Where was I? Ah yes, service stations. I like them. For example, I like travelling across the new Severn Bridge, but I really miss Aust Services. The National Express used to stop there for about two days on the way to Lampeter. Plenty of time to wee, play space invaders and wonder when someone would think of adding a Burger King. You could even wander off to look at the bridge. (My dad built the old Severn Bridge. When I say that, I don't mean it in an Isambard Kingdom Brunel kind of way, I mean it in a small-time criminal with a dumper truck kind of way. We lived in a caravan underneath the bridge on a spit of land on the Welsh side.)
And whisper it quietly in case Anne overhears, but I like bad food. I'm still raving about the chicken shish kebab and chips John and I bought on the Cowley Road a couple of weeks ago after a long day in town. It was like good drunk sex. It hit a spot I hadn't found since Sue Mehenlick last twirled her metaphorical tassels. And, let's face it, bad food is what a service station specialises in. Bad food at a scarcely credible premium. Bad food and bad lighting. Bad food and a deep existential ennui on the lonely road to death. Or Surrey.
But not Tebay. Oh Lord, not Tebay. Tebay is the Wimbledon Farmers' Market of service stations. Warm, cuddly, inviting. Plentiful seating, sweeping vistas of the Lake District. Not just a place to refuel but a place to linger. And the best piece of battered fish I've ever eaten apart from in Whitby. We'd drive out of our way to go there if it wasn't already completely out of the way. I hear the people behind it have opened a new one on the M5 between Bristol and Gloucester. We're in.
(The above piece can also be read as a review of Nick Hornby's latest novel - Funny Girl.)