Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Joy of Trains

I knew it would be difficult, if not impossible, to park at the health centre in Huddersfield where I was working this morning, so I decided to go by train, since the train station was only a five minutes' walk from the venue.

The taxi driver was on a mission to get from our house to the station faster than any motor vehicle had ever done so before. I don't know why this was: I was too busy trying to keep my balance as he hurtled in and out of the traffic and tested his ability to do emergency stops.

I was still feeling ill, and I have to say that this high-speed journey didn't help: I was relieved when we finally screeched to a halt outside the station and I could escape.

Then there were the ticket queues. You know that system they have in the Post Office where there's one long queue and whoever's in the front goes to whichever cashier becomes free? Good system, eh? SO WHY CAN'T WE HAVE IT IN RAILWAY STATIONS? (sorry, hysteria is setting in and I'm going all BLOCK CAPITALS).

I joined the shortest queue and it was a mistake. Shortest, maybe: but at the front of it were three teenagers who were planning a year-long Interrail trip throughout Europe and buying their tickets, one by one, for each twenty-mile leg of it.

The family at the back of the long queue to the right of me progressed to the front, bought tickets, travelled to Torquay, had a week's holiday and waved to me on their return.

"And that's got us to Switzerland", said one of the teenagers at the front of my queue, "and I thought I'd do Germany next."

The man at the back of the queue to the left of me progressed to the front, bought a ticket, travelled to North Wales, met and married a plump Welsh girl called Tegwen, then stayed and established a very successful small business making confectionery. Finally he returned to Leeds to visit relatives and offered me a sweet as he passed me by.

The teenagers were by now planning their travel to Barcelona and thence to Italy.

Finally I got a ticket - of course the price had gone up three times whilst I was in the queue - and boarded the train.

I may perhaps have exaggerated some of the above slightly but now we have the absolute truth. The train was packed. Standing room only and the corridors were packed too.

I found myself standing opposite the seats that were supposed to be prioritised for disabled people. In them were a couple of teenagers whose culture, in this multi-cultural country, was completely alien to me.

They were white, with those kind of trousers that have the crotch somewhere around the ankles, and wearing hoodies. Their culture includes listening to music through headphones so loudly that everyone else can hear it, and it goes Pshhh Pshhh Pshhh.

Their culture does not, however, include offering their seats to any of the many older people - some who were much older than me - who were standing in the aisle. But of course I wasn't bitter. I just coughed all over them throughout the journey and whenever the train lurched - which was often - I stood on their feet. Luckily, being a Woman of a Certain Age, I am completely invisible to them so even on the rare occasions when they glanced up, they didn't see me.

A man with a trolley appeared next to me.

"Could you move out of the way?" he asked grumpily, and without any use of the word please. "I need to bring this through here."

There were people sitting in the seats either side of me and a long row of people, all clutching luggage, stretching down the aisle.

"Well, if you just give me a moment, please," I said with what I hoped was a disarming smile, "I'll try to learn to hover in the air and then you can bring the trolley underneath me, okay?"

"Umph" he said, in tones of slight puzzlement, and heaved his trolley back from whence he came. That is, I find, another of the - possibly few - advantages of being a Woman of a Certain Age - nobody is ever quite sure whether you're being rude to them or not.

We arrived at the station - all rather characterful with Victorian architecture - in the sunshine. As I walked through the exit, however, a violent hailstorm started. From nowhere! I struggled up the hill to the health centre, holding one of my plastic folders above my head because the massive hailstones really hurt.

Just as I reached the health centre, drenched, shivering, frozen - - the hailstorm stopped.

It was THAT kind of morning.

Except - - - then things changed, for the better. The class was comprised of a group of student midwives, with one student social worker.

They were fantastic. They were caring and thoughtful and had excellent communication skills. They seemed to love the session and gave excellent written feedback afterwards.

So I emerged, greatly cheered, into the sunshine, just in time to miss a train back to Leeds and learn the true meaning of "absolutely freezing" whilst waiting on Huddersfield station for the next one.


Blogger Silverback said...

I was trying to get my trolley down a train carriage today and came up against some strange invisible force blocking my path. It was like an impenetrable force field which had no visible substance but smelled vaguely of tweed and mothballs.

Hmmmmmmm !

8:50 pm  
Anonymous Milo said...

Doesn't sound like a pleasant journey but I enjoyed the telling of it!

I myself have spent 9 hours on trains over the past 2 days as I went to our Edinburgh office with work and my flight was cancelled (fog, long story) so we went by train instead. 4.5 hours each way. Was off-peak and quite calm and fast and pleasant (Eastern Railways or whatever it's called, formerly GNER). A pleasant surprise.

10:37 pm  
Anonymous Helen said...

Ah, yes, East Coast Rail (formerly GNER). The only currently nationalised rail line - handed back to government control after its private franchisees failed to make a profit, now making profit and beating the previous performance targets, and soon to be handed back to private operators because, as we all know, the private sector is much better at this sort of thing... sigh!

10:51 pm  
Blogger Jennytc said...

An entertaining post, Daphne but not so pleasant in the living of it. Well, you didn't expect a smooth ride on public transport, did you?? ;)

7:39 am  
Blogger rhymeswithplague said...

The older I get, the more invisible I become. I'll be 70 next week. You are a youngster!

1:01 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

You were role-playing for student midwives? Did this involve lying on the floor with legs akimbo moaning and groaning and telling your imaginary husband that it's all his fault? Then did the student midwives have to take it in turns to say "It's just like shelling peas love!" Surprised they even need midwives in Huddersfield.

11:47 am  

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