On the face of it, train travel should be enjoyable. There’s no map reading to speak of, falling asleep is actively encouraged, as is drinking and there’s absolutely no chance of having to change a wheel in a busy lay-by in the rain. Given all this then, why is it I still find myself constantly on edge. The answer is simple – passengers! Travelling by train presents the constant worry that I am about to be set upon by idiots, thugs, drunkards, megalomaniacs or those terrifying people who are just that little bit too friendly. Irrespective of whether any of the above people actually turn up, I’m unable to relax, even if the journey is to last a buttock-numbing eight hours.
The characters present on my most recent sojourn were, in fact, slightly less extreme than I had anticipated. The first gentleman I was seated next to was not long out of his teenage years. He carried, like many about us, a rucksack and a copy of that morning’s newspaper. Everything seemed perfectly normal until about fifteen minutes into the journey, when my neighbour decided that it was time for some light refreshment. From the bag he proceeded to remove, an empty Lucozade bottle, a two litre bottle of Sprite and an enormous bottle of Southern Comfort. For the next two hours he happily mixed himself a selection of cocktails of varying strengths until, on reaching his stop, he disembarked somewhat less steadily that he’d arrived.
No sooner had the trainee bartender left, than a grey suited businessman joined us. He positioned himself next to the window, opened his briefcase and pulled out a plain manila file. I must admit I didn’t really pay much attention to him until I noticed that he was enjoying the contents of his folder in both landscape, as well as portrait aspect. Viewed through the window's reflection I couldn’t read the articles too well but the pictures looked fine. The following station brought the arrival of the, now obligatory, Hen Party. It was at this point that the businessman decided to pop his top shelf facts and figures away and get on with some real work. The throng of ladies was unfortunately everything you’d expect…. and more.
The only other excitement to speak of was the announcement that the trolley service had run out of sandwiches somewhere around Newcastle. Attempts were made to take on extra stock at York, however only six rounds of cheese and tomato could be found. I arrived into London relatively unscathed and on time. It was however raining, but i doubt National Express Trains give refunds for that.