Two halves of the ticket

22nd October 2004 at 01:00
I've been on my hols. On a Virgin train. Going down was so exciting. Free newspapers, Radio 4, plug for mobile (shame mine was in my suitcase), plug for laptop (shame I haven't got one) and plug for hair-drier (forgot my hairbrush too!).

I also had a really nice cup of tea served by a really nice lady in a really nice buffet which had really nice little guides to tell me where to look out the window to see the Angel of the North. (Shame I was on the west coast line.)

I also met two really nice women (round a table) and we had a really nice conversation (yep, even the gynaecological bits) and ignored the loud American behind us. Toilets were a bit overwhelming. Great big circular things (I felt more exposed having a wee in there than up on Ben Nevis on a busy Sunday). I struggled to find how the water, soap and drier worked and thought a blind person wouldn't have a chance despite the Braille everywhere.

Coming home, the radio didn't work. Someone was in my seat and got narked when I told them. There was no room for legs if you didn't have the coveted table, and it was incredibly claustrophobic in the window seat. Tea was hot water and a separate tea bag thrown at me. I asked for a free Scotsman and was told "if you must".

I must, and I took one, and she put the other 20 on the floor behind the counter in the huff. The luggage kept falling out of the racks, and halfway to Edinburgh in a packed train came the announcement that only one toilet was working. Before we could even summon a groan, she then added peevishly that someone had been sick in one (it's not as if he could open a window for a bit of air, so I felt for him) and we'd better be careful to flush the toilet that did work.

When I went, someone had peed on the seat (and I don't think it was a woman), and the lady who made the announcements was announcing that someone had lit a cigarette and set off the fire alarm and she'd get the police if she caught whoever it was. I felt all eyes swivel accusingly as I stumbled back over all the fallen luggage.

An earnest young man told me about his granny who went to church five times a week, and made up for the rest of the family, and added he'd be a Buddhist but he didn't fancy being celibate. I quietly closed my book (Buddhism without Belief), slid it back in my bag and wondered if that explained it then.

At Edinburgh, I changed trains, bought Good Housekeeping, a little bottle of wine from Markies, clambered on the slow train home and tried to remember the joy of the standing stones at Avebury, the Tate (Gwen John good, Tracey Emin crap), the films I'd seen (Frida and Brief Encounter), the people I'd met up with . . .

Soon be Christmas, eh?

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