So having had to postponed my trip to London for a day there I was at last sitting on the overcrowded cattle truck that passes for what Richard Branson laughingly calls a train. To be fair, and I pride myself on being fair, the train (I said I was being fair) was on time. But it was crowded, well at least it was in “Standard Class”. First Class was half full to judge by the empty seats that I had glimpsed on my way to standard class. To get a seat I had had to ask a lady clad in Manchester United scarves if she would mind using only one seat. She didn’t, despite having had no sleep for two days and enduring the rain in Moscow, and seemed happy to put up with the BW’s attempt at a conversation. So we chatted about the Final, Rugby, children, and house prices? The time passed and the further South we went the warmer it became and the drier the landscape looked. The other passengers did what passengers do, sleep, stare at their laptops, read, shout loudly down their mobile phones, listen to other peoples conversations and generally try and survive the boredom of the Virgin Train “experience”.
Arriving in London I did what I had to and learned a lot of technical legal phrases (but that’s another story) and so it was that I found myself in the early evening with a choice. To hang around London for a bit or to catch the first available saver train back up North to civilisation, and dreary weather. I decided to return to the Bosom of my family (a phrase that is guaranteed to make the Munch snigger when I say this at meal times) and caught the first available train with minutes to spare. I found myself standing (literally not metaphysically, this was no On the Road to Damascus moment) amongst the other standard riff raff in the restaurant car. There was no seating room left on the Cattle Truck part of the train, however the conductor (or On Board Train Manager or what ever glorified title the Management Consultants employed by Virgin Trains, have deemed necessary for the smooth and efficient running of the alleged service) seemed a sensible sort of chap and announced to us that he was declassifying the train. He paused as if expecting a round of applause, and then when it was clear that we did not have a clue what he was talking about, told us by way of explanation, to go and find a seat in first class. Managing to avoid being trampled in the rush I found myself a few minutes later, legs stretched out in front of me in the spacious and refined luxury of first class, deciding whether or not to read my book or do some work on my lap top (not a difficult decision really) Some time later the conductor came round to look at the tickets. I half expected to be frog marched back to standard class. He glanced at my ticket and then proceeded to explain that there was a signalling fault at Rugby and that we could be upto twenty minutes late. I relaxed. But not for long. To the bona fide first class traveller next to me he grovellingly apologised for the inconvenience that the poor man had to endure and almost begged him for his forgiveness. I was a bit taken aback. What inconvenience exactly? Was it having the nice roomy clean first class carriages swamped by the great unwashed? As it turned out that was only part of the “inconvenience”. The real hardship that was that due to a problem with onboard catering the poor things would have to make their own way to the restaurant car where if they managed to make it alive and unmolested by the lower classes cluttering up the carriages they could have a complimentary drink. I sighed to myself and returned to reading Andrew Marr’s History of Modern Britain. Marr was explaining about the deferential and class ridden nature of the pre-war era. Nothing much has changed then!