Battle is a town divided. It is divided by Network Rail, or more particularly the barrier on Marley Lane level crossing. The greatest sufferers must be those poor souls who ‘live on the wrong side of the tracks’ and are prevented from getting into the town. But it has an impact upon all of us looking to move freely about the district.
On Sunday 31st January I was on my way to the Emmanuel Centre, to share in worship with the rest of the congregation. I am not a regular worshipper, but I had a desire to attend this new church and enjoy a bit of quiet contemplation.
Alas I suspect the congregation was a little depleted on Sunday. Throughout history many have tried to prevent Christians from taking part in acts of collective worship. The 1st Century Romans come to mind; Protestant and Catholic factions of the church itself, during the Reformation; and recently the actions of organisations such as ISIS, in the Middle East. However, this Sunday a new threat to Christian worship surfaced – Network Rail.
As I approached the level crossing at 10.23 am I could see that the red lights were flashing and the barrier was down. My heart sank, only to be lifted when the Hastings-bound train passed through within 10 seconds. I waited expectantly for the barrier to rise, but no such consolation arrived. Instead myself and a growing queue of cars sat patiently by, waiting for something to happen.
You could almost hear the groans from the other cars, when a minute’s delay turned to 5. I turned on the radio, only to hear that Terry Wogan had passed-away that morning. I wondered what joke he might have cracked at the expense of Network Rail.
By the time 10 minutes had elapsed a number of people were out of their cars. Some were craning their necks to see what was happening, others were gesticulating in animated fashion to fellow sufferers, but most of us just sat tapping our thumbs on the steering wheel.
By the time 15 minutes had passed, even the passengers from the Hastings-bound train had arrived at the crossing. Ironically they too were unable to cross the very railway line that had promised to speed them home, or perhaps to the Emmanuel Centre? A large proportion of the queueing cars had decided to change their travel plans and were now going through that most forlorn of car manoeuvres, the 10-point-traffic-jam-turn.
Eventually I also cracked, deciding that like Job I too was being tested by The Almighty. All hope of quiet contemplation had been shattered. Nonetheless I was resolved to make the most of my loss, by writing to both Network Rail and our local MP.
Having duly despatched my emails, my righteousness restored, I thought I might as well make some amends for my non-attendance at church by opening the Bible. I opened it up at Mark 4:12 verse 35
‘That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side”. ‘
I hope he had more luck crossing the Sea of Galilee than I did crossing Marley Lane level crossing!