This Thursday I am once again, and completely without the consent of my bank account, going back to London for a night. I had such great times in Kingston that I feel this is totally justified, the only person I’d have to explain myself to after all is my wallet in a feverish daydream that would undoubtedly be a psychotherapist’s wet dream (I imagine the wallet talking through Jim Henson style puppetry and it would be sort of – you know what it’s not important, moving on). The point is to get there I will have to partake in a ritual that I am far too familiar with: a combination of trains and tubes from North Yorkshire to London, the South West and Surrey. Due to my years at university in Kingston I could probably do this journey in my sleep and really I would absolutely love to do that because it would be decidedly less irritating and would put a lot less stress on my already fragile faith in humanity. You see anyone who has been on a train journey anywhere ever, but particularly the one that goes to and from King’s Cross to Edinburgh and beyond, has been beset on all sides by threats to sanity and decency so severe they’d make H.P. Lovecraft curl up into the foetal position and sob into his necronomicon. I’m talking of course of:
The Five ‘People’ you Meet on the National Express.
1) The Woefully Old – Likely the first type you will meet on the National Express first class service to Hell because they’ll be in your seat that you booked ages in advance… asleep. You could try to cough politely or say excuse me but they won’t hear you, and there’s always the creeping suspicion that they’re dead. It might be better if they were because then you won’t have to go through the super awkward ‘I think you’re in my seat’ exchange. This is all provided you can actually wake them and you can’t bring yourself to hit them on the shoulder until they wake up because everyone will be looking at you turfing an old lady out of a seat. This is an especially uncomfortable process if she isn’t too steady on her legs any more. You could be there for hours, with all those eyes on you, squinting at you and hating you. God you’re a shit.
2) The Professional Parent – In fairness these ones are everywhere not just on trains but their malevolent powers are heightened on railway lines. You know these creatures, they’re the one who have at least two babies strapped to their bodies as well as a bare minimum of two other kids, just old enough to have perfected their annoying whine technique, trotting along beside them. They will feel the need to shout the horribly pretentious names they have cursed their offspring with at the top of their lungs (Blake! Sapphie! Jocasta! Christobel! Eowyn! Alfie! ((there’s always an Alfie))) and will pull all manners of weird and wonderful shite out of their magic Mary Poppins bag of noisy, distracting tat to keep the ankle biters amused. Lord help you if they’ve managed to somehow get their spawn installed in a seat that’s actually separate from themselves because now you’ll have them parading up and down for the entire journey, smacking you in the mouth with their massive backpack as they get every little thing their darling offspring could possibly desire. They want you to be fascinated by them and can’t understand why you aren’t amazed that they’ve made a baby. Despite the fact that it’s something a dog can do.
3) The Really Cool Kids – This might be a product of age but the Really Cool Kids on the train are some of the worst offenders. They’ve occupied two tables and have spread themselves and all their gear out quite expertly. Some of them might be lying down across the seats the bohemian bastards. The Really Cool Kids look like every character from Nathan Barley but are completely unaware of this. In fact they are pretty much unaware of anything or anyone in the carriage outside of their loud conversations on the principal subject of how cool they are. They discuss loudly things that make The Woefully Old squirm and bring you close to physical violence if one of them busts out the obnoxiously loud, equally obnoxiously tinny sounding music-playing mobile phone. You hate them because you’re no longer like them. Your dentist hates them because they make you grind all the enamel off your teeth.
4) The Extremely Important Businessman/woman – An old cliché but one that rings true. This caricature has been portrayed by lazy comedians since the advent of the mobile phone so what can I say about the EIB that you don’t already know and hate? These Alan Sugar wannabes (surely a very low caste) are convinced that you need to know the inner workings of every little bullshit mundane aspect of their various meaningless meetings and so on. The only plus side is when the journey is over you will now know enough to take their jobs from them.
5) The Squaddie – The Squaddie is legitimately terrifying! What’s worse is he only moves in packs! When your train slows down at the platform of the next station you silently pray that the shaven headed meatbags with cans of lager bought from the platform café in one hand and unfeasibly large hold-alls in the other (who knows what’s in them! Guns? More booze? Guns that shoot booze?!) don’t pile into your carriage. Invariably they will. They are loud, obnoxious, at least halfway to drunk, liable to start a fight and incredibly fun. When they arrive you will turn your mp3 player up louder and glare intensely out the window like your life depended on it because for all you know it might! But if you buy yourself a drink and actually get talking to them, you might have the most fun you’ve ever had on a train. Warning: only attempt this if you are sure you can handle your alcohol, are most of the way through your journey and harbour at least some racist views. And that’s only if you’re lucky enough to encounter them during the ‘amiable’ drunk stage.
Yes the National Express route to the old Smoke can be daunting and lined with many different characters (read: arseholes)… which is why I’ll be travelling by Grand Central on Thursday! The only thing I have to deal with on Grand Central trains is an abundance of foot room! And chavs. And people from Sunderland. Oh and the occasional group of squaddies I suppose. I guess there’ll be a fair amount of the Woefully Old too but you know… shit.