Somehow my reservation in the train from Newport back to London on Sunday was in the Family Carriage. 4 small kids were sat close to me, completely ignored by the parents, and hence make an almighty racket. This was further compounded by the woman sat next to me who spent most of the journey yapping on her mobile phone and sending text messages. So much for admiring the rolling hills of Wiltshire in the August evening sunshine, the wind rustling the maize fields and the boughs of the oaks dotted along the hedgerows. I hence sought solace in the buffet car of the First Great Western ‘High Speed’ service.
These buffet cars are basically a bar where you can get yourself a bottled beer, a cheeseburger, or – as I did – a lousy instant coffee. I was somewhat surprising told that I had to take a bag (on health and safety grounds) to put my coffee cup in, as should I spill the coffee on a fellow passenger, I would be liable to be sued. Is this not a bit mad, as argued in this article in today’s Guardian? What happens when I’m sat drinking the coffee and I spill it? And anyway, it’s not as if the coffee cup was actually open – it even had a securely fitting lid. Plus there’s the issue that because the quality of Britain’s trains is so lousy, you might spill your coffee when the train hits a large bump in the track. All quite bizarre. Britain does seem to be a bit paranoid.
Hi Jon – this is Oli, Mary’s boyf. Your story of the buffet car reminds me of a bizarre situation I found myself in a few months back. I was travelling on a packed First Great Western service from London to Bristol. It is a habit that I have picked up on Eurostar – actually on TGV’s as well – to spend a bit of time in the buffet car, watching the world go by and read standing up. Being the tall guy that I am, the chance to uncurl my legs is greatly received. Anyway, it was outside Didcot when I took my customary stroll to the buffet. Everything on sale looked distgustingly sweet, alcoholic, or full of caffine. I plummed for an Oringina, drink that I always associate with travel in France when I was a kid. Rediculous really since it is now brewed in Glasgow or somewhere. Anyway I saw one on the shelf and asked for it. The server asked me which class I was in. I said second. He said that it was reserved for first class and that I couldn’t have it. I was aghast. He offered me an alternative. Orange Tango. There’s sugary drinks (like Orangina) and SUGARY DRINKS (like tango). I couldn’t believe this class divide in the soft drinks market but there it was. There was no way of shaking off my cast. I left in digust and relayed the story to the commuters around me. They felt cheapened also. And then, one reached up into his bag and pulled out his last can of Orangina from a multipack and gave it to me. And with that I felt smug that the prols had united to overthrow the First Great Western’s class system!