Tuesday, 15 April 2008
A good deal of train travel over the past and coming days. What joy. A pleasant long weekend in Shropshire is at an end, with a trip to York tomorrow and a long haul up to Shropshire again next week.
At the risk of offending some of the gentler flowers among my readership, I'm afraid I must raise an issue with customer service today on the 13.30 Birmingham New Street to London Euston. The connecting train we were on only arrived 5 minutes before and, New Street being what it is, there was an element of panic about reaching the platform in time. No need, as the service had not yet pulled in, but the trials and tribulations were not over so easily.
We were in Coach C. Not bad, directly adjacent to the 'shop' and only a carriage away from the hallowed First Class, but our ingress was blocked by a yellow plastic crate toting drone who was replenishing the stock of overpriced sandwiches, and - needless to say - making a meal (let's say a banquet) of it. As I approached, pack-horse like, he waved me away wordlessly, so I shepherded the kids towards the throng who were pushing and shoving through the adjacent door, their own passage blocked by yellow crate boy, thus causing a slightly flustered bottleneck in the piss-stinking vestibule leading to Coach C.
As politely as I could, I pushed myself forward amid the whistles and mewling kids, only to hear a call from the platform behind me. I turned and peered over the top of my rucksack to see a greying, balding man gesticulating at me.
"If you don't move forward," he whined, "The train can't move!"
There was no way for me to move forward, blocked as I was by the tide of humanity awaiting the decant of the BLTs and Aberdeen Angus and Davidstow cheddar burgers. Indignantly and loudly, I told said oleaginous Virgin employee exactly what the situation was, but just as I spoke, the sandwich loading operation was completed, the delivery man alighted, and the sweating hordes started to move forward into the Nirvana of airline seating, free wi-fi and endless announcements.
And here's the cherry on the icing on the cake.
"I don't know what you're talking about," he said loudly enough for all to hear, "He's here, on the platform!" At that moment, I have to say, I hated the little bastard. Can he justify speaking to a 'customer' in such a way? The kids were with me, so I bit my tongue, but, by Christ, I wanted to tear him off a strip.
Later, in his capacity as train manager, he came to validate our tickets. It so happened that we had managed to lose one of the kids' ones, but he let it go - though he did make a show of demanding to see the Family Railcard, which I produced with a flourish, while mentally noting the name on his Virgin Trains ID badge. That really did it. You may not believe me, but he was called Paul fucking Gascoigne.