Being a regular train passenger means i definitely do get to meet my fair share of characters. Christmas eve therefore was defintely likely to be one of those events that i was likely to encounter those fellow travellers designed to stay in memory. The terrible storms of the previous few days did nothing to help the travelling conditions and as cancellation after cancellation flashed up on the deparature board even laid back little old me began to become a little worried.
”I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when i’ll be back agaaaaaiin” i yowled tunelessly.
I know i cannot sing and although i was not infact actually going on a plane at all, nevertheless i was looking forward to my destination and happily crucified a much liked song. My singing has been likened in the past to a strangled cat, a fact i announce quite proudly for i happily admit i am tone deaf and could not carry a tune in a bucket. Stil since i am never likely to be dragged kicking and screaming onto X Factor and nobody but my cats have to hear, i quite happily launch into my very best rendition a la Armageddon style.
”Leaving on a jet plaaane” i screeched merrily, whilst keeping one eye on the train updates for further news. What can i say it was Christmas eve and i was excited! That is my excuse anyway and i shall be firmly sticking to it.
Checking the train timetables yet again i squawked in horror as my planned train flashed up on screen saying ‘CANCELLED’ followed by a message from the train operators advising passengers to travel earlier than planned and by any route necessary.
Okay, maybe not quite panic for i am far more practical than that and having travelled to London so often these last two years i know every route like the back of my hand. Several swift minutes of searching left one available route flashing merrily on screen.
‘ON TIME. ON TIME’
The problem was this train left in 40 minutes instead of the two and a half hours i had originally planned on. Standing there in my oversized pyjamas with my hair stuck on end i really was not exactly travel worthy nor fit to be seen in decent society. Now when i say my pyjamas are oversized i MEAN oversized. So after a quick call to the local taxi firm i hurtled for the stairs with great swathes of fabric bunched in one hand, tripped drunkenly over the over long trouser legs and narrowly avoided using my staircase as a prayer mat. I trip over these trousers so often you would think i would throw them into the trash but i cannot bear to part with the tent like comfort of them. With a speed worthy of Wonder Woman i effected a rather miraculous transformation only stopping to lecture myself on the demerits of carrying luggage down a flight of stairs in high heels.
”Put the shoes on DOWNSTAIRS next time you dummy” I chided myself ruefully as i clung like a limpit to the bannister with my one free hand.
Giving myself a mental shake i don an air of sophisticated composure that belies the hurried rush of the previous few minutes. Surverying the mountain of luggage as i slicked on red lipstick i had a momentary doubt as to how i was going to manage the less than small pile sitting waiting to accompany me. A load worthy of Scott of the Antarctic, the amusing thing was that this did not include clothing which was already at its destination. A tooting horn from outside left me frantically gathering up baggage, pausing momentarily to swiftly swap from arm to arm until i had a balance i could safely totter along with. It all seems such a good idea at the time until you have to actually carry it although i consoled myself with the hoped for reception to the gifts inside. What can i say, i love to give and can easily be accused of going overboard when it comes to gifts but i do not care. Giving is fun. The taxi driver knows me and as we drive along buffeted by the storm force winds he enquires ”London again?”
I nod happily and once at the station gather up the giant luggage bags and stagger towards an elevator. THEN comes the spanner in the works….they cancelled my train!!!
”Noooooooooooooo” i wail in horror, frantically wishing at this point that i had data left on my phone. A passing platform attendant hears me and enquires where i was trying to get to and helps a very relieved me onto a waiting coach outside for the first leg of my journey. I can already feel myself turning green for i do not travel well on buses at all and have a mental image of vomiting into the lap of the gentleman beside me which makes me stifle a hysterical giggle. Oh well it’s only for half an hour i console myself as a rather large gentleman and his equally large partner squeeze themselves along the narrow gangway, bumping everyone as they go.
A frazzled looking woman dashes for the seat behind me tapping my shoulder as they sit down.
”Are there toilets on here” She whispers loudly ” i’m dying for a wee and i didnt have time to go in the station”
I shake my head and tell her no and at her wail of dismay enquire where she is going. I feel a pang of sympathy as she tells me her destination is over two hours away and tactfully suggest she plead with the driver to tarry a minute at the next station to allow her to alight and find a bathroom. Thankfully the driver is in a most Christmas like obliging mood and allows the desperate woman to rush from the coach in search of relief.
Once on the move the conversations of my fellow passengers swirl around my head and i am confessedly nosey enough to listen half interestedly to what they are saying. There is a man rushing to get the last flight to the channel islands behind me sitting next to the now relieved ‘i need a bathroom’ girl. I listen as his rather cultured tones describe his desperate need for the coach to arrive on time for he will be stranded with no way to his destination if it does not. To my right a twenty something lad telephones his obviously clucking mother to reassure her that he is on his way whilst my heart feels for the man and his daughter infront who are trying desperately to get to the nearby city hospital. So many people all in the same boat, almost all trying to get somewhere for christmas. As i listen i hear some complain, some are resigned and some like me do not care too much about delays just as long as we get to where we are headed.
Alighting at my station i am relieved to find that one solitary train is due to head for my London destination and i clutch a much needed cup of coffee and wait with those straggling few who had dared to take a chance on getting a train. A smilingly apologetic platform attendant flits from person to person enquiring on destination and offering solace to those waiting to depart. As yet another train is cancelled and replaced by a bus, a man at a nearby table explodes in anger and thumps his fist onto the table infront of him. He does not want to get on a bus he shouts although i gently point out that i have just come from that way and the journey was fine. He is not to be mollified, he wants a train and not a bus though i cannot understand why since does it really matter HOW you get there just so long as you do?
Relieved i gather up my baggage as the train to London is announced, abandoning my much wanted coffee when i discover i do not infact have a free hand to carry it. Tottering along like a japanese geisha i am startled by a twenty something guy clutching a coffee who offers to carry one of my bags for me since it seems obvious i am rather overloaded. There is plenty of time to board and i am not too far from the train so i smile and thank him and assure him i can manage. Eyeing his coffee i cannot help but wish i could have managed to carry my own for i am very much in need of it and i have a long way yet to go. Thankfully the carriage is not infact the crush i had expected, instead being almost empty and as i reach for my tablet to read a book i am relieved at the thought of a nice peaceful journey.
Did i say peaceful?
”I dont WANT to sit in the middle” Hollers a scowling little darling, blonde pigtails bouncing furiously as she mutinously shakes her head. She climbs determinedly into the seat across the aisle from me defiantly folding her arms infront of her. My heart sinks and i mentally wave goodby to my peaceful trip. A woman i can only assume is her mother rushes back from the middle of the train and pleads with the child to move offering colouring books as a proverbial carrot to persuade her. Miss pigtails is having none of the womans wheedling and announces even more loudly that she is NOT moving and intends to occupy her current seat for the entire journey.
”Please darling, come and sit with mummy and we can look at a book together” the woman desperately pleads.
As the child still resists she admits defeat and wanders back to the side of her male companion whilst Miss pigtails stands up in her seat and bellows to her father that she wishes them to move and sit where she has chosen. His refusal brings forth loud wailing which he ignores until catching the expressions of the other passengers upon which he leaps from his seat and barks at the child to move. Surprisingly she does and i heave a sigh of relief before an older woman throws herself into the seat opposite. i smile politely and continue reading my book but it seems she clearly is something of a chatterbox and does not care if i wish to read in peace.
Ten minutes pass as i politely answer her questions and engage reluctantly in the conversation she seems to seek before trying to get back to my much enjoyed book. She however has other ideas and continues to talk incessantly and i abandon all hope of my quiet trip and i had hoped. Flicking through a magazine reading my stars i am startled when the woman pulls my magazine down with one finger and announces ”oh im a virgo are you looking at your stars??”
My mouth drops open in surprise and i mumble that yes i am just having a quick glance although i only partly believe in them. Still she tries to peer at my magazine until i at last offer it to her hoping she will read it and leave me in peace.
”Oh MY” She exclaims loudly, leaning across the table and waving the magazine at me. ”How could anyone actually DO that to someone?”
I mumble something non commital and return to my book but it seems she is not finished for she again exclaims loudly and wafts the pages in my direction. Inwardly i am muttering with a diatribe worthy of the cartooned Mutley although i refrain from grinding my teeth since this might be rather audible.
SHUT UP!!!! PLEASE!!!
I am not so rude as to say it though. Generally i am very sociable and will politely talk to anyone but right at this time i just wanted to quietly read and get the journey over. As time passed and the refreshments arrived she eventually subsided into her tea and magazine and i quickly produced another incase she should read faster than i hoped.
Peace at last.
I journey a lot and never fail to meet a character or two on my way and most make me smile although some i should like to never meet again. But as my train slowed for its final stop and a smile crept on to my face, a beaming elderly man wished me a merry christmas and gave me a wave. I grinned back at wished him the same then happily departed from my Lo-commotion journey.