Last night Chiltern Railways put in a truly stunning performance with the emphasis on ‘stunned’. The 7:15 service mooted to arrive at 8pm actually arrived an hour and a half later at 9:30. Well to be fair, the 7:15 never actually left London, with passengers from this and a previously cancelled train shoehorned onto a live one which finally wheezed out of the station at 7:30
I couldn’t believe transporting this sea of frustrated humanity was within its operating parameters – there were bodies crammed into every available crevice including the bog and luggage racks. So it came as a nasty surprise when somehow another 50 squeezed on at Harrow.
I was lucky enough to have my own seat and an hour long nasal performance from someones’ sticky armpit located fetchingly about an inch from my face. It offered up a complex mixture of smells rarely sequenced together and for good reason. The almost overpowering BO was tainted by fresh sweat and a hint of cheese left in the sun too long. The physical manifestation of this aural disaster was a dirty, gray fungal like growth staining his white shirt. It was essentially mobile biological warfare delivered by a rejected M&S garment. A year ago I’d manage to immobilise at least two people with a similar tactic so I guess this was payback time.
The reason for our progress best compared to a three legged sloth with a head wound was Chiltern Railways bete noir – the ubiquitous power failure. This is the third time in a month the entire network has gone dark when someone plugs in a kettle.
But our driver was surprisingly jolly. He would cheerfully announce “The next stop is Chorleywood but we don’t expect to get there for at least an hour so no rush for the doors”. He also reminded us there was a toilet on board but dashed our hopes that the red cross would be coming through the train with food parcels.
At Rickmansworth our crawl became a shuddering halt and we stopped dead. A physical state all the trapped passengers were wishing on the kettle pluggerinner. And in an astonishing example of hope over intelligence yet more people stuffed themselves into our sardine can. This had the unfortunate consequence of moving the armpit of hell a couple of inches closer to my wrinkling nose. I was already fairly pissed off but plunged further into the kind of abject depression that only an announcement “there are four sectors of track filled with trains all stopped on a red signal ahead of us. We will be here for quite a while” can bring on.
To divert attention from my aural system shorting out and the nasal passages melting under the continued whiffy onslaught, I began to stealthily read the book of a fellow Chiltern Railways’ prisoner marooned on the seat next to me.
It was a romp of a novel where the muscular Christophe was vigorously attempting to deflower the virginal Melanie in the hay loft. Never heard it called that before – anyway my commuting pal was a bit of a slow reader but that was just fine as we seemed to have all night.
Typical of the evening, just at the exciting climax when a horse stomped into the stable and shot Christophe with an elephant gun declaring “you fiend, you have had sex with my favourite set of stairs”, she got up and left. Well the book was in French and I was doing my best.
At this time we emerged from a mobile blackout area and carriage lit up with a hundred beeping phones indicating voicemails from enraged spouses. One guy was desperately trying to convince his wife that he wasn’t in the pub but she wasn’t having it. I grabbed his phone and shouted “no he really is on the train but he didn’t want to call you because you’re such an untrusting stuck up bitch”. Marriage counselling needs no training really, some people just take to it naturally.
The driver came back on and suggested that if you hadn’t frozen to death or disembowelled yourself with a small spoon to alleviate the boredom, the next station might be Amersham. Here the entire platform was devoid of life so I assumed any remaining passengers had given up and taken to shanks pony. Except for two drunks who mistook our train for a bar and spent the next 20 minutes shouting at each other. Their conversation could be summarised as “embarrassing places we’ve been sick in”
By the time the train arrived at my station, I had given up the idea of applying for compensation unless it offered 30 minutes alone with the chief engineer. And I was allowed to take in the spoon of hurt.