Ian McEwan's descriptions of The Chiltern Hills in his novel, On Chesil Beach were so romantic I wanted to visit immediately, just to stroll to the village green and watch the cricket. It is an area of rolling chalk hills, pretty Norman churches and ancient watercress meadows. One half expects John Major's "old maids cycling to communion" to trundle along the dappled lanes at any moment. Never has quintessential Englishness sounded so appealing - even to this lover of the rugged Celtic fringe.
So I do feel sorry for the folk of Little Missenden, one of the Chiltern towns set to be ravaged by the high speed railway announced today by Lord Adonis, the Westminster transport minister. There will be no stops between London and Birmingham, so the Little Missies, as I cannot resist calling them, will not benefit from having their rural idyll so rudely disturbed.
Work is not due to start till 2017, so I still have time to indulge my Anglophile fantasy while the Chiltern hills remain unspoiled. Apart from the Little Missies, the rest of the Britain appeared unusually united on the need for a high speed railway network. It could cut the journey time between London and Glasgow/Edinburgh to three hours, perhaps even less with the top notch option. But when? The Birmingham link, the first stage, isn't due to finish till 2026 - so at that rate my 12 year old might just live to see it reach Glasgow Central.
The Scottish Transport minister Stewart Stevenson said it was vital that the link came here, a point also made by business leaders. "Scotland's transport future must include high-speed rail, and we will work with the UK government to help deliver it," said Stevenson.
The Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy said: "I think there will be a strong business case for extending high speed lines to Scotland. The decision on creating those lines in Scotland is devolved but I know many Scots would welcome a Scottish government decision to match the UK's ambition for our rail network."
Shadow Secretary of State for Transport at Westminster, Theresa Villiers MP, said the Conservatives were committed to taking the second phase of high speed rail to Scotland. Though she didn't say when exactly.
Even the leader in The Telegraph was positive. After expressing sympathy for its (undoubtedly numerous) readers in the Chilterns, it concluded: "The other problem is cost. In straightened times, how can the nation afford the £30 billion eventually to be invested in this project? Yet Britain cannot simply stand still, paralysed by indebtedness. We need to show we have not lost the ambition exemplified by a national project such as this."
I've noticed that some of the English nationalist cyber commentators are already dismissing demands that the line be extended to Scotland without delay. They ask" "Why should we pay?" I But they are not paying. The UK economy has been floating on Scottish oil for that last thirty odd years, so the subsidy goes from north to south.
Despite this, Scotland will have to wait until Westminster gives us our own money back so we can pay for the link. If and when they do, it will be presented as yet another example of London's generosity towards the ungrateful jocks. While transport is devolved, the money is not. If Scotland wants the railway to go to Glasgow, Edinburgh - or up to Aberdeen as Friends of the Earth argue - it needs full control of those finances, including the taxes from the North Sea that currently go straight to the Treasury. In fact, if we had access to our own money, and could borrow to fund capital projects, we could improve travel within Scotland, not just the line south.
It's encouraging to see Scottish and Westminster politicians pledging to co-operate on a project which will help business, the environment and individuals in both countries. Good neighbours work together. But the relationship will only be equal when Scotland brings its own money to the negotiating table.