A history of eating on Britain's motorways. Words by Frank Kibble. Illustration by Sinjin Li.
Fantastic piece of writing Frank - It reads like a strong cup of tea and a four finger kitkat tastes.
This is absolutely awesome, thanks Frank. I am ashamed that I have never tried taporis at chobham services (I grew up very close by!) Those services are used by the local folk (probably just me) as the latest and closest McDonald's that is open late ;), terrible but true. I remember the feeling of striking gold when coming across a little chef on drives as a kid. Inspired to make it to Gloucester services, one day, one day...
Enjoyed the article, and definitely see what the author is getting at about being non-places where you are ‘free’ to eat stuff you wouldn’t eat in the high street. As it happens, I don’t want to. I haven’t been lucky enough to encounter a farm shop but at least some MSAs have Waitrose or M&S Food shops now, which he doesn’t mention. Yet just across the Channel, French and Italian motorways offer far better food and France has the ‘Aires’ which are great places to stop and picnic.
Great piece, Frank! Full of nostalgia. The 'other planet' quality you mentioned is so true - time and place feel a bit suspended at Leigh Delamere or Newport Pagnell. I've always found - by car, plane, boat or train - you don't really exist in the same way when you're on the move. Perhaps it's why it gives some of us the urge to eat what we like, surrounded by people we'll never see again. Because normal service resumes tomorrow.
> Who knows – maybe something truly wonderful may be a five-minute detour away from the motorway, where consciousness is resumed and imagination is possible.
Really enjoyed this, thanks! I live about ten minutes from Gloucester Services and don't mind admitting that sometimes we go there for their excellent breakfast.
I love this piece, and Frank's broad enthusiasm. I now live in the US and have been driving frequently from Boston to upstate New York - a journey of five hours along throughways at which there is not a single service station that offers anything beyond a McDonald's, a Starbucks, and the odd pizza. Going into them leaves me feeling depressed and misanthropic. I grew up in Wiltshire near Membury Services, and remember cycling over to use the arcade machines in the 1980s; it was lackluster and basic, and I would never have associated it with half way decent food. The idea that it would one day house a Waitrose would have blown my 13-year-old mind.
Hey Frank, I really enjoyed this piece of writing and it bought back a lot of memories for me. I worked in Fleet Services for 6 months, saving up money to go back to Uni. They’re such sociologically fascinating spaces, generally devoid of any symbols of their locality and I always felt they held something of a purgatory feel.
I totally relate to that temptation to eat fast food whilst I’m there and generally they are one of the few spaces where I feel genuinely comfortable eating alone amongst people. The idea of bumping into someone you know at one of them is simultaneously both unfathomable and horrifying as a concept.
I don’t know if this purgatory of “just passing through” is what adds to fast food feeling like a more satisfying meal at a service station. I can’t quite put my finger on it but it seems to soften any feelings of guilt or shame that may accompany that type of eating in other spaces.
Anyway - great article. Thanks for sharing.
Any chance you can fix the links please