London can get somewhat frustrating, but take a trip out of the capital and into the wilds of the rest of the UK and the situation becomes to dire it’s horrid. I’m sat writing at my seat 42F of Coach C of the 20.15 departure from London Paddington to Swansea. I’ll escape this journey at Newport though. Not that Newport is so brilliant, but I will at least avoid the fate of being stuck in here any longer.
First of all I had to go get to the train. A line of shining new ticket barriers greeted me on the way to the platform at Paddington, but of course all the tickets pre-booked on the internet are a different size and do not fit the barriers. The result: a massive queue for the one manual barrier. I am sure that trains are delayed at peak times as a result of this but ‘ oh ‘ sod efficiency and reason. 100% of the people must pay for their shoddy service!
Then to the carriage. Only which one? For some reason the chronology of the coaches managed to get mixed up, so coach D was partly labelled coach C, and vice versa. Damn, how I wish now I was in the other carriage.
The guy in the seat behind me started a very, very loud conversation on his mobile even before the train had even started, sounding off at the top of his voice ‘ presumably to some relative ‘ that after studying for 3 degrees he would be ending his studies soon. Pity those studies did not teach a degree of decorum. The alternative would be the system employed in German ICE trains ‘ repeaters in the carriages, so people don’t have to shout ‘ but then that would be sensible.
Then the bain of all other passengers’ lives entered the carriage. A massive slob of a man so fat he barely fits between the table and his seat. Worse still, he has at least 4 kids in tow, which I assume are his. The kids were watching a DVD on a portable player turned up to maximum volume. The rest of the passengers did not even raise any objection, and the fat bloke clearly had no clue he was even causing offence. He looked a bit confused when I asked politely whether he could turn down the volume a bit ‘ and this was because the sound was so loud I could hear it over iTunes through my laptop’s earphones. Seems the fat bloke’s poor daughter is going the same way as him ‘ bad double chin and she is probably only about 12 years old.
One passenger even thanked me for asking the guy to turn down the DVD player a bit, but have we reached such a stage in Britain that we cannot dare to even ask strangers things? I had previously helped an old lady to find her seat ‘ she was quite grateful for that, but I wonder how many people would actually have helped?
Then there’s the train itself. A decrepit old HST that has undergone many transformations into the corporate liveries of the various train operating companies, but sadly seems to never have had its original seats or suspension replaced. At times between Swindon and Bristol Parkway the ride is so bumpy that I managed to type words incorrectly. It would be smoother in a bus! The door at the end of the carriage is broken, and as you have to lower the windows in order to open the doors (yes, it really is that primitive) we are treated to a burst of cold air from time to time.
I feel so bad about all of this. I am supposed to be one of these people! This is the country where I was born for goodness sake. But what has happened? The more time has gone on, the more I have managed to shield myself from most of this kind of behaviour. Overall civil servants are a very kind and considerate bunch, and the people I associate with in London are largely polite and honourable people. It’s like I am some kind of old and opinionated grandfather who longs for the halcyon days when everything was different. Although I suppose I long for a time and a place that is very different from this one. When I left university and departed for Germany and Belgium, the aim was to see whether the grass was indeed greener on the other side of the Channel. The conclusion most probably is that it is.
In the meantime, the fat bloke has fallen asleep with a big slab of the fat of his stomach sprawled up and over the edge of the table. Eugh. Anyway, Bristol Parkway is behind me now, so I’ll be in the relative sanity of my parents’ home quite soon!