From The Reader 15: Will Self on Motorway Service Stations

Country Walks
by Will Self

1. Toddington Services. Distance – 53 metres. Approximate time – Four hours for a fit walker, six hours if you’re only in moderate condition.

Leave your car by the driver, passenger or rear doors. Leave it slowly and carefully, remember, nothing is more easy than to become entangled in your seat belt, or lose your way in a fug of child fart and cigarette smoke. Make sure your mobile phone is switched on at all times. If you find yourself lost during this first part of the walk nothing can be easier than to call up the mobile phone you keep in the glove compartment, and then, by employing an orienteering compass and the driver’s handbook, to take a bearing, in order to ascertain exactly where it is you may have got to. Having gained the ground thread your way between the tiny peaks and troughs of the Asphalt Surface, noting its beauty and resilience. The thick white lines may be a struggle to cross, but the views from their summits are awe inspiring. The first beauty spot is a rubbish bin overflowing with half-chewed chips, mashed chicken nuggets, mushed burger buns, crushed soft drink cans, which in summer is a breeding ground for a buzzing, multicoloured horde of flies and wasps. Many walkers will enjoy sitting down for an hour or so here – utilising a discarded fag packet as a hide – and fly watching. Pressing on after a very dry sandwich, it should be possible to reach the booth where they sell AA membership in under an hour. The steps up to the automatic doors into the service centre can prove too much even for seasoned walkers, but don’t worry, bearers, porters and a chairlift are all available. Once inside the service centre follow the rank stench of urine in the direction of the toilets, but veer off at the point when you realise you’d like to buy some chewing gum. Do not be disturbed by the way people hear wear plastic wrappers disguising their gender. Was it not always thus? You can overnight in the Travel Lodge, where prosaic dreams represent genuine value for money.

Global Coffee Price List

Espresso – £1.00

Double Espresso – £1.40

Cappuccino – £1.50

Latte (tall / grande) – £1.20 / £1.50

Cluster Bomb Latte (includes over three hundred extra little coffee bomblets, each one of which will burst to cover the customer with the products of a well established multinational brand. Make your own choice form Nike, Gap, Adidas, Microsoft, Intel, Ghost, Disney, Body News Corp, Apple, IBM and many many more) – £1.40

Extra Shot – 50p

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This originally appeared in The Reader magazine, issue 15. Subscribe to the magazine here.

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