Once again I have not been good at updating this confounded blog. I have resolved to do at least one a week until 2009. So here, I hope, is to the first of many.
On Tuesday I had to survive the six-hour journey to Aberystwyth from Southampton. It may not seem tough, but it was. Every four stops or so, until Birmingham Newstreet, I had to listen to the less than enthusiastic announcement of ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, the shop is open. We serve a range of hot drinks: tea, coffee, cappuccino coffee, Americano coffee, mocha coffee, late coffee, decaf coffee, and hot chocolate; as well as soft drinks and alcoholic drinks; hot bacon rolls; and snacks and sandwiches. I look forward to serving you.’ By some child-catcher after twenty years on cigarettes and Bourbon, the adults are lulled by—not cherry pie and lollipops—the promise of caffeine to keep us going through the many hardships endured while sitting on a train. If the coffee (crap coffee, crap and froth coffee, crap and froth and chocolate sprinkles coffee) wasn’t enough, then the booze will take the edge off. Heaven knows, then, as to why they sell decaf coffee.
Before anyone wishes to commence a train journey they should go through a stringent health check to see whether they’re up to it. First you have the frotteur, who is inevitably a man wearing a suit, blue shirt and glasses and is standing next to where you are sitting. He lets others pass him by leaning against you and rubbing his groin against your shoulder. Then there is the excessive-elbow-man, again wearing a suit, blue shirt and glasses, but this time of a rather larger build. You have been quite comfortably sitting in the window seat until this man throws his large bulk against you and appropriates the armrest from you. He then proceeds to read a newspaper (usually a Daily Mail, anyone who reads a Daily Mail on the train is a likely offender), ruffling it in your face and digging his elbows into your side. There are a multitude of train related sins and trials the everyday traveller has to put up with. From the loud chatty women, the annoying ring-tone that just keeps ringing, and the pretentious reader (someone was reading Foucault on my train. Mind you, I was reading Virginia Woolf), to name a few more. And, of course, there are a lot of men wearing suits, blue shirts and glasses.