When couples get together one of the joys (or annoyances) of having met someone new is that you get the chance to experience each other's interests. In the case of me and my husband, I'm not sure that I bring all that much of interest to the table.
Last week, for example, I made him sit through a flamenco version of Carmen. Flamenco being one of my favourite dance forms and Carmen being one of my favourite pieces of music, I was very excited, though my husband seemed rather non-plussed. He, on the other hand, brings an interest in trains to the relationship and I have embraced this with such gusto that we took our honeymoon by train and when all my Christmas presents came from the London Transport Museum shop, I was pleased, not disappointed, particularly with the arty travelcard holder.
Perhaps the way I have embraced this interest should not be too much of a surprise. I have always found a childlike glee in level crossings. When my husband and I went on a daytrip last year (to the London Transport Museum's open weekend at Acton Depot no less) I was promised the journey would be exciting because we'd have to cross two level crossings in a very short space of time, and my mum recalls whole afternoons of entertainment taking me to watch level crossings when I was a toddler. In fact, last year I was early to a concert at the Southbank Centre in London and got chatting to a woman who told me that she was a civil servant working on level-crossing policy. I think she thought, wrongly, that my enthusiasm was faked.
Trains, after all, are interesting. They have revolutionised the way we work (allowing for a daily commute), the way we holiday (the railways led to the development of seaside resorts for the masses) and the way we communicate (trains allowed us to develop a speedy postal service). So when it comes to full-size trains it is relatively easy to pass off your interest as being a socio-economic fascination.
But since meeting my husband, whose interest in trains was sparked by his father's fascination with model railways, it's no longer just the full-size variety in which I am interested. A trip last summer to Legoland in Windsor was great, not because of the rides but because of the models of scenes from various countries and the trains and other forms of transport running throughthem (including a wonderful working model of the yellow Ducktour vehicle which travels both in water and on roads).
I don't quite understand why models are such fun when I could head to any of London's busy railway stations if I wanted to see the real thing, yet I don't. In fact, if I want to visit any country I could, within reason, save up and go on holiday and in theory the real Mount Rushmore should for example be more fun than the model version. Yet pictures this week of "Miniatur Wunderland" in Hamburg, Germany, have made me far more excited than any travel piece on South Dakota would have.
The Hamburg attraction doesn't just feature a mini Mount Rushmore, but also more than 700 trains, 10,000 carriages, 900 signals and 160,000 figures spread across six regions and six miles of track. It took £8m and nine years to build and the plan is that it will double in size by 2014. In fact, so excited am I by the pictures that while my husband has not yet suggested another trip to watch flamenco, I am already planning a weekend in Hamburg.