I’ve been rediscovering simple pleasures lately – cottage pie, watching films in bed (thanks to my new free TV/video), sober conversation (that is to say, conversation while sober), mopping, good coffee, reading and of course writing.

I think there’s also a lot to be said about simple pleasures, but writ large. Things like Richard’s decision to watch the Breakfast Club for his birthday, but to hire a whole leather cinema to do it. Or the fact that in a few weeks I’m going to be a Christmas party with a Christmas treasure hunt. Across London. Or that I’m toying with the idea of ‘celebrating’ my birthday next week by going bowling at that upscale Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes place.

And, following on from my Cottage Pie for one triumph, I’m also quite keen to take an afternoon to try making the ultimate fish pie that Heston Blumenthal made last week on In Search of Perfection. Langoustines, no less. (I might wait ’til I go home for Christmas for that one. I’m a little short on Langoustines here, but they’re the sort of thing my hotelier parents have in the freezer).

But my big, big want for the beginning of next year is to have my first holiday in ten years (weekend breaks are not holidays, despite what I told myself). And I think I want to do something with the simple pleasure of travelling by rail. Specifically I think I want to get an Amtrak railpass thing and visit as much of the US as I conceivably can without getting on to a plane.

You see, I’m quite au fait with the edges of the US but I’ve never done the middle bit. The bit between the two shining seas. And that’s a bit sad, given that I really do love the country.

And the best thing about taking the train is that, not only do you get to actually see where you’re travelling through – and get off to explore it whenever you please – but it only costs about £230 for a whole month of travel. Take that, Jet Blue. A laptop, a digital camera and a high tolerance for DVT and I’m all set for the perfect simple pleasure, writ large. I’ll even do the old journo’s trick of blagging a commission or two to write about the journey. With a bit of luck, and the weak dollar, it could end up being a near-freebie.


The only slight hitch in my plan is that Amtrak trains don’t go to Las Vegas – where I really want to go, above almost anywhere else apart from Los Angeles. Amtrak used to share the old Union Pacific Railroad lines, but stopped ten years ago. Lucky flights from San Fransisco are less than £50 return, really.

I’ll say again, score.

So yes, here’s to more simple pleasures. Like self-indulgent-to-the-point-of-digital-masturbation blog posts that don’t even attempt to speak to a bigger point.

Aaaah. That’s the spot.