rail of a time

15, long train journeys

Halfway there! 15 of 30. It feels like a journey, a train of thought, one with lots of stations and the bogs are blocked. If this series was the Northern Line, I’d be at Golders Green, about to enter the tunnel below Hampstead, on my way to the pub in Camden Town.

I like travelling by train, and alone, so I can read, or draw, and have my headphones on, and look out of the window. Except if I do need to go to the toilet I worry about leaving my stuff. And if I take it with me, I worry about someone nicking my seat, you know you get those people who seem to spend the entire train journey shuffling up and down the corridors, never actually sitting down anywhere. Then you get those people who don’t sit next to the window, but put their bags there, so nobody will ask to sit there. The ticket inspector inspects your ticket, and places that little magic piece of card above your seat, which magically compells you to sit there forever until your stop, so that if a smelly or noisy person sits nearby, you can’t move, because the inspector will think you’re a new person. Then there’s those compartments above the seat for your bags, which are always just too small for your bag, and you just know you’ll leave it up there and forget (I have done this). Then there’s the ones that cross borders several times in the night, all the stopping and starting, the inspector wakes you up to check tickets, then the passport man comes in to look at passports, then after an hour sat on the border you roll across, having finally gotten back to sleep, only for another passport controller to come in and check you are who you’re supposed to be, along with another ticket inspector an hour or so later, and then the whole thing is repeated a few hours of non-sleep later as you cross into a new country. Then the hordes of people sleeping on the floor in the aisles, plus the lads from the Hungarian hostels coming on board to wake you up and attempt to get your business. Then you have those stories of gangs of thieves who enter trains at night, and gas those little compartments where everyone is sleeping so they won’t wake up, ransacking their bags for cameras and money, and vanish into the night. Then there’s those Agatha Christie murders. I’ll tell you one thing though, if you are getting those night trains, get on board early and get the window seat so you have something to lean against. Better still, get a reservation at the station and insist on the window, that way if someone is sat there already, you can make them move, waving your reservation at them. I had to do this once. After too many night trains where I was the one sat in the middle, unable to doze off, I didn’t care.

Fifteen more entries to go!