Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Train Travel Leaves You Foaming At The Mouth

'I love trains', you hear people say.


If you are 6' 6" they are an insult to your dignity. At this moment I am having to wrap my feet around my backside whilst the fat industrialist, who is sitting opposite, finds a space for his empty laptop case. In addition to the discomfort, he has obviously had several pints before getting on the train as this is the third time he has staggered to the lavatory. Whilst he is gone, I try to rearrange myself and grab those precious extra centimetres.

The lady on my left has reclaimed the armrest, as trying to rearrange my legs, I had let go of the barrier between us. Rule Number 1 in life: Never give up an armrest. Her mixed glare of triumph and determination forced me to bring in my elbows, cross my arms and rest my chin on my clenched fists.

Train travel brings out the anarchist in me. Though age has calmed down the angry man and I no longer carry a briefcase containing only a napkin, a raw onion and a knife. Fellow passengers looked horrified, after seeing seeing there next door neighbour theatrically tuck the napkin into my shirt collar, take out the knife and onion and proceed to peel it. More often than not, there was never any need to have to eat a piece, as they hoofed it into the next carriage.

In Australia I was taught the fastest way to get a seat on an overcrowded train. Working with a friend who brought along a walking stick, just before boarding the train, I would put an Alka-Seltzer into my mouth. As the train pulled out of the station, I began frothing at the mouth. With some appaling acting and trying to encapsulate the gravitas of King Kong and only succeeding in looking like something out of the Muppet Show, it none the less always had the desired effect. Mystery followed by amusement followed by a disturbed feeling when my friend raised his walking stick, manoevering me towards the middle of the carriage and firmly saying: 'Get Down. I said Get Down'.

We not only had a seat. We had a choice of seats. A choice of any seat we so desired in the carriage.

A colleague went even further many years ago. He never liked paying for train tickets. So he would wait until a passenger went into the lavatory. Then he would check the coast was clear and bang forcibly on the door, saying:

'Tickets. Tickets please. Get your tickets ready for inspection. Tickets. Tickets.'

9 times out of 10, the ticket would be pushed under the door. He would pick up the ticket and walk off into another carriage. The nerve.

So, as you have gathered, I do not hold an affection for trains. The food has gone downhill. So badly downhill that I rather hanker after a British Rail pork pie, which was the butt of all jokes. You can't open the doors or windows. They ramp up the air conditioning in winter and it breaks in summer. It is designed for the vertically challenged and people of a nervous disposition, because it is strange how the same people seem to walk up and down the aisles. It's smelly, expensive and turgid.

But it gets you from A to B.

There's no need to complain. There's always the bus ............


  1. I'm a train driver and a coach driver. On a recent trip around Britain by train we used a bus to travel between Inverness and Fort William. Let's just say we needed our searbelts. This sort of thing never happens on a train. They are far safer and usually more comfortable assuming both bus and train are fully loaded.

  2. What a great talent you have david b. I always wanted to be a train driver and still do.

    It is difficult to compare a train and a bus, but I think you are right - there are less occasions on trains to need a seatbelt, which is fortunate as there aren't any seatbelts on trains. Definitely, there is more room to walk about.

    I suppose I look through rose tinted spectacles at the more enjoyable aspects of train travel in the past, before cattle wagon mentality afflicted the railways.

    These days, if you are tall or large, travelling on a train can be a nightmare of discomfort. Buses are even worse. That's why I like driving them. At least you are guaranteed a long-legged seat.