalgia: Service Stations Are a Few Sandwiches Short of a Picnic

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), May 2, 2003 | Go to article overview

Do You Remember?: Friday Nostalgia: Service Stations Are a Few Sandwiches Short of a Picnic


ONCE upon a time, not so long ago, parents would take their children out on a very British ritual - a picnic.

They would drive along the new, open tarmac roads that cut their way through the heart of the countryside until they spotted a nice grassy spot. They would pull over, park the car and clamber up the short hill to a comfortable, sunblessed patch with an enviable view across rolling fields.

They would lay out their rug and unpack the hamper containing the obligatory boiled eggs, chicken drumsticks and ever-so-slightly warm cheeseand-pickle sandwiches Then the government started showing adverts warning families, excited by the novelty of the new M1, that the grass banks on either side were not picnic spots, nor was the hard shoulder a convenient parking lot for children who got caught short on the novel journey.

And, from there, our love-hate relationship with motorway service stations blossomed.

The sight of a picnicking family, pitching up on the outskirts of a service station amid the diesel fumes of trucks and coaches, instead of the motorway's grassy verges, is now as rare as a value-for-money cup of tea in the cafeteria.

For, as soon as the first section of the M1 was complete - the southern section stretching from St Albans to Birmingham was opened in 1959 - and the first service stations started springing up, we resigned ourselves to picnicking indoors on overpriced snacks in what were little more than large car parks. …

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