Back Again, Again

May 23, 2008

Hopefully for the duration this time. Nice as it was to see London’s filthy streets and pass a ranting man in a glittery purple cowboy hat while pretending nothing was happening, I’m not sure I can handle too much of Virgin Rail’s pile ’em high and sell ’em not particularly cheap approach to train travel. My booked seat today was a triple whammy – airline style AND backwards facing AND not by the window*, but the train was so crowded there was no chance of slinking off to find a better one. And I was quite glad I hadn’t when Mr. Grumpy got on at Crewe. First he evicted the woman who’d sat in his seat up to that point, in which he was technically justified but he did it with a graceless truculence that did him no favours. Then he removed MY bag from the overhead shelf above MY seat, thwacked me on the head with the strap, handed it to someone else, and when I’d claimed it and wondered gently where I was supposed to put it, demanded it went under my seat to make room for his bag. Finally, having arranged the world to his satisfaction, he sat down in his aisle seat, blocking in the passenger sitting next to him and announced he was going to sleep. Which he did.

At that point, a prolonged game of musical chairs ensued as various people reclaimed their reserved seats and started swapping places so people could sit together. And I’m sure – in a crowded train, with very little room for manouevre – that it was pure coincidence that at the end of it, the young woman with the fractious but lively baby ended up sitting right behind Mr Grumpy for the rest of the trip north…

*Forgive me for channeling my old blog here, but I find now I can’t actually take a train journey without mentally blogging it in my head

I’m Back…

May 14, 2008

Did you miss me?

Gosh, you lose your city legs quickly don’t you? It didn’t help that I was accompanied almost everywhere by my wheely suitcase, that unavoidable sign of the out-of-towner, not to mention a complete pain in the arse. But even allowing for the effects its baleful presence, I still felt I’d lost a good half of my urban smarts after a scant two weeks in the company of sheep. In three days I managed to lose track of and have returned to me my notebook, a tenner and a bottle of wine; got my rube’s paper ticket stuck in the barriers at King’s Cross and then got told off for having the temerity to ask for help; forgot about the Victoria line early closure and managed to take a route to Palmer’s Green so circuitous that I’m not going to even confess to it here and got into conversation with three separate passengers I wasn’t related to (although to be fair one of them was more me being talked AT while I desperately tried to read my paper). At Oxford Circus I ended up helping a woman with the quick ticket machine thinking that at least must mark me out as a street-savvy Londoner until I realised that of course the real thing would have shouldered her aside and bought their ticket first, not patiently taking her through the touch screen process. I did at least, I promise, stand on the right of the escalators with my faithful friend and wheely companion. That much, I do still remember.

But now I am safely back despite the best efforts of Virgin Rail. Actually, to be fair, they managed to be on time both ways, but compensated for this uncharacteristic performance by having the heating on full blast at ankle level and then, in a magnificent display of joined up thinking, blowing freezing cold air out of the ceiling ducts to balance it out. But that sounds like a topic for quite another blog…