Beannachd Leibh (Scotland Part 3)
Right, you’ve stuck it out this long, and for that I give you credit. Do you realise this is turning into a long-term relationship? Hey well, I’ve been told I’m a good catch, though don’t go getting any grandiose ideas here! (And that goes for my mystery texter with the baby oil too!) Let’s just stick to the blog posts for now, shall we? So (drum roll!) it’s on to the final installment in my Scotland series…
After a weekend of amazing scenery, Bondage Bob, and deep-fried Mars Bars, Teddy and I were dropped off at Glasgow Central in plenty of time to get the train back down to London Euston. I say “plenty of time”, but that plenty expanded exponentially due to the delayed arrival of our Virgin train. In a nutshell, I had a good hour to kill. And there’s only so many times you can keep going into The Body Shop to sample the balm, you know? I love balm. Good balm. If you want to court me, buy me balm. I don’t need diamonds. I just need balm! Oh, sorry, I’m digressing, aren’t I?
With my hands nicely balmed up, I headed over to the chilly platform, where I got into conversation with some lost Dutchman about the rubbish public transport system in Britain, which killed a bit more time until the big red Virgin train pulled in, spewing out its harried passengers so that this new batch of harried passengers could climb on. I quickly confiscated a couple of seats (Teddy prefers the window since he likes to look out at the passing landscape), and we settled in, my only worry being when to start on the packed lunch my mate Ben had prepared for me. We weren’t even half a mile out of Glasgow Central before our supposedly high-speed train came to a dead halt between a scenic pile of rubble and some grim tower blocks. We sat there admiring the view through our rain-streaked window (Ted wasn’t impressed), waiting for an explanation as to why we didn’t seem to be going anywhere.
At long last the train lurched back into service, doddering along like a little old man for a good twenty minutes until it picked up a more respectable speed. The explanation, when it finally came, prompted the entire car to erupt into laughter. It was the classic British Rail excuse – the one we’ve all heard about, yet always believed was a myth. LEAVES ON THE LINE. Now I’ve been through it all, including a delayed train blamed on a “fatality on the line” in Romford. Okay, I admit, if I lived in Romford I’d be tempted to fling myself in front of a speeding train, too. Having said that, it was also Valentine’s Day. Talk about a double whammy…. As for this delayed train, I was not at all happy about the fact that it would get me into Central London right at the start of Monday evening rush hour. The beautiful Scottish landscape I’d left behind was fast fading in my mind’s eye. However, just before we crossed the border into England, I saw one last rainbow from out of the train window. And this time I made a wish.
With each place it stopped, our train became more and more packed with passengers. Bits of luggage were shoved everywhere and anywhere, dangling precariously above our heads and sticking out into the aisles, which made trips to the loo a challenge. We held onto our seats as if they were made of gold (which in a way they were). Poor Teddy was clinging by a thread to his window seat, growling at anyone who so much as even glanced in his direction. You’d think Virgin Trains would allow for the high number of passengers on their west coast route by adding additional cars. I’ve travelled this route a lot, and it always ends up standing-room only in either direction. One time I had to sit on my suitcase in the snack bar, another time by the loo. In fact, I once saw a woman so desperate for a seat that she actually sat on the toilet. I mean, we’d all paid for a seat, so why couldn’t we all GET a seat? I tell you, if there was ever a reason to do another volume of Getting Even: Revenge Stories…
To add some comic relief into the fray, the little electronic signs above our seats didn’t kick into gear until well into our journey, sparking off chaos when nearly all of them suddenly announced “Reserved” (omitting such pertinent information as reserved from where TO where) – whereupon those of us who’d laid claim to a seat early on had to embark on a game of musical chairs. Still more comic relief came in the form of a new passenger who kept dragging her suitcase up and down the aisle as she hunted for her reserved seat, passing it again and again and asking everyone if they knew where seat number 58 was. I tried to contain my laughter, as did the fellow seated across the aisle from me as she passed seat 58 for the fifth time, eventually abandoning her quest and moving on to the next car, suitcase in tow. Seat 58 steadfastly remained where it was, empty and very likely snickering at the woman’s folly. As I munched on some nuts, I worried if the smelly fellow with his smelly dog whom I encountered on the journey north was going to end up on my train again on the journey south. Fortunately he didn’t appear. In his stead, we were blessed with the company of a marathon nose blower who got on somewhere between Warrington Bank Quay and Crewe, and this Pavarotti of the nasal passages regaled us with a series of wet arias that seemed to be never-ending in their length and frequency.
After this interminable journey, we finally arrived in London (late of course) – a place where I’ve often felt that if I ever fell down in the street no one would even notice. After a lovely weekend of being looked after and cared for, the sudden shock that nobody is there waiting for you at the other end can be quite overwhelming. This wasn’t helped by the fact that the weather was awful, with great gusts of cold wind and rain pissing down. Not the nicest welcome home, by a long shot. To make matters worse, the stairs leading into the tube were slippery and dangerous as hell. If you’ve ever taken the London Underground, you’ll know that everyone is always in a big bloody hurry to get somewhere (or nowhere). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve imagined myself crashing to a broken heap at the bottom of the stairs and being stepped over as a mere nuisance to the flow of foot traffic.
I will say that returning on this dismal autumn day had a brief moment of redemption when, as I gingerly made my way down the stairs, a young man suddenly appeared at my side, asking in a heavy London accent if he could carry my suitcase (and no, he didn’t steal it!). Frankly, I was gobsmacked. For a moment I thought I might be in the wrong city, until I got on the tube train – and the first language I heard being spoken was Russian.
Yup. I was back in The Big Smoke, alright!
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