While travelling north on the train today for yet another few days holed up in a distant hotel, I replied to a friend that enquired about my destination – “north of the wall”. If you don’t watch “Game of Thrones”, the quote is going to be lost on you. Let’s just say “north of the wall” essentially means going past the “there be dragons” bit on the map.
Of course I’m talking rubbish, but then you didn’t really expect anything else really, did you.
I’m in Lancashire for the next few days – I will be working in the top floor of the office across the way, pretending to be clever for a few days (read: teaching). It’s worth noting that I’m not a teacher, but I know some things. Not in the manner of “Rita Sue and Bob Too”, where her Dad claims “I done some things” – more in the manner of I’m a colossal nerd that knows a ridiculous amount about very narrow subjects – and it turns out that knowledge is worth money.
Travelling aboard the great British transport network furnishes you with all manner of people watching opportunities – and this journey didn’t disappoint.
I guess the biggest observation about the journey – a journey I have made countless times before – is that it has become incredibly routine – easy almost. I think a part of that is because of all the small things I do in advance that pay off later. I carry 30 pence in small change for the toilets at Euston station. I buy train tickets several days beforehand, so I don’t have to concern myself with them en-route. I use an oyster card in central London, which allows me to tap into and out of underground stations without stopping. The list goes on and on.
Here’s the biggest pro-tip of all when travelling in England by train – always check the ETA times in the network rail app for the next several trains going in your direction – don’t presume you should be getting on the very next train. If I could count the number of times I’ve ended up on “stopping trains”, crawling through the countryside, I would be able to count all my fingers and toes by now probably. The other evening the train I was on stopped at a station called “Martin’s Heron” – I wondered if we were in Narnia.
So today I left Euston, bound for the north, and a pretty Asian lady sat down next to me. She then fell asleep, and leaned all over me, but we’ll try to erase that from our mind. She got off the train after an hour or so, and was replaced by a businessman who immediately took up 70% of the two seats we were sitting in. I looked at his elbow, halfway across my lap, and then at his face – he wouldn’t dare look at me. I shook my head, and tried to concentrate on whatever was going on outside the window, while imagining all the things I could have said to him if I was a bit more brave.
We finally arrived in “the north” (and no, I’m not going to give more detail than that), and it was raining. I was sitting on the train in a t-shirt and scruffy cargo shorts. Guess who checked in at the hotel, and then walked straight over to the supermarket across the road to buy a pair of jeans, and a sweater ?
The hotel is entirely predictable. It’s part of a chain, and you would be hard pressed to tell which one you are staying in without looking outside. The rooms are always identical, and everything (usually) works. I like it when things work. I’ve eaten the pre-packed salad I bought from the supermarket, and am thinking about pouring another glass of the cheap wine I also bought.
I wonder what’s on the TV ?