August 03, 2010

The 12:22 service to Stansted Airport will depart from platform 1…

February 1st, 2010

It’s been ages since I last posted anything; I’ve just not been having the inspirational vibes recently. Incidentally, this is exactly why I am currently sitting on the Stansted Flyer from Birmingham New Street, in the hope that a week at home with my mother might be the thing I need to get me motivated enough so that I don’t fall spectacularly over the last hurdle before graduation.

I must confess, I haven’t really got a focus for this note, I’m just rambling because I am going to be stuck on this chronically slow-moving train for the next three hours and need something to stimulate my brain cells. Gazing out of the window is just not doing the job – the scenery on the way out of Birmingham falls painfully short of the word ‘breathtaking’. I suppose it would be unjustified to call Birmingham the worst place on earth, but you can certainly see it from there.

The train today is unusually empty; most of the time I am lucky to get a seat, but today I even managed to get a forward-facing window seat all to myself! Feeling very happy about this, I was just about to spread all of my stuff all over the adjacent seat when, not a moment before the train was supposed to leave, a heavily panting and rather overweight lady asked if she could sit next to me. Of course I wasn’t going to object, taking up two seats is just greedy. But then, not a moment later, the foul, pungent stench of garlic pervaded all the air around me, offending my nose and instantly extinguishing all of the pleasant feeling of good fortune that I was previously enjoying. After a short while I did become a little bit more accustomed to the revolting smell, athough I still seized an opportunity to move to the other side of the table after it became vacant (I went to go and “get” something from my bag – I most definitely didn’t just fiddle with the zips a bit then return to the opposite seat). Either she noticed and was grossly offended by my conspicuous seat-change, or maybe it was just her stop, but either way, she got off at the next station.

Why does this always happen? I’m sure I’m not alone in the view that it doesn’t matter WHERE you sit or where you are, be it on trains, buses or aircraft, there is ALWAYS somebody who makes your journey that little bit less tolerable. Maybe it IS just me being completely intolerant of others’ annoying idiosyncrasies, but seriously, it’s almost as if the train companies plant these annoyants in the carriages for their own personal amusement.

I must say, sitting next to someone with smelly breath is a new one for me; it’s usually the person who tries to read my magazine over my shoulder, or the older fellow who keeps talking at me and telling me tales of back in the day, or the suit-clad business man who unfolds a the Financial Times broadsheet right in my face and rustles the pages in a loud, “I’m very busy and important” way. I’d say that on a scale of one to annoying, these people are probably somewhere in the middle. I do think, however, that the award for most annoying HAS to go to the boy with heavy metal blaring out of earphones loud enough for the whole carriage to hear – today, thankfully, he’s not sitting next to me (he’s sitting behind me, and it’s not heavy metal but a rather peculiar type of what I can only identify as Irish Folk music, although with a weird time signature). The reason he’s the most annoying is because he annoys everyone in the carriage, not just the poor sod that has had misfortune enough to have to sit next to him.

I’ve finished moaning now, I promise. We’ve just pulled away from Oakham station, and I’ve just looked out of the window and seen a brown road-sign reading “Lands’ End”... deary me, I clearly need to consult my atlas – I’ve been under the illusion all these years that Lands End is in Cornwall! Apparently I stand corrected, it’s in Oakham! Where even is Oakham, anyway?!

To my mild amusement, the ticket inspector has just come round, and the woman opposite me looked all flustered, went bright red and nervously giggled, “ohhh, I forgot to buy a ticket, silly me!” Yeah, thought you were gunna get away with it, dincha!

I’m now at Peterborough, which is about half way through my journey. I’m not going to bore you with finding interesting things to fill up this note with for another hour and a half – I’m sure you’re getting a little bored. But before I go, I do have a rather funny story to tell you.

Most modern trains now have these automatic toilet cubicle thingies – you know the ones, those with the electronic sliding door and the “lock door” button that you have to press once you’re inside. Well, I have a morbid fear of them and would rather wet myself in my seat than use one of them. Most phobias are, by definition, completely irrational, although I wouldn’t say this one is, as in the past I have been rather unfortunate in my encounters with electronic toilets...

A few years ago, I went to use one of these toilets and shortly after I went in there and pressed the “lock” button, the door began to open because someone had pressed the button on the outside – I found out the hard way that the “lock” button wasn’t working. The train was literally packed to the rafters and there was what looked like the entirety of a male rugby or football team standing in the area just outside the loo. I don’t think I’ve ever been more embarrassed. Really. I just wanted to evaporate. As I remember it, it was only a few weeks before that when the very same thing happened to me – on The Strand in London; of all the unfortunate places. I couldn’t find a loo anywhere except this one on the street that you pay 20p for, so begrudgingly I paid up. Not a few seconds after the door locked, the whole thing sounded a loud alarm that nearly made me jump out of my skin, and to my horror, the door began to open and water began pissing out from somewhere under the floor. I can only concede that its cleaning time was on a timer, and that cleaning was initiated at this time regardless of the occupancy or not of the cubicle. I guess I was just very unfortunate. So I had to go into my interview (the reason I was in London in the first place), all red and flustered, with wet shoes and feeling murderous. Somehow, I got the job.

It’s a very loser-ish thing to laugh at your own jokes, but the guy sitting opposite me keeps staring at me as I’ve been periodically sniggering whilst I’ve been writing this note, followed by bursting into full, uncontrollable laughter as I wrote the previous paragraph. I love it when that happens, especially when it’s in the most inappropriate of places...

Anyway, I shall leave you with that thought! Ely has just passed me by, I’m nearly home, so thankyou for making my journey more enjoyable. And don’t forget to take all your personal belongings with you when leaving the train.

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