Thursday, 12 January 2017
Those of you who know me, know how much I love trains. In theory, they are environmentally friendly, simple ways to travel. In reality, they are so expensive that it costs me twice as much as it does to drive anywhere. Over the years I've spent commuting between Cardiff and Dorset, I've been delayed by breakdowns, signal failures, hot weather, cold weather, rain, cows on the line and a malfunctioning steam train further up the line. I've sat with drunk people, funny people, creepy people, a man who re-enacts medieval battles and tells people about them on trains, and many normal people too. There are advantages to travelling this way. One of the big ones for me is that, although it takes nearly twice as long to get to Wales as it would if I drove, I actually get a few hours of my life back. Instead of three hours concentrating on the speedy lumps of metal zooming by and the myriad of white stripes and yellow squiggles on tarmac, I can read, write, think and procrastinate on the interweb. The only time this falls through is on an extremely busy train, like the one I caught yesterday, which suddenly filled up at Bristol Temple Meads, making turning the pages of my book more difficult than it was worth. So I started people watching. There were so many people squished on board, that for the most part, staring around the carriage was quite boring. However, the lady opposite me was absorbed in a complicated textbook with brain diagrams dotting the text. I tried to read it upside down, and failed. Something about 'resilience'. No idea. Got bored. Daydreamed a bit. Realised she was having a very important phone conversation and that I'd been bored without realising it. I was curious about her frantic scribbling of notes and really wanted to know what the book was about. I could just ask, of course, but that sort of question has previously landed me in several hours of dire conversation with no way of escape until Southampton Central. So I chickened out. What I did do however, was Google the name she had written on her backpack in permanent marker. The Sherlock Holmes way of finding out what she was reading, or at least finding out something. To my amazement, the result brought up an American billionaire heiress to a food company... and an art therapist with an OBE. I was just clicking on a search result which took me to Wikipedia, when her phone conversation ended, and the train jolted. Whoever she was, she had far better control of her personal belongings than I did, because whilst her phone was put neatly back into her pocket, mine leapt out of my hands and landed screen-up on the table between us, proudly displaying her own Wikipedia page. She was good enough, or creeped out enough, not to say anything. Or maybe she was secretly pleased to get a Wikipedia hit, who knows? All I know is that it seemed an appropriate time to attempt reading my book again, I've banned myself from train travel for the foreseeable future, and I still don't know what she was reading.