I guess it’s up to me to start the ball rolling…two weeks ago tomorrow, I met up with three other bloggers. You may recall my anxiety about it and your endearing replies, to wit: Stuff ’em if they don’t like you; we do and that’s all that matters.
Terribly sweet, thank you; if a little unfair to three lovely bloggers who would have written the same thing, I’m betting, if it hadn’t been them I was meeting.
Back to the ball: don’t you think it’s peculiar that we are all bloggers and yet no one has written anything at all about our day? I can’t decide if it’s:
- Fear of what everyone else might say so they’re exercising a little caution i.e. waiting for someone else to go first, to check if what they’ve written is nice/nasty/sweet/flattering/boring/complete lies, and then they’ll reply accordingly
- That they’ve been far too busy with their real lives to write about me, me and more me
- That I didn’t provide enough Maltesers and now they’re punishing me
- That they are still recovering from the horror of it all
- Something else. What do you think their something else could be? Answers in the comments, please (bearing in mind that all three bloggers will read what you’ve written, so be nice/sweet/flattering/tell complete lies)
The day began, as all of my days seem to begin lately, with a train. Specifically, the Stockport to London Express (similar to the very first express train journey in the days of steam from Stockton to Darlington, only not as fast).
When I booked the tickets (which is to say, every so often I would say to the Hub, ‘Have you booked my tickets yet? Better get a move on; I’m going next week. I wish I didn’t have to keep reminding you.’ And he would reply, ‘I will; just as soon as you tell me which day you’re going and what times you want to travel. As I keep asking you.’ Such a nag) the Hub suggested I travel First Class as a treat, because they had an offer on: £96. I could do First Class, I thought, Sure; why not?
Turns out, I can’t do First Class. Not both ways, anyway. And not even one way, I suspect my fellow passenger was thinking fifteen minutes into my journey.
I arrived at the station early enough to catch the previous Stockport-London train if I hadn’t bought an Advance Saver ticket, which is the only way I could afford to travel First Class. I had to wait for the train I was booked on, but this sign made me giggle for the time I had to wait:
The train arrived; I ran to the back coach to board, terrified I’d miss it (hence the fifty minute wait at the station). Horror! A man had put his briefcase and jacket on my seat! What to do? What to do?
There’s this whole British embarrassment thing going on, you see, that says if someone behaves inappropriately on a train, you have to ignore it and not make a fuss. It is best exemplified by an apocryphal story from back in the days of British Rail.
***BRIEF WRITING HIATUS WHILE I LOOK IT UP ***
I was going to tell it and I thought I’d Google it because I’m a dreadful storyteller. That is, I’m dreadful at telling stories; I don’t tell dreadful stories. I hope. I tend to wander off down random alleyways, like Ronnie Corbett on acid, and this post is supposed to be a five-minute read; but clearly isn’t. I don’t want to make it even longer.
When I Googled the story, I discovered it’s actually true! And, unfortunately, a little too blue for a family blog, so you’ll have to click on this link if you want to know the story. And you should click on the link, because you’ll never read a more accurate example of true Britishness.
So there I was, British and embarrassed, but I had paid for that seat and First Class is a rare treat so I blushed from the hair on my head to the hair on my toes and whispered to the gentleman that I thought he might have – excuse me – put his belongings on my seat and would he mind terribly…?
He did not mind, being British and horribly embarrassed at his very public solecism; and he stood up to let me past (no squeezing past because this was First Class and there was tons of room) to my window seat, moving his belongings out of the way. We smiled politely without making eye contact and then ignored each other as much as possible.
I got comfortable: Kindle out – hardly read a page when oh goodie! the tea came round – oops! forgot to message the Hub that I’m safe on the train – and should I message Al that I’m on my way? Yes, because I’m really excited – get bag out – phone out – message them – put phone away – bag away – oh, wait – wanted to write something in my notebook – get bag out – put Kindle away – get notebook out – put bag away – write three lines in notebook – get bag out – put notebook away – get Kindle out – put bag away…and so on. Then breakfast was served and I swear my neighbour had a mini-stroke.
I wish I was joking. Sadly, I’m not: I am that annoying passenger you wish hot tea would spill upon. I assure you it’s not deliberate; it’s nerves. I’m an anxious – and therefore fidgety – traveller. Sorry about that, multiple strangers I’ve annoyed in my lifetime.
To be on the safe side, I ordered something I could eat with a minimum of fuss i.e. no cutlery, so it was two overdone sausages on a dry roll instead of the full English I’d have ordered if I hadn’t been A. embarrassed at how irritating I was and B. worried that I might cause the businessman to have a heart attack if he had to sit through my sideways fidgets on top of everything else.
The roll was dry, by the way, because I’m not used to being posh. When I buy something on a bread roll from a shop, for example, I just expect the roll to be buttered, because it has never not been buttered. The Other Half, however (and how I was wishing by this point that I wasn’t discovering how they lived), are offered butter and thus choose to have it on the bread roll or not, according to their dietary needs, I suppose. Unfortunately for me, a surfeit of choice from some people having more money than sense means that ordinary working class women are left ignorant when offered butter and think it is extra butter and don’t want to betray their ignorance of the Ways of the Rich or their own on again-off again diets and so decline the extra pat which turns out not to be extra at all; just simply all.
And of course, being British, when I discovered I was down one butter pat and would have to eat a dry roll or ask for butter after all, I chose to eat a dry roll.
That drama over, I looked up from my half-eaten breakfast (would you eat an overcooked sausage on a dry bread roll? Then stop judging me) and made the truly appalling discovery that there only five passengers in the whole coach…which meant I had made a stranger move his things for nothing!
I wanted to crawl into that leftover bread roll and be served on a platter to The Giant Embarrassment (I believe you’ll find him in a fairytale about sex and trains and cigarettes), who eats idiot working class English women for breakfast.
I apologised profusely to my neighbour and then made him move so I could move to the other side of the table and stop crowding him with my blush.
I settled down to read. Had a cup of tea. Wrote in my notebook for a bit. Read some more. Drank tea. Wrote some more. Drank tea. The nice thing about travelling First Class is all the free tea. What I didn’t like was being asked to use the same cup again. I’m a bit of a diva that way so I owned my temporarily elevated status and insisted on a clean cup each time. As there were so few passengers, I used all of the clean cups around, to the side, and behind me.
Then my table mate asked for a second cup.
Guess who had used all of the clean cups…?
Kill me now.
When the train pulled into Euston two hours after setting off, I was seven pounds lighter from all of the nervous sweating I’d done. No wonder my fellow passenger did a runner the minute we stopped.
But he did wish me a good day; he was British after all: there’s no need to be rude to the aggravating hoyden who took all the space, drank all the tea, fidgeted, unnecessarily moved him twice and – worst sin of all – left crumbs on her seat from her dry breakfast roll. Why not use butter like ordinary people?
First Class…it’s not for me. As I discovered when I obsessively checked my ticket before returning home that day: First Class had only been booked one way; the train company website had been rather vague when I booked my ticket and I hadn’t noticed that the home ticket cost £23 to the outward journey’s £73; which meant that my half-eaten and unappetising breakfast had, in effect, cost me £50.
I had to travel back in standard class instead of First. I’ve never been so relieved in all my life.
More to follow on the lovely day I had with my fellow bloggers; but the post will probably be considerably shorter.