I have just spent twenty minutes in a toilet cubicle with a lovely couple. That is the sort of thing that London Midland can drive you to, dogging/cottaging situations at 17 miles per hour. The train was rammed, its 4 carriages, as usual, not enough for the number of slightly late businesspeople and daytrippers eager to be disappointed by Leicester Square and fleeced by Camden Town. At Watford Junction, this precarious mass was informed that they were in a wheelchair space. This was announced as if it was by some choice.
“darling, despite the pastoral expanse offered by the train company, let us do out territorial pissings around here to ensure a wheelchair does not invade our space, they’ll interfere with our expansive arm and leg movements as we use the space for our eager aerobic excercises”.
Surprisingly, I found that I was only one doing grade D (low expletive) swearing, and volubly cursing the train company who were treating us as if we were in the wrong as opposed to the executives who make the cost cutting/ profit upping, “we’ll need to increase fares beyond the rate of inflation as usual” decisions that ensure we all spend so much uncomfortably and aromatically entwined.
We shuffled, concentrating on willing our mass and bone size to decrease.
The toilet was wide open.
To hell with it, all that extra space and, due to some morbid fear of ridicule or Freudian potty training, we had spent the first part of the journey systematically avoiding even the slightest footfall over the line from “carpeted carriage” to “lino of loo”.
“Oh, for pete’s sake, I am just going to stand in the toilet. I’ll get out if anyone wants it”
“it’s broken anyway”, said an observer in a flip top seat.
Well done London Midland, finally a use for your broken toilets.
A couple came to join me.
I put the lid of the toilet down and offered the woman the seat, as I am a gentleman.
She declined it, perhaps having noticed the stew of “wee and bits” that been stirred by train motion since Milton Keynes. (for some reason, the flush design of many modern train toilets is more of a cocktail shake of effluence than removal of the outgoings) There would be a lid on it, but that was not enough.
As we arrived at Euston, and the carriage doors opened, I had the feeling that I was now at the opening of a feco freak Doctor Who (you make the puns yourself).
Sometimes In my current show, I rail at those who say they “just want to switch off”. I think of the billions of years that have led to a creature having a skull that contains something that wants to look at the stars and the sea and the creatures around it and ask, “why is that like that? Why does that beetles scuttle that way? How long has the photon of light taken from leaving that star to hitting the back of my eye?”
I worry about the culture that is produced seemingly to assist this process of switching off. But on days when I see the commuter, I realise why. Last night, I spent hours at Euston due to “a failed train in south Watford”, and I was forced to break my promise to my son that we would read together at bedtime. This morning, standing in the loo with the lovely couple, I remind myself that I am lucky to spend much of my life immersed in doing what i want to do. I do not have the monotony of public transport on the way to a job that bores or crushes me. I am not excluded from public transport debacles, though there is variety in mine due to my geographically preposterous tour schedule – it is Sheffield, Dumfries, Liverpool, Cardiff, Salford this week, the lines make patterns that might summon a demon if drawn on parchment.
How fortunate I am that I don’t want to switch off, because when the switch is on I am using it to do what I like. Maybe I am beginning to understand Gogglebox, and I am lucky that I do not need it…not yet.
I am railing in a town near you – Sheffield, Harrogate, Belfast, Dublin, Newcastle, Nottingham, Cardiff, Goole, Bridgwater, Liverpool and on and on. Details HERE
I am doing a new selection of mumbling with Michael Legge, it is meant to be about music and is HERE
Being a regular commuter between Birmingham- Northampton – London on the dreaded London Midland service I can confirm the truth of which you speak. Even with a first class ticket, the limited first class coaches get full fast. It seems you pay the extra to stand squished next to a better class/smell of passenger. I’d like to take my three year old daughter out to the nearby attractions by train, but unless we get the train out after the flood at 11am and get back before the tide comes in at 3pm the train journey becomes frankly dangerous to a toddler. These commuters don’t give an inch. They’ve argued with me over my daughter taking up their valuable laptop space on a table (sitting her on the table while I stood, was the only safe option). My answer to him – of course it was a ‘him’ who not only let a woman and child stand but was arguing that his laptop should get priority over a child- he should get to the office earlier and work in the environment so nicely set up by his employers specifically for him to work in, or get something portable like an iPad, this is a train not ‘his’ mobile office. He proceeded to mumble something about how important his job is. Yeah an important person gets an iPad and a helicopter or driver, not a ticket for London Midland cattle class and a 2year old cheap netbook. Hmmmm.