Tonight I caught the early train.
A swift and potentially career limiting exit allied with a spirited pedal to the station bought me just enough time. Time which I spent hastily locking the bike â€“ engage smug mode: with my frame attached lock â€“ and dropping the majority of my worldly possession while wrenching the key from my pocket. The remaining small change was enough for me to sprint breathlessly up the platform before ram raiding the train doors messenger style.
So yeah, I caught the early train but so did everyone else. This is the service that runs snail to harrow and then glacial onward to Aylesbury. But as the novelty of a Chiltern Railwaysâ€™ train leaving on time never fades, it seemed appropriate to give it a go.
â€œStanding Room Only” doesnâ€™t convey the localised crowd trouble going off in my carriage. I was shunted down the aisle, desperately shedding my bag and jacket, as the doors slammed closed on those rather foolhardy commuters who were still trying to squeeze in.
By the time we were eventually away, I was sandwiched between two seats, MP3 player being drowned out by the pathetic f*cks shouting into their mobile phones: â€œYes dear, I;m on the 17:31 as usual”. As usual? Like the LAST F*CKING TEN YEARS THEN AND YET YOU STILL MAKE THE CALL. And breathe.
I had nowhere to go and a long time to get there so I spent a reasonably smug five minutes watching New Year resolutions being comprehensively shattered. As the reality of lettuce three times a day came home to a mismatched collection of portly souls, they hoovered up the crumbs of their dry ryvetas before guiltily dispatching a huge Yorkie bar. Needless to say the ensuing sugar rush instantly transformed their sullen faces into something approaching multiple orgasm.
My platform exertions had left me somewhat sweaty but luckily I was wearing my new Merino ride shirt allegedly washed a in pure New Zealand stream. The key property of this garment, hand woven by naked virgins (or something like that), was to remain unsullied and unstinky under even extreme circumstances.
It was time to put it to the test.
I raised my arms up onto the jauntily painted jacket hooks on opposing seats thereby bringing my perspiring and hard working armpits into play. The two unfortunate recipients were both middle aged, ensconced in all things tweed and of a female persuasion.
The results were immediate.
The women on my right was slumped in her seat wearing a shocked expression. It wasnâ€™t immediately apparent whether her stunned olfactory system had crashed and taken down the whole neural net, or she was dead. The other lady wore an expression Iâ€™d last seen in a lift recently vacated by a windy badger. And quite a sick badger at that.
Trapped as we were in this deadly embrace, at least one of us found the situation quite humorous and this obviously was me. The woman convinced she was mainlining dead badger treated my half smiles and occasional sniffing with the kind of expression that suggests the world has never been right since the demise of the â€œtradesmanâ€™s entrance”. The other women remained slumped and inert.
Harrow arrived and Lady#2 hastily departed fixing me with a final look of deep loathing. This being England, she didnâ€™t actually say anything but Iâ€™m sure if I ever venture into the rarefied heights of Harrow-On-The-Hill, Iâ€™ll be shot on sight (smell?) by the Neighbourhood Watch.
Lady#1 remained in her catatonic state even when the â€˜armpit of doomâ€™ had been withdrawn from her nasal radar. I reflected that while I have no argument with the natural wicking properties of Merino wool nor itsâ€™ inherent fleecy warmth, it is time to expose the â€œnot smelly like synthetic” strapline as the marketing bollox that it surely is.
Let me ask you this. If youâ€™ve ever spent time, up close and personal, with a sheep (which coming from Yorkshire is virtually a rite of passage), you could not fail to notice the musty smell of damp wool. Itâ€™s not truly unpleasant but itâ€™s certainly not the kind of thing youâ€™d want to take into polite company (thatâ€™s the smell not the sheep).
So there you have it; empirical proof that the Merino phenomenon is a â€˜catwalk fabricâ€™ â€“ it looks good from a distance but you really wouldnâ€™t want to wear it outside.
And as for Lady#2, sheâ€™d hunkered down into her seat and begun to dribble in a quite alarming manner. I donâ€™t think I was responsible for her condition unless the humble armpit has been reclassified as a weapon of nasal destruction. But Iâ€™ve been troubled by pangs of guilt since abandoning her at Stoke Mandeville. The poor women is probably still on train waiting to be revived. Probably by electric shock if Iâ€™m any judge of her condition.
Oh and this being Chiltern Railways, the early train was 15 minutes late. But I guess youâ€™d already kind of guessed that.