T + 605 I'm On the Train

I'm on the train. Or rather as it appears compulsory to say: “I'M ON THE TRAIN.”

This blog post is being written on the the 10:03 from Birmingham New Street to Edunburgh Waverley. I'm writing it on my trusty EEE PC that served me so well when I was in hospital for my transplant. I'm not sure when I will be actually uploading this post to the web as I don't think I'd get a very good signal with my 3G broadband modem, my iPhone is struggling at times to even get GPRS. I might try to upload it from the hotel. (Yep my Three 3g Modem works fine from the hotel.)

The reason for being on the train to Edinburgh is to have a long weekend break with Gareth to celebrate his birthday, which is today, Thursday 13th May. I've been to Edinburgh a few times but that was mostly for work many years ago when I was a field service engineer for a CAD company. I've only had one trip to Edinbugh for pleasure and that was for a friend's stag weekend. As you might imagine that didn't encorporate many of the cultural delights on offer in the “Athens of the North” as Auld Reekie is sometimes called.

I do rememeber sitting in the communal kitchen of the hostel we were staying in on the first morning after the night before nursing a colossal hangover and taking an hour to sip a cup of hot water whilst the rest of the party re-animated themselves ready for another day of drinking. ( I'm not sure if I intended to have just hot water or if I couldn't work out in my adled state how to open the jar of nescafe. ) The fact I had a hangover allows me to date this trip to pre-June 2000 as that was when I stopped partaking of the grain or grape.

At one point someone suggested, since were in Edinburgh, we should go look at the castle and I have a memory of a slow walk up a large hill to get to it. Beyond that I can't remember much more though perhaps a visit this time round will stir some recollections.

The only other thing I can bring to mind of that weekend is that the on the second night we got the groom-to-be so drunk that as we moved from pub to pub we would arrive, take off our winter coats and put them in a pile in the corner. We then deposited the stag of honour on top of the coats ( in the recovery position of course, we had a duty of care after all ) and proceeded to consume more alcoholic libations. When it was declared time to leave the pub we would collect our coats and the groom and move on to the next venue. Ah happy days.

I love travelling by train, especially when it is on holiday. It makes the journey much more part of the holiday than if you have to drive or fly I think. Maybe it is because I don't travel by train that often but I always have a little frisson of excitement run through me as we wait on the platform. It made economic sense to come by train as well. Though we only booked the tickets under two weeks ago we got the two return journeys for just over £50. Even in the economical Martha it would have cost us more than that in petrol to drive to Edinburgh and back never mind the costs of parking in the city for 4 days. That £50 does incorporate the 33% discount Gareth gets with his Young Person's Rail Card. ( There is a certain irony to the fact that the card for 16 – 25 year olds is being used to help him celebrate his 26th birthday, but through clever timing he was able to renew his card so he can use it until March 2011).

Our train journey did not have the best of starts although the train arrived on time. A couple of minutes before its apprach a very helpful member of staff came along the platform to check who had reservations for specific seats and explain whereabouts that particular coach would be. We duly shuffled along to the appointed position only to discover the train carriages were in fact in the completely opposite order and there was much mingling of the crowd as we all moved back through the melee to find the right coach. Having evicted a squatter from our reserved seats ( the electronic display not showing our reservations ) we settled in ready to depart. Despite having booked forward facing seats we subsequenly left New Street going backwards and have continued in this manner as far as Durham as I type this. I suspect we won't be turned round anywhere now. Not that I mind travelling backwards that much but out of preference I like to see where we are going rather than where we have been.

These are minor quibbles however and the journey so far has been very enjoyable. Of course the best thing about travelling on trains is the opportunity it provides for people watching and eavesdropping on conversations. ( Though with some people on mobile phones it is hard not to overhear.)

So far this trip I have heard a very interesting conversation between a group of public health NHS managers on their way to a conference in Leeds. Surprise to say they are not enthused at the prospect of our new ConDem coallition government headed by Oxbridge's answer to Ant & Dec. In this carriage, amongst the students and business men were a very fashionably and seemingy over dressed young couple presumably off to a wedding, though as they got off at York maybe they were going to the races.

Making up what script writers would call “back stories” for my fellow passengers is surely not something I am alone in doing. Some passengers are more intriguing than others though. As I type this there is a young guy seated across the aisle who looks like a student. He is currently sketching in a new notebook ( crisp spine and he is using the 1st page, move over Sherlock). His arm obscures most of the view but it appears to be a caricature of an old woman in a windswept landscape. On the empty seat beside him is a copy of P G Wodehouse Jeeves stories. I'm not quite sure this tells me, other than confirming that I am a nosey bugger.

We have just passed Newcastle upon Tyne where the train manager changed from Neil to Morag. Hopefully her announcements will be followed by translations into English as the combination of her broad brogue and the poor quality tannoy makes them rather hard to follow.

Only half an hour to go and we will soon be crossing the border ( though unlike the night train I don't think we are bringing the cheque or the postal order. ) I had better sign off and make sure I have my passport ready.


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