I took the train up to Nottingham on Thursday, and looked forward to relaxing on the journey, watching the countryside go by and idly picking at my travel accessories, viz. two ham and cheese sandwiches, my peripatetic watercolour set, and Jan Struther's Mrs Miniver.
Fat chance. Bloomin' trains were crowded out. And everyone is assigned seats these days, so some people hopelessly wander around trying to find where they should be, and some people just take whatever seat they fancy and then the people whose seat that should be come along, and then everyone plays musical chairs, or not... and the announcements on the tannoy are clearly supposed to be in English, but blow me if I could understand a word of what the chap said...
...an elderly Italian couple were clearly confused by the whole experience, and were trying and failing to get seats next to each other, so I gave up my seat so that they could sit together, and they were politely grateful and I got to sit with a chap who lectures in architecture at UWE. We exchanged life stories, in the way you do when passing the time on a journey. And I got to sit by a proper window facing forward, so I could keep an eye out for Adlestrop. But I failed to see it. I told the architecture chap about the Edward Thomas story. I suggested a sequel to the poem which starts "I've forgotten Adlestrop".
The seat in which I sat was reserved from Cheltenham to Birmingham, so I prepared myself to surrender my place when we pulled into Cheltenham. But the woman whose seat it evidently should have been, continued down the carriage and found somewhere else. And then subsequently had a chat with the people among whose number was the woman whose seat she was now occupying.
You see? -the ripple effect. I felt really quite anarchic.
And then the next leg of the journey from Birmingham New Street I was squeezed next to a Very Large woman who was reading a free copy of Metro, munching her way through a huge bag of crisps and listening to her i-pod (ta - sheeee - shhhhch - ch - shsssshhhhh - schhhhh). And not only colonising the arm rest, but making inroads into my territory too. So we played an unacknowledged game of Lebensraum, which passed the time, though not as congenially as a good read of Mrs Miniver.