The Journey to the South West

It’s been a bit of a day.

I left the house at half past nine this morning with enough clothes packed for a long weekend and made my way to the railway station. To begin with everything went wonderfully – with quiet trains making their way from station to station without too much fuss – like automatons ticking off the minutes of their schedule.

Everything went wonderfully until it didn’t any more.

While waiting on the track-side at Reading railway station for the third train of my journey towards the south-west, the automated announcer made an ominous admission that seat reservations would not be valid on the service.

When the train arrived, mayhem broke out. What should have been a nine carriage train had only five carriages. All of the seats were taken before the several hundred new passengers boarded.

It’s funny – looking back. Some people (I might like to include myself in this group) roll with whatever situation presents itself, and make the best of it. Others seem to be completely and utterly myopic about anybody outside of the six inches around themselves.

Guess who – after being squashed into the entrance area of a carriage for a few minutes, gazing at the line of people that had only advanced part-way into the carriage – was the one who spoke up, and politely asked if everybody standing might walk further into the carriage to at least allow us room to move?

That would be me.

I spent the next two hours stood in the middle of the train among everybody else as it lumbered across the countryside. The train manager came over the public address system and apologised – encouraging all passengers to complain on social media. He volunteered the situation was entirely out of his control, and that he thought it entirely unacceptable. He had my sympathy – I can’t imagine how many self-important little-hitlers had accosted him during the journey so far.

As time wore on, the inevitable happened, and various people needed to go to toilet. They had to climb through the carriage – sliding past the people in the aisle – of which I was one. One particular lady had no alternative, given her shapely figure – but to become altogether too familiar with everybody she passed. She apologised to my face – an inch away – as she eased past me. I felt awful for her, and then wondered if the entire train might have been a pervert’s dream come true.

Thankfully as we reached each station along the way, a few people got off – slowly dwindling those standing until we all had seats.

I think the thing that struck me most during the ordeal was how well mannered we are – the English – for the most part. Nobody complained. Everybody just got on with it. Sure, there were a few elderly ladies looking like they were chewing wasps, but they at least kept their vitriol to themselves. I imagine their families will never hear the end of it.

I met my Dad at Liskeard station at about 3:30pm – five and a half hours after setting off. Once you get into the south west, I’m always reminded of the station the Pevensy children are dropped off at in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. After leaving London, the peace and quiet and birdsong are quite remarkable.

Half an hour later we were at my parents house, with my Mum plying me with glasses of wine, and making plans to cook dinner. It’s funny how your parents look forward to visits and start throwing food and drink at you immediately on arrival. I should visit more often, I suppose.

I’m going to shout them a take-away tomorrow night.

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