The excitement of a train ride in to London vanished at the ticket office like butter haemorrhaging through a blisteringly hot crumpet. A straight-faced ticket seller looking remarkably like Olive from On the Buses looked up at me, said ‘let me see now, I could do you a return for £29.’ It’s as if he was trying his best to do me a favour and what exactly did that mean? Did he have a choice? If he tried harder could he lower the price, perhaps a sleeper with a private balcony, en-suite bathroom and IMAX? Unlikely to get the fare reduced to £14 I accepted Olive’s generous offer and headed off to platform 3.
The train stank. I mean the train fucking stank! I just parted with £29 and the train was packed to the rafters with economy travel tourists heading into Tottenham Hale, and the train stank. It was near enough impossible to escape the carriage as the express train stuttered into a forward motion. I don’t remember having taken in such a stench before; it consumed my inner being; an amalgam of sweaty packed lunches consisting of cabbage, boiled eggs, gorgonzola, deep fried liver and kidneys and body odour of the grizzliest order. I fought back the urge to vomit as I stumbled through the carriage trying to maintain some coolness, hard though it was, and into the next carriage. More tourists, and accompanied by the fettered stench, although it had dissipated, slightly. I soon stumbled into the third carriage on my journey, and although traces of the great stench were still evident I managed to find a seat next to an obese Albanian heavy metal freak with dark hair mushrooming from his ears. The three carriages reminded me of a camp Transylvanian Hammer horror movie, third rate actors hamming it up, drinking beer from steins, talking in cockney rhyming slang and slapping their lederhosen.
Managed to compose myself by the time we crawled past Harlow Town, so much for getting into London early for a few bevvies before meeting up with everyone, this train was not going to make it on time, it could only have something to do with the stench messing up the air-conditioning which would then affect the overhead lines. We picked up speed at Broxbourne and then by Cheshunt the train stooled, then deciding to take the scenic route over tracks not used since 1964 and past ghost stations overrun by tumbleweed. So why no loudspeaker apology? This was freaking me out almost as much as the stench on the train, which was still lingering by the way like this fart I once experienced in car one morning when hung over, but that’s for another blog. Surely it would not be too much of an effort to announce something like: ‘good afternoon valued customers, first of all on behalf of our shareholders let me say a big thank you for shelling out for your tickets, this is very much appreciated; and apologies for the unacceptable stench in the carriages, we will look into this and make an effort to turn the air-conditioning on in future, and another apology for running late; this is due to an earlier derailment hence the need to zip past Clapton and Rectory Road, but once at Liverpool Street, please present your ticket at the barriers and in return we will give you a fiver in cash and a Cornish pasty on the house.’ Yes, I know, never in a million years. But we get the pointless security announcements instead, in a multitude of languages, about not forgetting to take our personal belongings with us. It’s a little like the mind the gap announcement, I mean what on earth would happen if the announcements just stopped overnight? Are we really going to head foot first straight into that void between the train and platform into oblivion, one passenger after another? Lemmings? Thinking about it now, possibly, cue debate on the harmful effects of social media.
Arrived 20 minutes late, stressed, but not too bad, time for a red in a pub swelling with suits…