Just Another Train Ride

A Useful Blonde Girl – 12 December 2014
So far so good, there was somewhere to park my car (not always so easy at Oxenholme) and it was an eleven-car Pendolino (as opposed to nine which some of them are and they take the same number of people) and I have one of my regular seats, facing forward by the window in the low-roofed part of the carriage. It’s dark outside, so being by the window is not as significant as at other times of the day, but you can still see the stations and periodic Christmas lights on houses if you are by the window. It feels more airy. And there are no African women nearby who want to pull the blinds down. African women for some reason always want to pull down the blinds on trains and aeroplanes – another one of life’s un-researched mysteries.
As I am off to see a company about some possible work I am wearing a business suit, I have not worn one of them for at least eight years, and it still fits me perfectly, despite Hilary’s insistence that I am losing weight. Seems that I’m not.
But I’m pleased to be doing the train ride, I like train rides. Pleased to be on the business trip too, maybe that’s just nostalgia, or perhaps it’s a case of feeling a big chap, one with meaning in life. Little things please little minds, and little chaps. Whatever it is it feels good.
Glaswegian train manager: do take keer steeping on to the plaatfrms eedge. Difficult doing these phonetic transcriptions. At Lancaster get on and sit behind me a woman and her son of about ten speaking Polish or possibly Russian, both rather substantial in girth, the boy playing games on his mobile that make beeping noises, and eating and drinking things that smell sweet and sickly. At one point his machine starts playing boring head-banging music. I ask him to turn it down a bit, his mum tells him off angrily in Polish. Or Russian.
On the foursome opposite my little slot on this train arrive at Preston two women in their what? forties? From their mobile phone conversations with ‘love’ they’ve obviously been to a funeral, of someone very old. London accents. Prominent spare-tyre bellies. They look at old black-and-white photographs with a magnifying glass that has a torch on it. They have some ancient photograph albums, presumably picked up at the funeral. ‘It went well, it went very well, weren’t many people there, but as you say, at her age all her peers are gone.’ (I don’t think that ‘love’ had said anything like that on the phone.)
As the train passes Crewe, the less large, possibly a bit younger, and definitely more agile of the two women goes to buy teas from the onboard shop, and to accompany her cardboard cup of tea she tucks into a plastic carton of fruit. ‘Do you like mango?’, says fatter one with the walking stick. ‘Mmm’, nodding, ‘I love mango’. Definitely not northern then, despite the belly size. But the bigger one with stick doesn’t join in the fruit, she eats a biscuit.
I eat my dinner that evening in Pizza Express on Euston Road. Always one of my favourite restaurants, it is getting even better as it gets ever busier and they make less and less space between the tables so it is beginning to resemble one of those old-fashioned Parisian restaurants where everyone sits at a communal bench. As it was in Paris, everyone gets on with their own business and there’s no chance for snootiness. I sit between two Indian bankers and two young nurses from the hospital up the road (UCH), the bankers more interesting to earwig than the nurses.
Will I get any work out of this? Hard to say, a number of factors will sway the thing, but anyway I’ve got to do a quote, which will be quite complex as I’ve told the MD I’ll quote in modules.
On the train coming back on the evening of my day-long meeting the following day I need to sit in a table seat because I am writing on the laptop a preliminary report to show that I understood all that was explained to me, and a table seat, unlike my usual slot seat, has a mobile charger socket so I can write away with no power-loss worries. I find myself sitting opposite a young blonde woman who has a bottle of Coca Cola Zero (yuk) and who seems to have been to London to look at accoutrements for her forthcoming wedding. Oh dear, and she is going to spend much of the journey talking to her mum on the mobile. Might need to go and buy myself a beer when the onboard shop opens.
Going on about clothes. She’s looking at a magazine. ‘Like he used to wear a lot of Jack Wills and that and he went on to Barbour and country like and now he wears like a mixture of the two.’
‘I don’t know what to get you for Christmas but is there anything you particularly want? There is something you’ll be getting but you know about that. That necklace! Can I get you something similar to last year, something from Chanel?’
‘. . . it’s Adriana Pappel!' (well I did look it up when I got home, it’s a designer brand what else?)
The blonde girl goes to the buffet between Watford and Milton Keynes, and returns with a bottle of white wine (didn’t expect that) and a bag of crisps that smell like sick. Does not loudly crunch the crisps however. I am warming to this girl, wine drinking and not crunching crisps, she’s not as much of a lost cause as her conversation made me think. But anyway I’m too busy to talk to her, not least because I’m writing about her on my laptop in between formulating a summary of the day, and she gets off at Preston.
And yes, I did buy myself a beer to cheer me up between regales of clothes and perfumes, and that was one reason why I went for a wee in the onboard bog, took a photo, and began a Facebook conversation about toilets, and then wrote a blog piece: Virgin Trains – Brand is All, so overall the blonde girl did me no end of good.

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