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Train Carriage Etiquette

As regular readers will know, I have been commuting to London for several years now and yet find myself still constantly dismayed by some of the sights and behaviour displayed in the sardine tin carriages of the trains and Tubes that whisk us travellers about. It has been so bad recently that I feel the need to suggest a few rules of train carriage etiquette. Here goes:

When boarding or leaving a crowded train carriage DO NOT stick your posterior in my lap, your sharp-cornered bag in my noo-noo, brush your briefcase across my face or rub against me as you disembark. Leave my boobs, toes, front bottom and both buttocks completely alone, as I will leave yours. Or I WILL call the police.

Before joining a crowded Tube carriage please make sure to WASH your hair. Lank, greasy rats-tails flicked or smeared across my mooey are not acceptable. Neither is “bed-hair” – OK for pre-pubescent popstars, not for 30-something commuters who genuinely have just crawled out of their stench-trenches. Also avoid TOUCHING your oily filthy locks and then holding on to a handle others have to use after you. Sticky hands should be confined to 3 year-olds who’ve just eaten ice-cream. If you have dreadlocks, nits or dandruff of any description – just don’t get on the Tube at all. Buy a bike.

Refrain from muttering to yourself, twitching in a jerky fashion, dislodging my cappucino with a random Tourettes elbow, tapping on tables, swinging your legs about, singing out loud to your iPod or leaving annoying keytones active on your mobile phone. In fact just shut up altogether and sit still. Especially gaggles of older women going up on a cheap day ticket, cackling maniacally through their fierce puce-lipsticked mouths whilst munching Murray Mints and talking CONSTANTLY about fabric conditioner or scarcity of mother-of-pearl buttons for their twinsets. SHU-U-UT U-U-U-UP!

If you are going to eat on a train, don’t do it opposite, next to or within fifteen feet of a fellow passenger. No pies, pasties, kebabs, pizza slices, Quavers, Maccy Ds or anything involving Marmite or BBQ sauce. They stink and, frankly, so do you during the eating of them. If you have eaten prior to boarding the carriage, clean your teeth or better still slip in a quick visit to a hygienist. Viewing your leftover egg particles and smears of HP while you gawp open-mouthed at your iPod makes your fellow passengers want to blow chunks.

In the same vein, DO NOT eat a garlicky, spicy or plain rank meal when knowing in advance you will need to board a train. A meal that I can a) smell on you first thing in the morning *gag*; b) have puffed at me from your gaping piehole as you snore your way home in the evening *boak* or c) causes me to smell you and your Reggae Reggae jerk pork or whatever it was on my clothes a full two hours after we have parted company *retch*!

DO give up your seat for old ladies, pregnant women and people with demonstrably uncomfortable piles. Just don’t expect me to give up mine – I’m more tired than you are. All the time and every day.

DO offer a tissue to a sneezing passenger and those trying to frantically catch the drips and fallout of their viruses in their copies of the Evening Standard or coat sleeves – we’ve all been there. It’s so embarrassing.

DO share chocolate, boiled sweets, tea with one sugar and, of course, rum. Or I’ll just take them anyway and you’ll be sorry.

Finally, DO employ a little consideration for your fellow passengers. Try not to burp, fart, cough in an unpleasantly wet manner or snore. It will not endear you to anyone, believe me. Silent, secret train guffs next to a fellow passenger are never a secret unless one of us is dead. I’ll know it was you. You’ll know that I know it was you. It will all get awkward and confrontational and nobody needs that.

This very last etiquette tip is to the train companies themselves. If the train is going to be delayed, have the decency to send a staff member down the carriages with buckets and discreet toilet tents. It’s a safety issue really. Passengers left stranded for hours with bladders that can be seen from Space will be unlikely to disembark quickly in the event of an emergency. They’re more likely to pee down their own legs, slip over in the puddle and sue the train company for broken bones.

Anyone else out there got some good train etiquette tips? I’m thinking I’ll approach the rail networks with some additions to their passenger charter. Enforceable by hanging.

EARHAIR: We’ve All Got It in Some Form

The blogging world has taught me that there is very little sleep out there. It has taught me that having children was never going to add to anyone’s rest and relaxation, least of all mine. There are many out there – right now – struggling to persuade babies, toddlers and geriatric parents to go back to sleep. I, however, am not one of those tonight. No – tonight I am a victim of an unfortunate but surprisingly prevalent condition. Extremely Annoying Respiring Husbands Are Irritating Repeatedly (EARHAIR).

EARHAIR takes many forms. My Man-Hog, alone, has several variants. You may recognise some of them though I cannot list them all – their number is legion:

Pop’n’Click

This minor irritation usually occurs in the first few minutes of EARHAIR, before the snorer has yet had a chance to settle into a proper rhythm. I think toothpaste or its mint flavouring has something to do with it. First the snorer inhales gustily through fairly clear nasal passages but then decides (because they are ANNOYING – grrrr) to exhale through the pursed stuck-together-with-unwiped-toothpaste lips with a loud *POP*, followed by the back of the throat click as the exhale is completed. Sometimes there is a double-click as the tongue mysteriously rises to the roof of the mouth and down again like Excalibur from the lake. Bearability Scale: Irritating as nettle itch but not worth stabbing him yet. Unless you want to.

Roaring Forties

This, as the name suggests, is EARHAIR happening around 40 minutes after lights out. It is a rising crescendo of chest and nasal wheezing which mimics, quite well actually, the mating call of a lion with chronic tonsilitis. The only way to stop it is a swift blow to the clavicals. Sometimes this can stop respiration altogether, depending on the savagery of said blow, but I’ll tell you how to resolve this in a later blog. Or maybe I won’t. Bearability Scale: Not yet a divorce-inciter but getting close to the wire. Requires earplugs or a change of room.

Elks R Us

This is the deep sleep, rapid eye-movement phase of EARHAIR. The sprouting bushy King of them all. This is a 2AM foghorn waking all in the house except the snorer. That sod sleeps on throughout. Elk Phase must involve some form of sonic block – how else can the bugger still sleep? Why Elk? Well because it must be similar to camping al fresco next to an elk giving multiple birth to breech babies without so much as a TENS machine. Deep drafts of air are sucked in to vibrating nasal tunnels, followed by a short pause then the long, low, resonant exhale so bass and drawn out a note it makes Pavarotti sound like a choir boy, the Elk is a raging beast of a snore. There is no cure. Only death by self-smothering or moving house without telling the snorer are the coping strategies and even then, you’ll still hear it – it will haunt your dreams with its moose-call. Bearability Scale: Un-bloody-supportable.

So there we are. I’ve tried to give a little insight into the private hell endured by EARHAIR victims such as myself. When your baby wants to play all night, or your aged mother wants toast at 3AM despite scoffing most of a suppertime shepherd’s pie already, spare a thought for us. We don’t have wakefulness, but we have EARHAIR. And it’s getting worse.

Thursday at the HogHouse

Today began early – 3.36AM to be precise. This was when the Man-Hog’s ritual cries of epiglottis-shaking joy (or horror, who can tell?) breached the decibel tolerance levels of even the dead. The dead being me. Refraining from stuffing left-over dried apricots and last month’s Land Rover Monthly up his nose sideways, I decided instead to just get up and de-camp to the sitting room.

Sleep eluded me: mainly, I’ll admit, owing to a film about rugby on Anytime; always worth a watch and a sigh of once-youthful yearning. Two hours later, the somewhat thinly veiled troubled-teenager-nice thighs-but essentially a sod-finds rugby-coach turns out to be a brick-wins National playoff-changes life-wins girl plot whimpered to its final lame-ass conclusion and I was still wide awake watching the credits roll.

At this point, toast and a comfort vat of Ovaltine with extra sugar were the only obvious choices. As I slapped the butter on so thick it melted and ran like lava into my cleavage, I lifted a silent middle finger to cholesterol monitoring, WeightWatchers and Hogboy upstairs. Diets always start tomorrow, don’t they?

Cookery School starts at 5.30AM for those who are interested. It consists of a rotundly arrogant Chef (there’s a surprise – someone really should study the chef size to over-inflated ego ratio – there’s definitely a genetic link) undercooking meat in a frilly fashion whilst his female-totty-for-the-masses sidekick smiles sweetly as she assassinates the hopes and dreams of the victims – sorry, contestants. She even CROSSES THEIR NAMES OUT on a blackboard in front of them before they leave with the Chef’s Hat of Shame tucked into their undies. Heartless harpy.

Having despatched some poor woman in tears in this manner to lay her head in her inadequately pre-heated gas oven, I was left feeling FINALLY a little drowsy. The excitement had been too much. I drifted off.

My mobile shrilling in my ear heralded the start of today’s traumas. My pre-teen son has been at Chelsea football camp since Sunday, has worked super-humanly hard and was today supposed to be heading off to his reward – a tour of Stamford Bridge complete with dressing room sweat, a potential rub-up against an actual player, finishing with a presentation which his proud parents would attend in order to worship him.

Not to be. Viral plague; dehydration from unexpected and unseasonal sunshine; and/or a surfeit of Haribos consumed in a single sitting had done for him sometime in the night. Vomit was his task and Bucket his reward.

So I set off at just before 8AM after inadequate mumblings from the man in charge of hurling minors to drive the equivalent of the Paris-Dakar Rally to collect said Puker. I’m exaggerating OBVIOUSLY. You know me by now. But at that time of the morning and with unattractively wet hair (no time to primp for fit Chelsea coaching staff) it felt far! The dulcet sound of his nodding head clunking into the stainless steel bowl I forced him to hold in front of him all the way back will live with me a long time. It was like a lackadaisical steel band who simply couldn’t be arsed to stay in tune.

Since then, my day has been filled with intermittent gagging, loud shouts from Man-Hog of “Not on the carpets, Son!!!”, a Vesuvian pile of ironing, braving the supermarket for more butter (don’t say a word) and “When are we eeeaaaatttiiinnngggg?” on a plaintive wheedle loop from the older and clearly insensitive-to-situation Teen with the Bottomless Pit for a Stomach.

*Sigh* Motherhood? Marriage? Honestly? Poke it.

Photo credit: www.tedhickman.com