studies in travel writing

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Green, Roger, Destination Nowhere: A South Mimms Motorway Service Station Diary (London: Athena Press, 2004).

Very few people have not interrupted a motorway journey to use the amenities of a service station. The author of this work, however, is not just passing through. His mission is to create a contemporary record in diary form of everyday life at a motorway service station.

The result is a highly amusing yet informative account of this 'fantasy world'. With 'voyeuristic curiosity', the author faithfully describes all he hears and sees: snappy mobile phone conversations, disorderly queues for coffee, intense business meetings and sexual encounters in the gents'.

We are entertained by his astute observations of human eccentricities: the disorientation of visitors faced by the 'visual overload' of this almost surreal environment; their confusion at the drinks counter; their reaction to the high prices.

The work has, at the same time, an almost journalistic appeal to it. The author includes snippets of traffic news, apt quotations from novels, factual information from government reports and interviews with staff, local people and visitors to the service station. We realise that the motorway service station is not simply a place to eat and drink; it is a social arena, a community apart that on our next visit we will regard with educated eyes.

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