Sunday, March 24, 2002

Let the Train take the Strain: I've started taking the train to work. It was a no-brainer really. I now live 110 miles from the office, and it costs GBP 30 to struggle across country and up motorways in my car, only GBP 22 to sit on my fat arse and let someone else do the work. The trouble is, you have to share the train with... people.

There are some people you just can't get away from. Every trip I've made so far has been in the same carriage as The Family From Hell, quite possibly related to The Munsters. Additionally, my morning train is also the same one Her Majesty's Prison Service uses to cart all their ex-cons back to London after they've served their time in one of the five prisons withing ten miles of my house. You can spot them a mile off - crew cuts, their best going-to-court suit and a black rubbish bag full of their stuff. They're also the ones who spend the entire trip up to .London in the buffet car...

You have one mission while on a train, best explained by Ben Elton before he sold out to The Man and became crap. "Find a double seat, spread out, and refuse to let anybody else sit near you." Everyone has their own way of achieving this, and I'm getting particularly good at filling up as many seats as I possibly can. Here's a few hints to try at home:

* Arrange your luggage well. I've seen with my own eyes people take up four seats, the entire aisle and the toilet cubile by strategic placement of a few cases. With enough luggage, you can actually build a small den and live there for several hours.

* Body odour. Not one I'd try, but questionable personal hygiene guarantees a seat to yourself even on the busiest of trains. You will, however, blow what little chance you've got if the Australian Women's Soccer Team gets on board.

* Walkman. Mine's rubbish. It's horrible, tinny, and held together by a rubber band. The headphones are the cheapest imaginable and leak sound like a very leaky thing. I only ever play one tape on it, while banging my head furiously. It works.

Yeah, yeah I know it's anti-social. But at least it's better than the bland middle-of-the-road dross they pump to your seats on Virgin Trains these days. I was only on one of their sleek orgasmatrons for twenty minutes today, and that was enough. At least no bugger sat next to me.

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