A brief melting pot: motorway service stations

We’ve been travelling up and down the country over the past few days, and finding brief respite from the road in the institution of the motorway service station. Although visually unexciting, motorway services do in fact contain as full a cross-section of Britain as you are likely to find anywhere, and are fascinating for it.

Motorway services have this amazing captive audience, as they provide the only option for fuel, food or a WC stop for perhaps 50 miles. As a result everyone is forced to use them, irrespective or whether they’re landed gentry or chav, Jag driver or on a coach trip. What results is something of a spectacle of Britain passing through those doors – all strata of society forced together unnaturally and out of necessity. Regardless of whether they’re veering off into the Waitrose, or queuing up at the KFC, they are all there together, for a short while.

Curiosity demands a pause with a coffee to bear witness to this constant flow of people comprising this country of ours. Most stops take place far from both home and the destination, surrounded by unfamiliar accents that are in turn supplemented by an array of dialects even further out of place. You may be sat next to the sort of people you’d never meet in your life otherwise, and are briefly granted an insight into lives that are no less British but potentially entirely foreign to your own. All these people brought together, all trying to kill time by browsing the WHSmith or deciding whether £8.99 for a breakfast is highway robbery taken one step too far…

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