I don’t know if you have noticed but it has been raining a lot lately? Anyone? Anyone?
Well of course you have! And so have I. Notice is hardly the right word. More like constant drizzle peppered by exciting and dangerous bouts of Armageddon. Mixed with more hail and then odd mini-hurricane.
Getting to The Job That Never Lets Up has been challenging, to say the least. Today, for example, I got up at the un-Godly hour of 5am – this is necessary because a) Sussex is sinking therefore I have to drive uphill all the way and it takes longer b) Bob Crow has not yet been assassinated by the members of London TravelWatch so cannot be trusted not to call a wildcat strike over the lack of pork scratchings available in the staff vending machines and c) SouthEastern trains simply stop working if so much as a badger’s pube drops onto one of their tracks. Since I am at the somewhat rural end of the line, the badgers have no truck with “badger tunnels” under the railway and insist on dropping their trolleys and depilating their striped behinds wherever and whenever they like. So the trains don’t run. Cheers Brock!
Anyhoo….so got up, splashed water half-heartedly about my person, jumped in Keith (my Mini – named ‘cos he’s bang tidy) and headed up the A21 only to be blocked by a fallen tree somewhere around Bewl. A swift swerve off down the lanes and around the back of Goudhurst to score a crafty “in from the side” was a bold but ultimately fruitless move – the road was further blocked by the river splurging its entrails everywhere.
Finally got to Tonbridge via Aberdeen and the East Coast and managed to sling Keith into a handy passing ditch – marked out car park spaces having disappeared several weeks ago so one simply has to pick one’s chosen rut in the overpriced concrete and hope for the best. I kid you not. So I got on a train.
After a scuffle and a bit of a set to with the guard who wanted to evict me mid-eyeliner from First Class (entered stubbornly because I was buggered if I was going to stand all the way to London), we agreed that he was a Knobjockey with a capital K and I am quite clearly a menopausal old bat. After that, we actually got on quite well and ended up having quite a good chat 😄 – El Guardiola loves gardening and doesn’t know what’s happened to respect and common courtesy these days. After what I called him in the heat of the eyeliner moment, frankly I have to agree.
Anyway – eventually got into work so that made me today’s super trooper – please send medal and gold star in the post! Settled down to the normal tense politics and inter-departmental strife and then – get a text “Don’t cum home!!!” from a well-meaning if slightly over-dramatic friend.
Eh? Who? What? Oh….I’ve still got half a biscuit left. These were the initial thoughts that limped across my tired brain. Then the fog cleared and I realised it could mean only one thing…trouble ont trains.
Several hours later, having established that yes, there is quite a bad storm going on in Ye Olde Sussex and yes, there are trees down on the main line and no, it probably won’t be sorted out by tonight or by 5AM tomorrow when this unhappy experience expects to repeat itself groundhog-stylie …. So….Here I am. In a cheap hotel. Alone and with only a stale Pret yoghurt for my tea.
One has to ask…is the Government aware of this hidden distress behind their inability to hire Joe the River Dredger? Granted my house is not knee deep in watery sewage but there are many forms of personal misery and this exhausting attempt to commute each day is one of them. Are the politicians aware of the families forcefully separated this evening by the economic need to turn up to work while the means to get there continues to erode daily? Have they ever had the “Late again Stratton!” eyebrow raise from their superior as I slope in still swapping my flatties for heels at just before 11am? The raise that says there’ll be no raise this year. Or bonus. Or family holidays therefore. The hidden cost of flooding.
Will it only be when Westminster itself and many sleepy members of the House of Lords are 6 inches deep in water with a coating of kebab fat on top that anyone will begin to act?
Who knows? I’m honestly too tired to think about it. I know there are many much much worse off than me and I do sympathise greatly – it must be terrible to see your assets and possessions slowly ruined by the creep of water but….come on people! This is me, for Chrissakes!! I don’t do struggle and difficulty – I only do comfort and ease. I’d be the first to evacuate to the nearest spa in any form of emergency. Especially if it looked like it might mess up my hair. Manning up in a crisis relies very much on personal coping limits. Mine are, admittedly, lower than the average.
All I know tonight is that staying in a hotel without the Man-Hog or the Mini-Pigs is dead boring. Abandoning Keith in a station furrow feels very wrong and I want to report myself to ChildLine for Mini-abuse. And eating stale yoghurt as my main meal of the day is utter pants.
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.
There are things about me that my children do not know. No – I’m not talking about those sorts of things, smutty people. I’m talking about weird and wonderful habits and foibles I have developed over the years that make me happy, cheer me up, or simply allow me to function properly.
In order of weirdness, they are:
1. Writing down the name of the rail station where my car is parked – on my hands. Yes, plural. So I don’t forget to get off the train at the right place. This is a good system until it gets cold or the lights go off in the train tunnel. Mittens play havoc with my personal SatNav. It can also look a little like a very sad, homemade tattoo – a display of solidarity support for various South-Eastern towns. For some towns, I am tempted to add M U V V A on my knuckles too.
2. Eating Heinz baby food for lunch. Secretly. In the office. I have a particular predilection for Lamb and Vegetable Risotto for main course followed by Apricot Custard for dessert. I like to eat them cold and straight from the tin. I justify it by telling myself they are low in salt and nutritionally balanced. They also mean I don’t have to chew – infinitely preferable to fighting my way down a French stick and bearing the facial scars to show for it.
3. “Discussing” things with inanimate objects: bags of dog food, pillows, the car dashboard etc. Some days, after a day in the office, it is the most sensible conversation I get. It’s not madness, it’s simply getting across my point of view. Always and without argument.
I could go on, there are many more. But you get the picture.
Then, of course, there are the things they DO know about, and accept as absolutely normal:
1. I love model villages. Yes, really. Bekonscot has been known to make me faint.
2. I like “mini” things. The minier the better. My latest is mini dental floss. Awesome.
3. I have a violent aversion, resulting in acute gagging, to rubber gloves. Any colour, any thickness. I’m shuddering now. When I was having the children, I did my own examinations during labour. It was easier that way. Gross, but true, I’m afraid.
4. I absolutely, unequivocally and completely ADORE Julian Clary. Both as a man and a woman. In another life, I want to come back as his mother.
So, in consequence, it is a testament to my two wonderful mini-beasts that they are as normal and well-balanced as they appear to be. It certainly is not because of their upbringing. In these days of social instability; when parenting, environment and culture are being blamed for everything that is not quite right; it is a comfort to know that I have not been responsible for damaging them. That normality reigns, against all the odds. So far.
Now then, where did I put that teaspoon…..I’m hungry again.