Britain gave railways to the world, yet its own network is the dearest (definitely) and the worst (probably) in Western Europe. Trains are deeply embedded in the national psyche and folklore - yet it is considered uncool to care about them.
For Matthew Engel the railway system is the ultimate expression of Britishness. It represents all the nation's ingenuity, incompetence, nostalgia, corruption, humour, capacity for suffering and even sexual repression. To uncover its mysteries, Engel has travelled the system from Penzance to Thurso, exploring its history and talking to people from politicians to platform staff.
Along the way Engel ('half-John Betjeman, half-Victor Meldrew') finds the most charmingly bizarre train in Britain, the most beautiful branch line, the rudest railwayman, and - after a quest lasting decades - an Individual Pot of Strawberry Jam. Eleven Minutes Late is both a polemic and a paean, and it is also very funny.
Matthew Engel was for over 25 years a journalist at the Guardian newspaper. During that time he reported wars, elections, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and countless major sporting events ranging from three Olympic Games to the world tiddlywinks championships. He now writes the least fiscally aware columns on the Financial Times and is editor of Wisden Cricketers' Almanack. His last book, Extracts from the Red Notebooks, was also published by Macmillan. He leaves in Herefordshire with his wife Hilary and daughter Vika.