Thursday, 29 October 2009

London Gateway Services


On the 2nd of November 2009 the M1 motorway will be 50 years old.

I love the M1. Being from Nottingham (Junction 25) it was the road that connected me with London when I was a child and we were visiting my dad's parents down south. As I got older it was the road I travelled on for my first teenage exploration of the capitol, then the road I traversed as a touring actor and later the road that took me to my then girlfriend.

Then it became the road that I travelled on with Mark in his Volkswagen Transporter, that was packed to the gunnels with my life as I left Nottingham to build a life as an actor down in London town. Anyone who has travelled southbound on the M1 you'll know that the Nissan offices situation right next to the M1 about 9 miles from London have a sign saying: "WELCOME TO LONDON"

I love that sign, especially that day when I came down to live here for the first time and every time I pass it it reminds me that London is the place I call home and that it a led to more than I can could have ever imagined. Here I am, with a beautiful girlfriend, making a living as an actor and owning my own home in London. All done on the back of the grand old M1.

I must confess, I have a soft spot for motorway service areas, that wonderfully British phenomena of over priced food, smelly toilets and an odd bustle of characters that pace the highways of the UK like motorised ghosts.

M1 has many great services: Tibshelf, Trowell, Watford Gap but my personal favourite is London Gateway; the last or first services depending on which way you approach London; people there after getting out of London having a breather, or the last wee stop as you wade your way into the capitol.

Built in 1969 by the old legends of UK service areas Forte, the most amazing thing about it is that the guns on the HMS Belfast, which is some 12.5 miles away and moored on the Thames, are trained on the service station to not only show how powerful her guns are but that service stations are vulnerable to shelling...

6 comments:

  1. Daniel,

    Great post. I may do my own M1 memoirs at some point, it being a pivotal part of my early life in Mill Hill. To any born and bred Millhillians, London Gateway Services is really Scratchwood Services (the old name). Many of my schoolfriends used to work there in our late teens. One thing I always remember was that they used to make donuts. They had a special machine that you put the blob of jam in with. It was one squirt per donut. I was visiting and suggested that they "see how many squirts you could get in". After about 8, the donut had swollen like an enlarged testicle to twice the normal size. We then thought it may be amusing to leave it in the cake rack. Within about 5 minutes a rather seedy looking chap came in and bought it. He sat down with the donut and his coffee and took a bite. It was a joy to behold as it exploded covering him in strawberry jam.

    What was funny was how he rather embarrassedly tried to pretend that nothing had happened. He then went to the toilets to clean himself up. As he left, we noticed that he'd missed a large blob on his eyebrow.

    To me that is what Scratchwoods services means

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  2. I feel the same way about I-35 here in the U.S. I've lived my whole life within a easy reach of it, starting (at birth) about 130 miles away, and getting as close as 1/2 block (while in an apartment in Austin, TX). Funny thing is, I generally avoid driving on the damn thing, but I still have a fond place in my heart for it.

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  3. Rog T:

    Thanks boss, I forgot that that entrance to London is your neck of the woods, the M1 goes right past Mill Hill doesn't it?

    And I am aware in my research that London Gateway was really Scratchwood, which doesn't do the place justice I think!

    Great story there that has fleshed out a part of London for me, locals of course have to work there.

    dave:

    Cool, is the I-35 in east Texas? I've driven from Dallas to out east of the state to get to Louisiana.

    Darren:

    Sorry pal but glad you liked it.

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  4. I-35 runs north/south from Duluth, MN to Laredo, TX. I've lived from Iowa to Austin.

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