Travel Sick

Travelling. Hate it. Not the round the world sort, but the sitting-in-a-sardine-tin for hours sort. Be it by car, train or – god forbid – coach, you can count on it that I’ll be sulking because it takes too long. I reckon even when they’ve got space rockets whizzing from Edinburgh to London in 3 minutes, I’ll still gripe about it.

Living in Edinburgh is fabulous apart from one thing; it is miles away from everywhere. There is nothing else in a decent radius except for Glasgow, and even that journey takes 45 minutes on the ‘fast’ train. Yes, contrary to what English people may think it is not possible to drive the entirety of Scotland in half an hour. So, to get around in this country, you have to get on trains (eek), cars (boo) or even coaches (hell no, I haven’t got anything to WEAR in that sort of transport).

My usual trick for getting around is by train. I’ve got a couple of months left on my Young Person’s Railcard so I’m managing to pay student-type fares just now. This cannot last. The rather un-lovely age of 25 is just six and a half months away (I can’t POSSIBLY be that old! I haven’t even gone through my good-looking stage yet… Perhaps it has been and gone and I was asleep at the time. Life is cruel!), so after that I’ll be paying full bloody whack so I had BETTER have a decent job by then or I’ll be ripping heads off.

I prefer the train for many reasons, including; if you speak in a posh voice and complain about getting cramped you can get an upgrade to First Class no probs. It is always fun to watch the small man with the ‘buffet’ trolley get stuck in doors/ fall over/ spill tea in someone’s lap or face. You can meet some interesting people (OK, well… once I met an interesting person) but of course, there are down sides to travelling by train. What sort of column would this be if I didn’t bitch about something?

More often than not I choose to sit in the smoking carriage for my trips back to Leeds, ‘forgetting’ how much it stinks and how bizarre the people can be in there. Once I got on the early train from Edinburgh to Leeds and counted three drunks in the smoking carriage…at 8.30 in the morning! Where had these people been? I don’t know… but, ‘luckily’, they decided not to torture my head for the journey but pick on some rather unassuming student types instead. Saying that, the smoking carriage is always ripe for a bit of excitement (just yesterday I witnessed a Scottish couple hitting each other over the head with Bacardi bottles) whereas in the non-smoking sections… Well, what is it with these people?

On a recent journey I noticed that the dolt on the other end of the phone when I was booking my ticket had put me in non-Marlboro accommodation when I had clearly requested the opposite (I think his brain cells may have been on a tea break). “Not a prob,” thought I. “I can just nip through to the smoking bit every hour or so for a quick fag”. Oh really? Not if the anal retention team in non-smoking had anything to do with it. First of all I looked for my reserved seat only to find a Geordie in it. When I said it was OK he could sit there as I could see another seat further on with some more attractive people in the vicinity, he started to bellow down the carriage that I could “take the f**king seat if I wanted it.” I did not respond. I simply sat down and pretended to look for something in my bag. Unfortunately, as it had been some time since I dared enter the holy land of non-smoking seating, I was not prepared for the tutting and looks of disdain as, every 45 minutes or so, I made my way back to the carriages of sin where all the smokers sat and caned fags and got rat-arsed on cheap vodka and brandy miniatures.

The smokers eyed me suspiciously as I sat down gasping on a cigarette. I could almost hear them calling me ‘part-timer’ as they argued loudly, discussed people they didn’t even know, farted, and sang. Back I would creep towards the no-fun zone, where everyone was silent and looked at you as if they wanted to blowtorch your eyes out if you stood on their toes.

It was after this experience that I resolved never again to be parted from my special club. Even though I would arrive at my destination stinking of fags and probably drunk, it was worth it just to have a decent journey instead of travelling shoulder to shoulder with the Stepford Wives. Smoking may be bad for your health, but on a 3-hour train journey, it’s the only thing that’s going to save your sanity!