Last Mondays trip down to Birmingham on the excellent Cross Country Trains service was as always, excellent, and provided one small moment of mirth, one of those moments where you can see what is going to happen and you could stop it from happening, but you don’t, just for the hell of it.
It started as usual at 6.45am with my one mile trek to our local station carrying two bags laden down with clothing for a week, laptop and enough dvd’s to amuse me in the hotel room of a night (this time it was two Clint Eastwood films (one acting, one directing, “Mystic River” & “Bloodwork” and the evergreen ever excellent “Serpico” with Al Pacino), I also took “Black Swan” in reserve but fortunately went for a Chinese that night instead.
So I staggered down the hill laden like a mule train, strange how no-one is around (or awake) in the house when I need a lift to the station and yet I’m called on to get the car out nearly every night when someone else needs picking up, and the normal huge throng of commuters waiting for the 7.32 into Leeds.
It beggars belief why no-one at Northern Rail has thought of it before but here’s a big clue chaps – put more carriages on your fooking commuter trains, especially, lets say, when the commuters want to use them, like, erm, oh I don’t know, in the morning and in the evening – huh ?
So I stand up all the way into Leeds, it sounds horrendous doesn’t it, its not really, its only two stops and ten minutes and why complain for £1.60, in fact if I had the balls I wouldn’t even pay because I don’t need to go through the barriers when I arrive at Leeds (tee-hee) I don’t though, I pay because its a pound to a pinch of shit that the day I don’t pay is the day when some jobsworth of a guard will fight his way through the carriages demanding to see tickets and no end of “Oh hello, do you know my cousin, he’s a train guard too” will help.
I swap platforms at Leeds and await the 8.11am to Birmingham New Street, the inter-city trains are a different kettle of fish, I’ve never been let down by Cross Country Trains, well, apart from that hilarious day in December, and last Monday was no exception, train arrived on time, clean, modern, seat reserved in the quiet coach, and for a change there was hardly anyone on it, I settled down at my table seat to read my book for two hours – always a good start to a week.
Theres a bloke sat opposite me working on his laptop and because we’re English we don’t even acknowledge each other and pretend that neither one is there, I read Sebastian Faulks “One Day in December” and he taps away on his laptop. The train stops at Wakefield and Sheffield and a few get off and get on, its all very smooth and very quiet and someone else is paying the fare and its a good book so I’m in a jolly mood.
The bloke opposite me turns to check the toilet at the far end of the carriage a few times but its occupied each time he looks and then just outside Chesterfield its empty and so he asks me if I wouldn’t mind awfully just keeping an eye on his stuff, I nod and he goes to the toilet.
The train stops in Chesterfield, its a quick stop, hardly anyone gets off or on.
And then the bloke who was sat opposite me but is now in the toilet suddenly bursts through the door into the carriage, grabs his two bags, his laptop and his coat, shouts “oh fook” and runs for the door, it appears that he’s getting off at Chesterfield.
“You’re not going to make it” I mumble to myself and a grin spreads across my face as I hear the swish of the doors closing automatically and three gentle bleeps as the guard indicates that the train is locked down and ready to leave.
I can see my bloke stood in the lobby of the carriage frantically pressing at the “Open Doors” button, and I chuckle to myself, “Definitely not going to make it” I think and I’m right as the train starts to move off.
“I bet he doesn’t come and sit down here again” I wager to myself but I’m wrong because he does, like a small schoolboy who’s just been to see the headmaster after he’s been on the phone to the train manager (they call them “train managers” not “guards” on Cross Country, they are posh you see).
“They wouldn’t let me off” he wails, “I was stood having a piss when I felt the train stop and shouted “Noo-oooo” ” and I laugh at him, a genuine laugh not a polite laugh because I think its funny that he’s being forced to travel all the way to Derby now, its funny and its ironic because Derby was the scene of my own “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” moment last December.
“Whens the next stop” he asks.
“Derby” I state
“Is it far”
“About twenty minutes” and I laugh again, rotten bastard.
He fills the next twenty minutes in productively by ringing his boss who is waiting for him at Chesterfield where they are both going to a meeting and between them they establish that if he gets off in Derby he’ll have exactly 60 seconds to dash across three platforms and catch a local train back to Chesterfield, I listen to all this while pretending to read and hope that we are 45 seconds late arriving at Derby.
The last I saw of him was as a streak of lightning dashing up the footbridge stairs on Derby station, three steps at a time, just as a guards whistle blew on a train on another platform and I hoped it was his connection that was just leaving because its good to laugh at other peoples misfortune, especially first thing on a Monday morning, its the perfect way to start the week in fact.