Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Training Day

So I went to Manchester for the weekend, which necessitated yet another voyage on Britain's mighty rail network. Don't worry, I did pack emergency provisions.

I presented myself at Birmingham New Street at midday on Friday. At ten to two, I got on a train. For the next hour, it went backwards and sideways to Nuneaton. Eventually, it made its majestic way northward, and in the end the journey from door to door took me just under six hours. That's only about three hours more than it should do, which as anyone who has braved the West Coast Mainline this summer will know, is actually rather good time.

So for once, it wasn't the delays that annoyed me. What really annoyed me was this. I got on at New Street and bagged myself a window seat - better still, a window seat facing in the direction of travel. Then, brilliantly, nobody sat next to me - yes, space! - until an old man got on. But he didn't sit next to me. Oh no. What he did put on the aisle seat, however, was his man-sized suitcase and several enormous bags. I should explain, he did this without asking my permission, or even making eye contact with me. He just did it. I was now trapped in a cave of suitcase, unable to move an inch - and I really, really needed a wee.

This situation carried on for ages, until at some God-awful hellhole like Macclesfield a different old man got on board, and he had two walking sticks. There was no other seat on the train apart from the one next to me. I suddenly felt a stern tap on the shoulder - a steward. 'Are these yours?' he asked, with a not inconsiderable amount of venom. I pointed accusingly at the Old Man #1, who was shrinking away guiltily, but it was too late. Absolutely everybody in the carriage turned and glared at me, and most tutted loudly under their breath.

Then - then! - Old Man #2 plonked himself down next to me. He proceeded to open a small can of warm Heineken, which it took him at least an hour to drink. I can't wait to be retired - how great it must be when a can of warm lager is an afternoon's activity. The smell of it made my pee situation desperate. I still couldn't get out, because that would clearly involve him moving his lower limbs, which from his bearing appeared to be a Herculean task about equal to a normal person dragging a full filing cabinet down a narrow flight of stairs. By the time I got off, I needed a piss more desperately than at any previous point in my life. When I finally had the chance, it lasted about a minute and a half.

There is, however, a point to all this, and the point is this - don't sit next to me on trains. I know you don't know what I look like, but you'll know from the extent of my glowering, heavy breathing, frowning, muttering and general all-around mardiness. Especially - especially - if you're old. And they say the young have no manners.

Aw Steve!!! Far too polite. There is no way on gods earth I would have allowed some baggage or a crippy old soak to stop me getting to the bog.

Hells bells, if you have to go then you have to go......

The only other option is to pee the seat...............
I've got to be honest, and admit I did consider it, for perhaps a few more minutes than I reasonably should.

I mean, I feel bad ribbing on old people, but they don't half get in the way sometimes.
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