Virgin, monks, alcohol - Train travel to Liverpool
This entry was written en route to Liverpool a couple of weeks ago. Train travel to Liverpool isn’t the norm for me, and I needed something to distract me from feeling travelsick. This was the result.
I’m not a big fan of travelling. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been travel sick on all kinds of transport. Being a passenger in a car is normally the worst though bizarrely I’m not in the least bit travel sick when I drive myself.
This weekend has seen me travelling up to Liverpool to spend some much needed time with MrsDannyUK. It’s a journey I’ve done numerous times before, normally by car. I enjoy the solitude of driving. I crank the music up as loud as it’ll go, more to drown out my own incredibly out-of-key singing than anything else, and drive like the wind. That’s probably an apt description, given that the wind generally does what it wants without giving a damn about anything else. You could say I’m a confident driver.
However, the cost of driving to and from Liverpool is rather expensive. I can quite easily get through a tank full of petrol, and then spend extra using the M6 toll road. It’s not uncommon to spend £80 on travel alone.
Going on to thetrainline.com last week, I noticed that there were tickets to Liverpool for just £22 each way. Granted, it meant coming and going at certain times, but given the saving, it was something I could do.
As I write this, I’m sat on a Virgin train, rapidly heading out of London. I managed to reserve a seat, so fortunately I have a window seat, with access to a plug to charge my phone (train companies running through Essex, take note!). The travelsick part of my brain is already struggling with the tilt that these trains are known for, and I’m already wishing I had taken the car.
I got on the train fifteen minutes before boarding, in the hope that I may be able to sneak a cheap first class upgrade, which is something that the girlfriend manages with alarming regularity. Unfortunately it seems that this particular service has no first class option, and so with a heavy heart, and an even heavier rucksack, I clambered aboard Coach D and looked for my seat.
I looked down the aisle, immediately feeling sympathy for the poor git that ended up sitting opposite the odd-looking monk (I kid you not). Naturally, as I located the seat numbers, that’s exactly where my seat was. Bugger. Not to be outdone, I decided to sit at an empty set of four seats instead. They were marked reserved, but I was hoping that they may only be reserved for the latter stage of the journey.
With the journey due to begin at 15.10, and the clock rapidly ticking towards that same time, there seemed to be a lull in people getting on the train. Most seats were taken by now though the three seats around me still echoed in emptiness. Maybe I’d got away with it. Perhaps I had managed to get a spacious surrounding for part, if not all of the journey.
Suddenly, the low mumbles of chatter in the carriage were broken by the screams of a deeply unhappy toddler. Given that I know torture was unlikely, I instead guessed the poor child was suffering a fate almost as bad – being taken somewhere that he didn’t want to go.
I closed my eyes and silently prayed that this noisy family were merely using the carriage to get through to the adjoining one. I opened one eye when I felt a presence staring at me. A child, no more than ten years of age was looking, unblinking, straight at me.
“These are our seats, mummy,” she said, a strange mixed African and cockney accent emanating from her mouth. “We have seats 25, 26, 27…” she still hadn’t broken eye contact, “and 28.”
I glanced upwards and saw that my seat was, unsurprisingly, number 28.
The mother appeared, screaming toddler slung over her shoulder in much the same manner I’d imagine firemen carry people from burning buildings. Before she had time to say anything, I spoke up and apologised for sitting in her seat.
Rather than move, she stood directly in the way. I thought for a second that she may have been weighing up whether to sit on my lap or not.
“If you move that way, I can get out and go that way.” I said, helpfully, hoping that the patronising tone I had in my head didn’t spill from my mouth. She moved accordingly, I slid out and gingerly made my way to the correct seat. I apologised to the guy who had the aisle seat, and he slipped out of his chair and let me get through. I sat down and pulled the laptop out, nodding a brief hello at the monk, who smiled back.
The man in the row of seats diagonally opposite sneezed. I looked up, ready to say “bless you”, before suffering a sudden attack of weirdness. Here I was, a good Catholic boy who was now flitting between atheism and agnostic. Who was I to take away one of the few pleasures that a monk must have in life. I waited for a second or two, desperately wanting to lift my eyes to the monk, but instead relying on my peripheral vision to tell me his movements. He was certainly looking towards the sneezer, but there was no blessing coming. Maybe he had taken a vow of silence? Either way, too much time had now passed for me to offer my own sneeze-related response, and so I just sat there, silent, as I equally wondered about the monk and tried not to be disgusted at the sneezer wiping his snotty hands down his top.
The train was well underway by now, and just as I began to thank my stars that the guy sat next to me, who looked alcoholic, hadn’t started guzzling lager, he instead pulled out a can of strong cider and drank it quickly. It’s funny how your instincts can be spot on sometimes.
Wembley Stadium came and went by the window quicker than an England World Cup campaign, and the mother of the screaming toddler had wandered down the aisle, brought her entire suitcase (which was massive) but to their seating area and found something which immediately silenced the child. Had I not been able to see him playing happily just a few minutes later, I’d have been hard-pressed not to guess that she’d fetched a gun and silencer from the bag, the result was so instant.
The train got to Milton Keynes in no time, stopping to let people on and off. The alcoholic, who had only had the one can and had made me feel incredibly guilty for possibly mislabelling him as an alkie, got off, leaving his can behind on the table. The monk and I exchanged a look, our eyes flicking between the can and each other quickly. I was thinking that he could have taken his litter with him. God knows what the monk was thinking. (Hopefully that sentence is literal for the monk’s sake). He still hadn’t spoken, but I like to think he was on the same track as me.
The guards came around and checked tickets. Much to my disappointment, everyone seemed to be travelling legally, and so I was denied a train theatre experience which can so often liven up a dull journey. He came back around again a short time later, taking rubbish from everyone.
He got to our table, a bag full of litter rustling in his hand, and clattering off chairs and tables as the train wobbled. “Any rubbish?” he asked, helpfully, lest we perhaps think he was doing some kind of weird lucky dip game.
“This is finished.” Said the monk, picking up the can, squeezing it and putting it in the bin.
Ha! He CAN speak! I thought. Wait a minute, I continued thinking, he didn’t say bless you when that foreign man sneezed! What a rude monk. Maybe he was a racist monk! That could be it. Or he could be shy, I suppose.
My internal monologue was running wild by now: The guard probably thinks that the monk was drinking. I wonder if he found that weird? He didn’t say anything. But then neither did I. I suppose if anything, my brain continued to say, you’d expect him to be drinking wine. You can’t tell me monks have made wine for centuries and never enjoyed the grape themselves.
It was around this stage that I realised I probably needed to get out more. By this stage, the silent toddler was once again not silent. His family took up four seats surrounding a table, with two adults one side and two kids another side. The toddler, it seemed, had claimed the table as his own. Even as I look now, he is sprawled across the table making an incessant racket and generally seeming to thoroughly enjoy himself.
The sneezy foreign chap and his wife were turfed out of their seats at Milton Keynes by a young white couple. Although that sounds a little Rosa-Parks-esque, I’m assuming that they had reserved the seats which is how that came about. I could be wrong. Maybe 1950s racism is alive and well on the Virgin Euston to Liverpool line.
The couple have each opened a can of lager, and I’m now wondering if this is just the done thing on a train, and that I am in fact making a huge social faux pas by not drinking too. The man, who I would estimate is in his late twenties, doesn’t have a wedding ring on. The woman has both an engagement and wedding ring on. I’m now wondering if they are having an affair. They have the relaxed demeanour of a couple that have been together for some time, happy in each others company without being overly tactile like new lovers. I find it odd that a husband would leave home without his wedding ring, though.
The monk has a notepad with him and has been actively scribbling away. Stopping periodically to stroke his beard as he pondered his next sentence. I’ve tried to read what he’s written, but the scrawl, although seemingly written in English, is hard to make out.
The further we go in the journey, the more the train tilts. I’m not sure if it makes the train faster, smooth or somehow better, but it’s making my head spin in that horrible way you experience after a night drinking before you pass out. The repetitive “ahahahahahaha” coming from the children of the family that took my original seat is beginning to give me a headache and I can’t even look out of the window for fear of wanting to vomit at the unnatural angle of the ground to the window.
A smile is brought back to my face briefly as I notice we’re going through “Shugborough tunnel”, the child in me inwardly giggling at how it sounds a little like Shagborough.
A short while later, we’re passing by Stafford. As we do, the monk opposite me marks himself with the sign of the cross. I can’t help feeling these two things are related.
My mind slips back into wordplay. Having gone through Crewe, all I can think of is whether all haircuts in the town are called Crewe Cuts. I try to tweet this thought, and though I manage to write and send something, the queasy feeling prevents me from double-checking it before I send it. No one responds as no one understands it. For some reason, tapping on a laptop is far easier than focussing on a mobile screen, though this doesn’t occur to me until long after I’ve tweeted using my phone.
That’s where my train entry stops. The thought of projectile vomiting on an enclosed metal tube didn’t appeal, so I figured I’d best stop writing before it happened. The remaining twenty minutes or so of the journey passed by without incident, and I’m typing this now with hindsight.
Alighting at Chester, I chose to skip the chance to go to Costa (I must have been ill!) to instead switch platforms for yet another train towards Liverpool. It was a non-tilty train, so my stomach was saved from further upset. I had my train tickets checked again, which made me realise that in four hours of travelling I’d had my tickets checked more times that the previous year put together.
The highlight of the journey was undoubtedly the three young teenage lads who got on a stop or two down the line. They were doing pull ups on the luggage rack which, despite fervent wishing on my part, didn’t break and send them plunging to the floor, arse-first. They were also chatting in what can only be described as scally accents. (Think “dey do doh don’t dey doh”) One exchange between the three of them ended with the fantastic exclamation of “I don’t know! Why would I know my nan’s bra size?!”
Eventually I got to my destination, and into the arms of MrsDannyUK. The journey from door to door had taken about four and a half hours. Given that I had spent 50 minutes waiting at Euston, that wasn’t too bad at all and worked out quicker and cheaper than the same journey by car.
If only I could nail down this travelsick problem.