I know that Twitter is meant to be the biggest
thing since the last biggest thing – but let’s be honest, there are limitations
as well as pleasures and challenges in communicating with 140 characters. A bit
like soundbites in politics. They can’t tell the whole story.

So last night I
was going for a run in Paris, and I was genuinely surprised by how many
McDonalds outlets there were. They seemed to be everywhere. So I sent a tweet
from my mobile. ‘In Paris. Just been for a run. Seems to have been explosion of
McDonalds under Sarko.’

Therein lies the possibility of entire PhD theses on
the Franco-American relationship, the attitudes of successive French Presidents
to their own culture, not to mention the attitude of the French people to their
food. Sorry, but you can’t cover that in 140 characters.

And anyway, it all
begs questions, and the questions started being asked even before I was
stripped off and in the shower. Mainly in the area of ‘what are you doing in
Paris?’ Again, 140 characters won’t tell the story. Well it can, but only part
of it.

I’m here to make a speech. That’s 26 characters. About trains. 38. On a
train. 49. Part of a day called ‘j’aime le train.’ 88. First time I’ve ever
made a speech on a train. 133. It doesn’t even leave room to say I’m on my way
to Brussels. Where does that leave anyone who might be vaguely interested in my
‘what are you doing?’ tweet?  Not much the bloody wiser, I would venture.
Confused even.

So thank heavens for the blog eh, so a bit of explanation can be
provided.  You have to hand it to the French. They love their fast trains.
Typical of them to have an annual ‘I love the train’ day. Today trains all over
France have events to celebrate this love affair. Philosophers, explorers,
politicians, artists, actors – and me – are all part of it.

I am on the early Paris-Brussels fast train telling
passengers how trains have a big role to play in both economic recovery and the
little matter of saving the planet. The train is so damned fast I only have
about twenty minutes to make my case, and talk about how jealous Brits are of
their trains,  before taking a few questions, then doing it all over again
with a different set of passengers on the way back.

Go to the public speaking
page on the website and you will know I do this kind of thing to help keep the
Campbell family in the manner to which they are accustomed. But it is so much
more enjoyable if it is the kind of thing I’ve never done before and I can
certainly say I have never made a speech on a train before. So merci to SNCF.

Thanks too to Andrew Adonis, transport minister, whose speeches on his devotion
to the cause of high speed rail gave me a lot of good material for mine. I had
forgotten that it was 120 years since the first Act of Parliament was passed allowing
the Channel Tunnel to be built, when an Army General’s impassioned warning of
invasion via the tunnel was enough to kill it off for a few generations.

did I know that the US, in the form of the electors of California, had just
voted for the country’s first high speed rail line, and that Barack Obama said
recently ‘the era of high speed rail is with us – just not here.’. Nor was I
aware of these rather shameful facts – there are 3600 miles of high speed rail
track in Europe, 2000 more being built, another 5300 planned. We have 68 miles.
Oh dear! So roll on the new North-South line.

And thank God for Eurostar which
will get me back in time to get to Reading to see Burnley take the next step to
the Premiership. All by train. But if we win tonight,
I’ll be flying. Carbon free.