All Aboard! Part Two

Astrain ticket image promised, here is the next exciting installment of my ‘how to be a better train passenger’.

Last time I talked about the basic actions that should be undertaken by all to ensure a smooth seating procedure. This time I am going to talk about behaviour, specifically what NOT to do on a train. Disclaimer: all but one of the following have happened to me…

Don’t have super loud conversations
An oldie, but a goodie. Let’s get this straight. No-one, except the person on the other end of the ‘phone, is interested in Aunty Mabel’s gallstone operation, the deal you nailed, the boy who may (or may not) be that into you or the general minutae of your life. It sounds harsh, but it’s true. Keep it down, or even better, go out into the corridor. And god help you if you are in a quiet carriage with me and you attempt any of the above.

Don’t paint your nails
I love a painted nail as much as the next woman, but nail varnish stinks! Particularly in confined spaces. Have some consideration for your fellow passengers’ olfactory comfort.

Don’t bring your avian pets
It may be legal (although I do query that) but it is weird and it is extremely disconcerting to the person sitting opposite you. Placing a squawking budgie in a cage on the table and then checking it obsessively every five minutes because “…it seems a bit upset” is very disruptive to fellow passengers.

Don’t jam all your bags under the table
The racks are there for a reason; to enable you to quickly and effectively store and access your belongings whenever you want, while keeping people space clear. If you can’t lift it up there (although you all seem very able-bodied to me) then I can help you. Jamming your bags under either means that your legs and feet have to be in my personal space or your bags are in MY personal space. Neither are acceptable. Oh, and the corridor is not a luggage storage area. Large bags go in the very convenient luggage rack at either end of the carriage.

Don’t vomit
Or at the very least, don’t vomit at someone’s feet and ruin their brand new laptop bag. If you get on a train feeling unwell, make sure you take yourself off to the loo when nausea strikes.

Don’t talk to me
Sorry, but my headphones are in my ears and I am tapping away on my laptop for a reason. And that is not to have a chat with you. I am working. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy to exchange the time of day with you, agree to look after your stuff while you go to the loo and I will even help you identify your seat number or kick out the person squatting in your reserved seat (see my previous post: All Aboard! Part One) but I am not going to chat with you for the entire journey.

I appreciate that the above makes me sound like a moaning minnie; on the whole, I really don’t mind my three-hour train treks up and down the country and I really am a very positive person, but if even one person reads the above and changes their behaviour for the better we will all be happier travellers as a result.

Next time on All Aboard!: The pros and cons of cheap tickets and where to buy them



Music and memories: Book review of ‘The Chimes’

The Chimes, Anna SmaillAn unusual dystopian novel, The Chimes is a story of a populace without memories.

Music underpins the lives of the populace of an alternative London; it guides them (tunes act as auditory maps so they can find their way around), it identifies them (everyone has their ‘own’ tune) and it defines their role (additional snatches of melody added to their tune that broadcast their activity). But most of all, it controls them. The chimes of the title ring out from the Carillon several times a day, essentially wiping any memories made and reinforcing the ‘Onestory’ which is all anyone knows.

But there are those that can and do remember snatches of the real story, the whole story not just the Onestory. They are hidden, on the fringes, and they want to give people their memories back.

This novel is saturated with musical nomenclature, an alternate version of musical terms. A strong knowledge of musical terms would help the reader get the most of out this novel, but even without that, it is an engaging read and one that really made me think about the importance of memories and how they form not just our back stories but how they can drive our current attitudes, our behaviour, and our future plans.


Magical storytelling: Iain Pear’s Arcadia

Arcadia_Iain_PearsOkay, so the title of this post probably gives away what I think of this novel! I have enjoyed all of Iain Pears’ previous novels and Arcadia can now be added to this number.

It is a difficult novel to categorise so I am not really going to try. The Guardian called it a “fantastical extravaganza” and The Independent claimed that it was a “near-perfect take on the perils of a parallel universe”.

Pears effortlessly intertwines three interlocking worlds and ten characters to create a wonderfully engaging story that celebrates the magic of storytelling. With a spot of time travel thrown in. And an homage (not a pastiche as it is a gentle portrayal not a mean one) to the kind of pastoral idyll found in certain fairy tales. I always find when I read Pears’ novels that I just ‘sink in’ to the writing, it envelopes me and I find myself raising my head dazed having read straight for three hours. And Arcadia was no different.

arcadia appHowever, it is a complex read, so complex that the author developed an app to accompany the book to help the reader keep track of the characters’ as they move between worlds and influence each others’ lives. I decided to forego the app for the first read, but now I am going to go back and follow each character’s story in turn (therefore reading the novel ‘out of sequence’) so I can appreciate even more the cleverness of this novel.

I hope I have’t put off prospective readers talking about the complexity of the plotting; Arcadia is a great read!

All aboard! Part One

train ticket imageI travel very regularly on the Cross Country train that runs between Oxford and Manchester Piccadilly. As I always pre-book my ticket (using thetrainline app which is brilliant!) and reserve my aisle seat at a table (I need to work on the train) you would think that I would find this trip an easy one but I do not. Because apparently there are very few members of the travelling public who know how to get on a train and find their seat with minimal disruption to themselves or others. And it drives me mad and I rant every week on Facebook to my friends, who are so amused by my rants that they have told me to write a blog post. So here it is, my advice for train travellers:

Set yourself up for success!
If you have a seat reserved, get on at the correct end of the carriage; there are very helpful signs at the entrance to either end of the carriage which tells you the seat numbering starting at that entrance. Don’t get on the ‘Seats 1-41’ end when your seat is number 53. You will cause chaos and mayhem as you force your way against the flow and hold people up.

1,5,3,6, 4…
Speaking of seat numbering, yes, I agree the seat numbering is confusing.  The seat numbering runs consecutively, it just zig zags back and forth from one side of the carriage to the other. Seat 51 is not particularly close to seat 53. Get over it.

A is for apple, not for aisle
I don’t know how many times that I have had someone insist that I am sitting in their seat because I am in the aisle seat because their seat number is 52A which must be the aisle seat as ‘a’ means ‘aisle’. Even though seat 51 is clearly labelled as the aisle seat. So I have to show them my seat reservation for ’51A’ and have the conversation for the umpteenth time that yes, it’s strange that ‘A’ doesn’t mean ‘aisle’.

Use your eyes
Reserved seats are clearly labeled by fancy little digital screens. They update from station to station as sometimes reservations are for only part of the journey; the display flags this accordingly e.g. ‘Reserved from Wolverhampton’ will be displayed at Manchester if the seat is not reserved until that station. Feel free to sit in that seat until Wolverhampton. But be prepared to move when the rightful ‘owner’ gets on at Wolverhampton. Available seats have the phrase ‘available’ displayed.  It’s that simple.

Sit in your reserved seat. PLEASE!
I don’t know how many times I have had argue the point with someone sitting in my seat that it isn’t my problem that someone is sitting in their reserved seat which is why they are in mine. Get out of my seat.

Excuses, excuses
Along with ‘but someone is in my seat’ I am also offered ‘Oh, but I wanted to sit with my friend, just go and sit in my seat’ [while vaguely gesturing at a non-table seat somewhere  behind them]. Or ‘I didn’t see the reserved sign’ (which apparently means my reservation doesn’t count). Or they are just arses and refuse to move.

Be mindful
I get on the same train back each week, for part of the journey it is a major commuter line. It is a VERY busy train with lots and lots of people getting on. Which is why I fail to understand why people think it is appropriate to block the carriage aisle for up to two minutes when they get on the train to take off their coat, take six items (one at a time) out of their bag, rearrange numerous bags, etc, etc. Get on, throw your bag(s) on rack or under seat, sit down and then, everyone is on and the train is moving, get up to sort yourself out at your leisure.

So there you go. In my next installment, what not to do while on a train…