Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Decision Time for The Earbud Avenger

Somewhere in the cold depths of a winter evening, a train bullets through the darkness. Well, maybe it reluctantly chugs through the darkness. The crowded space is filled with the tinny sounds of a playlist from earbuds nearby. Surely this is a case for the Earbud Avenger.

This time it was a tough decision whether to act. The villain actually had ....wait for it... Musical Taste.

Is the role of The Earbud Avenger to stop those who blast loud music from their devices, even if the music itself isn't annoying? Is merely being rude enough to assume others want to hear it worthy of superhero action? Our hero wrestles with this dilemma while her foot taps absently to Al Greene and then "You Shook Me All Night Long". Then, just after the first chorus, the villain fast forwards to the next tune. 30 seconds in, she does it again. The villain is an incessant mid-tune flipper. The decision has been made. She must be stopped.

Chalk up another victory for the Earbud Avenger!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

To sit or to die?

It all started so well. The bus driver didn't have any sleeves for my weekly pass, so he let me on for free. I had a full loyalty card, so my coffee was free. There were more people than usual walking around this morning, and everyone was very cheerful. Complete strangers were smiling and saying hello, forming a happy little community of early risers braving the cold. And then there was the train.

I was 15 minutes early, so I was first on the platform. The trains didn't run at all last week and when it rocked up today, it only had two carriages. Somehow, I got jostled out of the way and because I was in such a good mood from the journey in, I didn't jostle back. So, I was left with the decision of taking a jumpseat in the unheated bit between carriages or standing in the aisle in the relative warmth. I had visions of my blue hand outstretched, frozen for eternity, season pass open for inspection. Now here I stand, swaying with the motion of the train, my backside jammed into a guy who was lucky enough to get a seat (but unlucky to get the one where my ass is), while the conductor inexplicably tries to shimmy past all of us in the aisle every 46 seconds to check tickets.

Next time, I think I'll risk frostbite.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Blizzardy goodness

Earlier in the year, I learned my lesson about trying to commute in the snow: If the buses aren't running, go back to bed. I had several days where I battled to walk 3 miles along roads that hadn't been gritted only to find that the trains were canceled.

So this time, when we were doused with the largest snowfall in our area's recorded history (about 18 inches, much to the amusement of my Canadian friends), I just made arrangements to conduct everything via the web, including lectures.

Train Buddy, on the other hand, took the snow as an epic challenge. I last heard from him two days ago as he was battling his way across the Penines, probably pushing the train himself. Good for you, my friend. Now where did I set that mug of cocoa?

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Or your money back

I filled in 4 claim forms for delayed and cancelled trains. I got 4 identical letters stating that the trains had not been delayed by more than 2 hours. Apparently, East Midlands Trains operates outside the normal space-time continuum. They sent me 4 vouchers at £9 each for future journeys. Oh good. So next year when my season pass expires, I can pay for 75% of another late-running service.

The train is late due to.

Was hoping to be snowed in today, but no such luck. I dragged myself down to the station despite being ill, only to find that the train was delayed. The announcement lady kept saying, "We apologise for the delay to this service, which is due to." Even the robotic voice has given up trying to explain.

The estimated delay time kept increasing by 2-3 minutes until the train eventually rocked up (with only two carriages) 23 minutes late. There was a last-minute platform change, causing Train Buddy and I to go running up and down several flights of stairs and collapsing into the last two available seats just before the doors closed. Nothing like getting to the station 15 minutes early and then having to run for the train 40 minutes later.

Unfortunately for us, the last two seats were in the refrigerator compartment. Er, I mean the jumpseats in the unheated bit between the two carriages. They do have the added bonus of being about 2 feet from the honking loo.

We asked the conductor why the train was delayed, and he said it was because the train was supposed to be 4 carriages, but the brakes on the last two got stuck and they had to be removed. Awesome.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Another score.

The Earbud Avenger strikes again. We may never know why dude vainly trying to whisper into his dictaphone over the noise didn't say anything to the offender, but he was grateful to me for doing it. Come on people! If we join forces, together we can quash the obnoxious.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


Hurk. Huuuurk. This is the sound that one makes when gagging up morning coffee because a fellow passenger does one of the following:

Clips her fingernails, allowing the bits to fly around.

Makes his own contribution to global warming through gluteal methane release. Smells like last night was curry.

Decides to pick his brains, quite literally. We are talking second knuckle here, people.

Makes that sound of sucking phlegm from the nose clear into the stomach. Is there a name for that?

Absently plays with his two veg through his sweatpants like he's watching telly on the sofa.


Thursday, 11 November 2010

Family ties

I feel bad for the poor Da' on the other end of the phone getting an earful from his loud Scottish daughter about her sister. I feel worse for the rest of us having to listen. The train is so crowded this morning that even if the woman was considerate enough to take her call in the vestibule, she could nae get there for all the people.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

I'll get you next time!

The Earbud Avenger has met an evil arch enemy. On the bus this morning, a man was playing his music so loudly that nobody could tell where it was coming from. A pal, Hagrid, was on the bus too. Despite being a very large rugby player, he shrugged it off citing his aversion to confrontation and left me to plot my strategy. This was definitely a job for the Earbud Avenger.

From several rows in front, I asked the offender to please turn it down. He smiled disarmingly and removed his earbuds as if to show me it wasn't him. I apologised, and the sound carried on.

A gruff old Yorkshireman shouted, "Ayup Friend!" in a threatening manner at the same man a moment later to no avail. The woman behind Mr Disarming Smile indicated with her head that it was indeed his music we were all suffering from. It was then that I realized I'd been had.

I'd met a tough adversary. He was a traveling douchebag. You may have won this time, but next time you won't be so lucky!

Special guest post

This morning we have a special guest post courtesy of Train Buddy. After two years of begging him to share his humorous musings on our often unfunny journeys, he has finally relented and decided to share them with everyone else. This is his take on the very same journey that I posted on earlier, but from another squished seat farther down the carriage. Enjoy! 

I really dislike EMT, and especcially this journey time. Those were pure weasel words. 
We apologise for late running of this service...due to being behind a stopping service. 
We apologise for crowding...due to unit failure.
It should've been: 
"We apologise for slapping the same BUSTED-ASS unit into service, and being completely bowled over by its unexpected internal COMBUSTION. We apologise that being forced to use the remaining working carriages (half that required) has resulted in PEOPLE PATE. That this might delay the FREE FLOW of people was beyond our comprehension. We apologise that far from being a RANDOM occurance, our general INEPTITUDE has delayed our progress such that we fell behind the slower STOPPING train and we are now free to be even LATER."   

Time share seating

This morning's train rocked up with two carriages. Yippee!

Cue announcement from Hangdog Conductor, without a hint of irony, "We apologise for the crowded nature of this morning's journey. Due to a clerical error, we will not be honouring seat reservations".

Now, I've heard this announcement at least once a week for the last two years, and that's only on the days that they bother with the apology. Perhaps the clerk that is responsible for the "clerical errors" might need some job retraining. What the announcement really means is, "Season pass holders don't get seat reservations, so you can get stuffed. All others with that have seat reservations can also get stuffed."

Train buddy and I managed to get seats this morning - just. Several of the other regular travelers that join at the next station weren't so lucky. However, I set up a seat time share arrangement with them. Community spirit isn't dead!

As poor Hangdog Conductor tried vainly to check tickets along the aisle that was virtually impenetrable with passengers, we enquired why the service had been more abominable than usual over the last week or so. He had no answer other than a nearly robotic, "On behalf of East Midlands Trains, we apologise for inconvenience [sigh]".

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Now that's a bad journey

Yikes. A cement mixer just fell on a train from a bridge. So far, reports indicate that there are no fatalities, just injuries. Thank goodness.

I'll stop complaining about my commutes for a while. Well, at least until my next later train.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Oh dear

After last night's debacle in which I arrived at the station at 4:30 but didn't actually get through the door until after 9, I was tired and mad. That was until I spoke to Train Buddy. It was a minor annoyance compared to his tribulations.

Poor guy has had so many cancellations and delays this week that he is actually unsure what time zone he's in, without actually having left the country. He's had 3 (or is it 4? - he lost count) days this week in which his train has either been cancelled or delayed. And when the train is delayed, the driver then has to take a 20 minute dinner break. It has happened so frequently that his patient wife may begin to question the veracity of his late arrivals home. I wonder if East Midlands has a homewrecker compensation fund?

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Avenging in silence

This weekend was Halloween and I went trick-or-treating dressed as the Earbud Avenger. I didn't get asked too many questions, considering I had a homemade mask, a cape, and y-fronts over my leggings. My shirt was emblazoned with "Shh!" in a fetching fuchsia applique.

The spirit of the Avenger must have stayed with me, because tonight I was able to silence two separate offenders with a non-threatening, non-verbal request consisting merely of a facial expression. I didn't even have to use my teacher face. Maybe it was the Y-fronts I'm secretly sporting under my clothes.


I recently was told by East Midlands that I couldn't receive reimbursements for cancelled trains during the course of my season pass due to delayed or cancelled trains without specific dates. Luckily for them, I've been keeping track on the handy blogosphere.

I'm currently sitting in a terrible station pub so I can use their plug socket after 2 cancelled trains. The third one is delayed by 20 minutes already, which doesn't bode well for it actually going. If I'm lucky, I'll be getting home at 9pm, only to turn around and leave again at 6:45am.

So far this delay has cost me £16: a sandwich and a coffee because I'll miss dinner, and now a pint for the sake of a plug for my phone. I also had to buy an £8 book because I've been stuck in the station for 2 hours and my laptop battery won't hold out for the whole journey. And I won't get to tuck my daughter in again.

Document that, East Midlands.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010


Positive start: There were promo people handing out free chocolate bars at the station this morning.

Negative start: laptop battery is dead so I'm 2 hours behind on my work already.

Meh. I've gotten to chat to Train Buddy and I have a chocolate bar for later. I think the positives outweigh the negatives.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

An open(ly sarcastic) letter

Dear East Midlands Trains,

Once again, your customer service policies and logistical planning have blown my tiny mind. This morning during the half-term morning commute, we were afforded 4 spacious carriages for the commuters that were on holiday. This evening during the dinner rush, the same train was allocated two carriages to accommodate those returning commuters, along with approximately every single teenager in the Mersey area trying to make it home from their half-term excursions in time for dinner.

The thing that most impresses me about this scenario is that they were all able to reserve seats. I, as an annual season pass holder, however am NOT permitted to reserve a seat. This is despite the fact that I pay £4,300 per year to ride the same train everyday. So, rather than being able to work on my two hour journey, I must now stand in the aisle after being on my feet all day at work. I tried sitting in the luggage rack, but alas this too is now full.

Good thing the train company will be taking so many extra fares today. Oh wait. It's too crowded for the conductor to move down the train to sell tickets.

I shall be thinking fondly of your company this evening while soaking my aching legs and finishing the two hours of research that I was unable to do on my cozy evening journey. Maybe in keeping with tradition, the train will be delayed and I can miss tucking my little girl in bed too.

Kiss my grits,

Monday, 25 October 2010

Voice from the top

The conversation in the planning office must've gone something like this:

Manager: Ooh. I know what we will do to improve the customer satisfaction statistics this week. We will put on more carriages so that passengers aren't crowded.

Minion: Good idea, sir. Just one little thing though. It's half term, sir. There won't be many travellers commuting this week.

Manager: You're right! Just think how happy they'll be to have more leg room.

Minion: Uh, sir. I don't think that's what...

Manager: Right again, Minion. Services will return to normal next week.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Office from Hell

There are some new characters who have recently joined the cast. They are nearly annoying enough to make me break my habitual selection of the last carriage in hopes that I don't have to sit near them anymore. They never shut up.

There are 3 of them, and they all work in the same office. It is clear that they are the mean clique that tends to form in workplaces where the industry is not relevant to anyone in the outside world. These three spend an hour each morning and evening backstabbing their co-workers and plotting ways to make others look incompetent. I'd love to figure out where they work so I could make transcripts of the conversations these bullies have and email them to their colleagues. Immature bullies.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010


It appears that at least every third person on the train is suffering from a winter cold. Not surprising, considering that we are jammed in here like sardines. I'm composing a percussive symphony in my head from the sounds. It's a bit like "Stomp", but with phlegm. Hack hack, cough, cough. Sniff sniff. Haaaachooo. Hmm. Perhaps it's a bit more evocative of the Cell Block Tango from Chicago. "I told him if he snorted snot down his throat one more time... And he did."

I'm thinking of naming it "Coughcaphony". Other suggestions?

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The error of their ways?

Oh goodie. We've got two carriages again. This is probably the 6th or 7th time out of my last 10 journeys. Last week, the conductor apologised a few times, citing engineer errors. This week, they've given up pretending that 4 carriages is anything but a pleasant surprise.

So, a train meant for 400 has seats for 300. There are pushy old people insisting that they have seat reservations when none have been printed. Glad to see that the train company has resolved these issues in time for the busy travel season.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

What's your superhero name?

More than once in the recent past, friends have had the conversation about what superheroes we would choose to be (We are nerds and are fine with it). I've decided on mine and am acting on it.

I've become...[cue big announcer voice and some catchy theme music] The Earbud Avenger! She stops offensive music listeners with a single polite request!

Train Buddy and I tossed around a few costume ideas, but would welcome some sketches.

I've successfully stopped three offenders this week alone, saving dozens of commuters from the annoying dush-dush-dush sound of an astonishing array of really poor music.

Wherever there's an offensive twat, the Earbud Avenger will be there! Oh wait. Hmm. That didn't quite come out right. Slogan suggestions gratefully accepted.

More death

Another death from someone ending his life jumping in front of the train. Although I'm terribly sorry for this tragedy, I'm pretty pissed off. I'm hungry, I'm tired, I won't get to see my daughter before she goes to bed and all of my gadgets are running out of battery. We've been stuck on the tracks with a train in front and one behind while they scrape up the bits further down the line, so we can't even get to a station for a replacement bus. I can't imagine who wants their entire existence reduced to an incredibly inconvenient smudge.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

A man in my lap

My personal space has been so violated this morning. A man got on the train at one of the stops where it actually begins to empty out and wedged himself into the window seat next to me at the table of four that was otherwise empty.

He was rather wide and proceeded to turn himself diagonally in his seat to look out his window. Half his ass was in my lap and he kept bumping into my computer. He turned to me with what appeared to be four mouthfuls of battered fish (at 8am) hanging out of his mouth and said rather aggressively, "novevif go wipoo?". Between the Chinese accent and the pieces of food flying from his gob, it took me a minute to mentally process what he was saying. Doves whiff of poo? Guvs vits whirlpool? I finally managed to decipher the syllables. Does this go to Liverpool? Yes, but I'll be arriving there in the other carriage.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

It's a good day

It's the first day of school, and even though I'm now on the other side of the register, it's always still an experience that gives me the jitters.

The year is off to a flying start if my morning thus far is any indication. I woke up refreshed before my alarm went off and had time to exercise, make breakfast and look halfway decent before I went out the door. I got the Brad Pitt bus driver, and the train rocked up with four carriages rather than the usual two. Train buddy is here too. I'm in such a good mood that I'm actually finding camp guy drinking prosecco and loudly discussing the intricacies of stock checking at the Co-op kind of funny.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Coworker blues

Don't you just hate it when your travel companion is somebody you don't really want to talk to in the office and now you're stuck with for days because of some bloody meeting?

There are two coworkers travelling together this morning. She is reading Shakespeare. He is a bit of a used car salesman. Why can't he see that she just wants hime to leave her to read her book in peace? She's really working the the non-committal "I'm not really interested but won't tell you to shut up" gesture. If you're not familiar, this involves pressing the lips together while raising the eyebrows. The eyes say, "oh really?" but the mouth says, "I'm going to punch you in a second". The expression is accompanied by the slightest nod and affirmative uh-huh, all with only briefly looking up from the book. Eventually, as the pointed looks at her book become longer and her eyebrow raises become shorter, the man decides to stop bothering her.

The silence is evidently too much, and he gradually builds up from shuffling papers to agitatedly bouncing his knee; he just can't keep it in any longer. It's like watching a child play the quiet game. He spews out all the conversation that he's been storing up for the past three minutes and she resignedly closes her book.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Death and destruction

Another fatality. Another interminable delay. Don't be so selfish if you're going to off yourself.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010


My concentration has been constantly punctuated by a group of teenage boys heading for the beach. Although distracting, it did make me pine a little bit for the freedom of endless summer days with friends.

The soundtrack to the journey has been provided by the giant 50-year-old bald rugby player near by. He has been blasting a song out of his earphones over and over. It's a dance version of The Boys of Summer. "I can see you/brown skin shining in the sun/ your dark hair combed back/ sunglasses on". I can't help but wonder if it's his dark hair combed back that he's feeling nostalgic about.

Typos? Blame my iPhone.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Travelling Douchebag

I'll admit it. I'm a bit cranky this morning. I've had three consecutive nights working until 2 or 3am on a project and getting up at 6. However, I'm pretty sure that the guy behind would qualify for inclusion on the Travelling Douchebag Wall of Shame anyway. He's lucky I can only hear him, or his photo would be here too.

This guy has managed to continually spew management speak into his phone at the top of his voice for 20 minutes now. How do these a-holes always get a signal? One of the other regular commuters was so distracted that he stopped working on his laptop and suggested we engage in a game of buzzword bingo. "I take your comments on board...We can move forward on this agenda...I took Monday's criticisms on the chin". He's going to take my criticisms on the chin in a minute.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Perfect sense

A train pulled up this morning bound for Carlisle. It had 15 cars on it. 15. Most appeared to have lamps and tables. The passengers on board were smiling. I kept staring at them because I couldn't believe rail passengers could be smiling. The seat per passenger ratio was probably 50:1.

Guess how many people got on or off? One. No wonder they were smiling. Smug b*stards. I will just huddle here on the platform with the other 75 people awaiting our two carriage palace in wheels with the seat per passenger ratio of about 0.8:1. You know it makes perfect sense.

Typos? Blame my iPhone.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

An award

Once or twice a year, I take my small child with me on the long commute to work. We spend part of the day at the office and skive the rest of the day in the museums. We while away the train journeys with rations of Percy Pig candies, crayons, and new activity books.

She's a pleasure, and I really enjoy these special trips. On the way back today, there was a Scouse grandma dressed in silver heels, tight top, and hot pants stretched over her orange-tinged skin. The three kids with her were little hellions. The 10-year-old blasted Eminem from a speaker attached to his mobile while tickling he 5-year-old until she squealed like a stuck pig. The middle boy kept running for the toilet, no doubt to purge all the bottles of pineapple pop he was chugging. All of this was met without the slightest shake of granny's peroxide head or raise of the overplucked eyebrows slathered in iridescent shadow. Then at the end of the trip, she dropped the hammer on them by telling them that they weren't going out for burgers and chips because they were so naughty. She yelled at them for longer than children can comprehend, apparently for the benefit of the other passengers rather than the children.

When they left, my daughter breathed a sigh of relief and said, "well they weren't very good children, were they?". Well put, kiddo. You deserve an award.

Typos? Blame my iPhone.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Ruined my perfect record

So, the train showed up 20 minutes late. Old passengers alighted, new passengers boarded. I managed to lose two chatty guys that were hitting on me without seeming rude. Everyone got comfy, put their stuff away and began the elaborate procedure of trying to be polite while also conveying that they want to be left alone.

Then, they announce that everyone had to get off again. Was it because of a problem? A train fault perhaps? Who knows. But 38 minutes later we are finally chugging along.

And to think that I hadn't used the F-word all day. There's that record shot, then.

Same old Friday

This is where my train should be. This is where my train should have been 10 minutes ago. This is the platform where 85 people are standing, with no announcement about delays or cancellations. Awesome, East Midlands once again.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010


After having been away for two weeks on business, all I want to do is
get home and hug my family. I've been looking forward to the normalcy
of home.

Due to ill-scheduled flights, I'm going to miss the first half of
England's last group stage match of the World Cup. I rush across the
whole of Manchester airport to get to the station, only to find that
my train has been, wait for it... Yes, you guessed it. Cancelled. So,
I get to sit in a sweaty platform cafe and wait for an hour for a
train instead of hugs and miss the match. I did say I was craving normalcy.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Sweaty boogers

I've always thought of myself as a person who likes people. It turns
out that I like people as long as I'm not in a searingly hot, crowded
enclosed space. So perhaps I like people in the abstract.

There's a man in business clothes unabashedly rooting around in his
nose opposite me, and another guy having a go at the conductor for
something that is clearly his own stupid fault. He also seems to think
that 3 out of four seats and 90% of the table belongs to him. Rather
than explode, I'm just going to passive-aggressively shove his things
around with my laptop millimetres at a time. He'd better watch it, or
he will be on the next installment of the Travelling Douchebag.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Another one

Only a week after the last train cancellation, I just received an SMS alert that my evening train has been cancelled today. Luckily, it came in just as I was about to pack up. Goody. Another night that I can't tuck my little one in bed because of a signalling failure. So glad I pay 15% of my annual earnings for this. C'mon, East Midlands. Get it together.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Reader comments

I value your feedback. No, really I do. The only comments I seem to be receiving are in Chinese, though. If you would like to do a guest post or comment, please do!

Thursday, 20 May 2010


The travel mayhem continues. According to the web, it wasn't a
platform fire, but vandalism. Who steals a cable? And how does one
learn to do that without getting electrocuted? Do they sell these
things at car boot sales?

Luckily for me, I noticed a train that would get me home if I left
work right then. So I hotfooted it out the door just in time and
flopped into a seat just opposite a fellow commuter doing the same. We
are smelly, but we made it. Pity the poor souls who didn't check the
Internet in time or couldn't dive out of work an hour early. The train
is only half full, so I'm guessing that the normal travellers didn't
spot this new train on the schedule. Either that or they were so angry
this morning that they gave up and went home to crawl under the
covers. I wonder who's the smarter?

Had it up to here

"The 07:35 has been cancelled due to a platform fire."

I didn't know that platforms were flammable.

The 08:42 was also cancelled. I managed to cram myself onto the already full non-direct train along with everyone else from my train and do the Picadilly Dash across the entire station within the 3 minutes before the connecting train departed. There may have been casualties...I had to throw a few little old ladies into the gap to clear the way, and bounced pinball style off of a formation of chubby people on the travelator, but I made it. Not bad in heels. 

Luckily, I made it in time for the meeting that I had been trying to set up for four months. It went very well, and I feel that I can relax on the train home. Now if I can only find a seat...

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


You know those pictures of the people in India hanging out of train
doors and windows? At least there's a chance for air circulation in
there. Seriously.
You'd never know it was a cool spring day outside, one of the first
that might allow one to walk around in short sleeves. In here, it's
sweltering and all I can smell is the 3-piece-suited buttcrack in my
face and the pits adjacent. I'm pretty sure I'm giving back as good as
they are giving as well.
Two hours with no water and fetid air on a delayed train. I'm
contemplating offerings to the train gods. With one hand they giveth
and with another they taketh away. How I've missed you, British Summer

Wednesday, 5 May 2010


Why does everyday etiquette not always apply on the train? I'm hardly
Miss Manners, but I'm constantly surprised by this.
On both of my journeys today, I had to stand up for at least an hour.
In the morning, it was because the previous northbound train had been
cancelled, leaving 6 carriages of people to squeeze into 2.
I refuse to participate in the frenzied shove fest to get on the
train, so was left to stand. Why will the English queue for anything
given half the chance, but elbow people that have been waiting on a
platform for longer to get on the train? It's a very strange cultural
This afternoon, I gave up my seat for a dad who was struggling to keep
himself upright in the crowded aisle while juggling a toddler. Nobody
else offered, including men and women of varying ages. Apparently rude
doesn't have a demographic.
I suppose I should be less angry with the people on the train, and
reserve my frustrations for East Midlands Trains. However, I thought
that one of the things that this country was supposed to be most proud
of was it's unfailing grace in the face of adversity. Sod that. It's
every traveller for herself.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

travel mayhem

My train tonight was cancelled. Again. I count myself lucky though. While I was sitting opposite the Traveling Douchebag #1, Train Buddy was on the train an hour later than mine. He sent me a message to let me know that his train was on fire. Not to worry though - the driver managed to battle the blaze and limp the train to the station. Just another day at the office. Ho hum.

The Traveling Douchebag

I've decided to add a new segment to the blog - the Traveling Douchebag . I was inspired by a recent birthday gift from a friend. She gave me a copy of a book called "The Quotable Douchebag" by Margaret McGuire, which listed real quotes from famous people that illustrate what jerks they are. My train homage to this will wonderful book will expose those who break the unspoken rules of acceptable behavior on public transportation.

The first installment will introduce you to a perfect example.

This guy talked really loudly into his phone for AN HOUR. I was wishing for a tunnel. He took up the entire seat next to him on a crowded train with his bags. His conversation consisted mainly of making plans for drinking and music festivals while he downed 3 cans of lager. If that's not enough for you, note the way he's got his fringed scarf tied diagonally across his chest like a messenger bag, the sunglasses on the train, and the psuedo-Buddhist accessories.

 I welcome you, Dear readers (all 5 or six of you),  to make your own contributions as well. If you happen to visit this blog and notice your photo here, time don't be such a douchebag.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010


I was so busy at work today that I looked up and realized I'd missed
my train. Rather than waiting for an hour for the next one, I decided
to run for one that requires a speedy change at a large station. I
hoofed it to the station, only to find that my train had been
cancelled. That's one more that won't be counted as late in the annual

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Decades later

I am just pondering why, after approximately 15 years of mobile phones
being de rigeur, some people still insist on yelling into them.

Do they think this will help the other person hear them better? Do
they think everyone else is secretly so interested in their daily
minutiae that we want them to speak up? I propose a new theory: it is
simply the inevitable fallout from the ipodiots. They are deaf from
listening to their little white earbuds at full volume that they don't
know they are shouting into the phone.

Have you forgotten me already?

This morning, we are again cursed with a jam-packed 2 carriage affair.
The conductor checks my ticket and then proceeds to perch his ass on
my laptop while he sells tickets to the people across the aisle. No
apologies, so I can only assume that he feels that this ménage a trois
between his backside, my equipment and my face is the stuff of my

He makes his way to the end of the carriage and back again before we
have reached any new stations and checks my season pass again.
Apparently, the experience we shared meant nothing. Sigh.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Welcome back!

The sun is shining, the air is brisk. It's my first day back on the
train for a blissful week of working at home followed by a week of
vacation spent toiling in a sunny garden. To celebrate the spring in
my step brought by, well, Spring - I decide to eschew the bus and set
off early for a healthful walk to the station. I should have had
breakfast with the chickens instead. The train is 15 minutes late.
Welcome back.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Good Life

This week has seen the complete rebirth of the derelict allotment vegetable plot that my friend and I have taken on, as well as the arrival of 4 laying hens in my back garden. I've never owned chickens before, but in the 36 hours since their arrival, the whole family have really enjoyed their presence. They've even won over the heart of the dear husband who was merely humoring me until this point.

The installation of the coop was a bit of a debacle. A lovely friend of mine who keeps chickens offered to build  it for me from an old bunk bed she had and deliver it nearly assembled. When it arrived, it was much bigger that the space for which it was intended and was in approximately 37 million pieces. 5 people and 7+ hours later, it was assembled, and the girls are happily scratching away in their new home. We even got an egg!

Introducing our new ladies: The toddler wanted to call the leghorn hybrid Daffodil, so we stuck to the flower theme, naming the French Maran Hyacinth Bucket (Keeping Up Appearances) and the black Sussex rock Violet (one of my mom's fave flowers).Well, we kind of stuck to the theme. The spouse decided to name his speckeldy Sheldon from Big Bang Theory.

I love spring

You know why I love spring? Because I can take time off while my students are on holidays. It means no commuting. It does mean digging up shrubbery while it's hailing outside, but never mind.

Train Buddy, however, has not been so lucky. I was hoping that for his sake, the train strikes after Easter would go ahead so he could stay home. Unfortunately, the strikes were legally challenged and the poor guy had one heck of a mess yesterday. I was just ankle deep in chicken poo. I much prefer the poo.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

What divorce looks like

I like to watch people, and I often pass the time on my journey by
imagining what people's stories are.

The man across the aisle is what I imagine divorce looks like. He's
wearing a heavy gold and silver wedding band on his right hand and
dressed in a suit. At first I wondered what that might signify, and
then I noticed the rest of the ensemble.

He's drinking generic bitter from a canst 4:45pm and has a hole in his
sock. His dress shirt is patterned with pale neon green and orange
squares, which on it's own might be trendy. However, he has paired it
with a tie with fat diagonal stripes in red and blue.

The poor man's entire demeanour cries out that this is a man who used
to be looked after by a woman. Now has nobody to help him dress
himself. I wonder if he has been sneakily kipping in his office.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

In a little box

As we were hurtling along the countryside in the windowed box that is
my third home, two ladies were chatting about a funeral they attended
last week. They mustn't have been very close to the deceased, because
the discussion seemed to revolve around who was there and what they
were doing these days, rather than the dead person.
The conversation moved on to the funereal wishes of their nearest and
dearest. It turns out that everyone wants to be buried. "Not me. I
want to be cremated," said one.
"I don't want to be in a little box. I'm claustrophobic".

Tuesday, 23 March 2010


After spending Friday night watching toddlers die of malaria on Sport
Relief, it's rather grating to listen to some university students
loudly planning their spring holidays. They are going on a music
festival tour of Europe and talking about all of their previous trips
to "Pesht" (Budapest). For an hour so far.
There's only so much hedonism paid for by Bank of Mum and Dad that I
can listen to. I fear they are on the train for the entire journey. It
may get ugly...

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Can't wait to be old

I cannot wait to be old. It's a license to act however one pleases.

For some inexplicable reason, the train was not crowded this morning.
For the entire first hour of the journey, I only had to share my table
for four with one other person. He vacated and was replaced by a liver-
spotted gentleman elegantly turned out in a Barbour coat, tweed
flatcap, cashmere scarf, and subtly manicured nails.

He slid over to the unoccupied half of the table and muttered a Prince
Philipesque string of syllables from which I could just make out,
"bloody computers", "bloody trains", and "what next". From behind his
German dictionary and text, he kept peering over and giving my laptop
the stinkeye. The appearance of my iPhone from my pocket nearly
induced a coronary. He would definitely be a patron of my dining car.

I can't wait until I'm old enough to be offended by the mere existence
of technology.

Friday, 12 March 2010

The Dining Car

So, I would like a dining car on the train. No, not a souped up version of the trolley with warm cans of cider and overpriced crisps. An actual dining car.

Linen napkins, waiters, a little jazz band. Poached eggs on toast in the morning and wine and cheese at night. It would probably cost about the same as my M&S habit and would bring a bit of class back to train travel. No electronic devices or BO allowed.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Quiet, please

I'd like to petition for a mandatory quiet coach on all lines with
journeys longer than 15 minutes. Just think- no ipodiots, no mobile
conversations, and no loud snack munchers. Anyone else want to sign?
Today's post has been brought to you courtesy of the high school
teacher with her binders of marking, suitcase, coat, lunchbag,
handbag, and snacks spread over a 4-person table. She has had to be
asked by 3 people to move various items to allow them to sit down and
read or work, when the train is filled to capacity. All the while, she
has been chatting loudly into her phone and doodling flowers on a
notepad. And the obligatory guy listening to trance music, natch.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Pee break

Over the loudspeaker: "We are sorry to inform you that the toilets on
this service are out of order". Cue group of little old ladies giggling.
"The next available toilets will be in one hour's time". Travelling
grannies no longer giggling.
"Should you need to avail yourself of the platform facilities, please
make yourself known to the conductor and we will delay departure for
you". Travelling grannies now looking completely mortified.
"We apologise for inconvenience". Travelling Granny: "They'll be
apologising for incontinence in an hour." Cue group of little old
ladies giggling again.

Friday, 19 February 2010

The train guys are bored...

Almost every day this week, the train has flashed up that it's late and then arrives on time causing panic. Train Buddy sends this report:

Yesterday was the usual giggle fest down on the farm/station. Arrive at 0610, train "delayed" till 0638. Then out of the blue, at 0612, came the "this train is ready to depart". You couldn't make up that level of panic. Metro's were abandoned, partially eaten muffins dropped, and staccatto swearing bulleted the air. Herd mentality spread like wildfire; 1st one then another passenger broke into a trot, then a canter, then a full-on undignified blethering knees-up, liberally sloshing hot coffee over crotches, swearing took on an air of pained desperation. We streamed up the stairs, over the walkway, down onto the platform and hurled ourselves at the train, wildly swinging elbows. A few missed the doors.

And then, as fast as it began, it was over. The train left quietly at the normal time, 5mins later, with the more rotund amongst us wondering if a coronary bypass came with the trolley service. East Midland Trains; "We're so punctual, we make even earlybirds crap their pants".

Thursday, 11 February 2010


I stayed late tonight, and got to the station only to find that the
train had been cancelled. No explanation. And then the bus didn't turn
up. Left the office at 5:30 and got home at 9. Ah, reliable public
transportation, I dream of you at night.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Suicidal tendencies

Suicide is selfish. It's also tragic. This post may be a bit
controversial, so of this is a sensitive topic for you, please don't
read any further.
On Wednesday morning, the train ground to a halt 10 minutes after
setting off. It was ostensibly due to points failure. I didn't have
any appointments first thing, so I was happy to muse on the beauty of
sheep huddling on the snow covered fields during the temporary delay.
Turns out that "points failure" was code for something far more
sinister creating hours of travel chaos.
If you're planning on killing yourself, please don't chuck yourself in
front of a train to do it. My normal 2 hour commute took nearly 5
because some guy decided to leap in front of a freight train. The poor
train driver and people on the platform had to witness the gruesome
sight of body parts everywhere. Thousands of people were late for
work, missed meetings, job interviews, and even had holidays ruined
because they missed flights. It took most of the day to sort out the
On top of that, it snowed in the afternoon, bringing other forms of
transportation to a halt. I left my house at 6:45am and didn't get
back until 9pm and had to hike nearly 3 miles in the snow to get
there. Neither a happy nor productive day. Thank goodness for podcasts
and fellow travellers with equally macabre senses of humour. We all
agreed that if the train hadn't killed that guy, we would have.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Mandatory issue

Normally, I don't plug products. However, on my recent trip to the US, I discovered a product that should be mandatory for all ipodiots (see definition in one of my earlier posts).

There's a product called yurbuds, which are "earbud enhancers". I bought a pair for running. They are semi-custom silicone covers that slip over the ear end of earbuds and prevent them from falling out of the ear canal. They also have the added benefit of directing the sound into the ear canal, reducing the volume at which one has to listen. They also prevent the sound from coming OUT and disturbing one's fellow travellers.

This simple invention ( may be a crime prevention tool. Without it, I predict an outbreak of rage-induced homicides in which angry commuters strangle inconsiderate jerks with their own headphone cords. They may even be celebrated by the press as "have a go heroes". So, join me today in petitioning for yurbuds to be required for use on all public transportation and prevent violence.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Back to the grind. And the gross.

I'm very fortunate that although I have a crazy commute, I am also able to work from home when the students are away, so for two glorious weeks in December, my alarm did not ring at 5:30.

I had to travel during the unexpectedly heavy snows. There were people slipping over on the icy, glasslike pavements and busses stopped running. But the trains kept running. I can't figure this out, because they are unpredictable during good weather and frequently late or cancelled due to adverse weather. My personal favourites are leaves on the track and rain. It is England, after all. However, 3 feet of snow was not a problem, and I was grateful.

I travelled to the US last week and was thwarted from reaching the airport for my return journey by a freak outbreak of sinkholes opening in the roads, but otherwise the trip was fantastic. I returned relaxed and feeling quite productive, only to be slapped in the face by the horrible reality of public transportation. Nothing quite says, "Welcome home!" Iike a mentally disturbed person drumming agitatedly on all surfaces of the train and loudly hawking up lughies and spitting them into fast food wrappers.

My first journey back into work was met with a sort of ying and yang harmony. The bus was broken down at my stop and I was nearly late. However, the replacement bus driver was a smouldering Brad Pitt lookalike with dark hair. Good morning. The train was abysmally late and platform changes sent me running up and down several flights of stairs at breakneck speed. But when it arrived, there were 5 carriages. 5!

This morning, missing bus and no Brad Pitt. I did get a coffee, but was put off drinking it by a woman(!) hacking the contents of her lungs and sinuses onto the platform. She was chattering loudly in Mandarin into her mobile while doing it, so I can only hope that it was a culturally acceptable thing to her. Otherwise, she and crazy dude may be the harbingers of a new phlegm trend. If that's the case, I'm moving.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Snow Surprising

After a blissful 3 weeks of working from home, it's time to return to work. The landscape is covered with a glorious blanket of white and all is silent. Oh, wait. It's because there are 2 inches of snow on the ground and the city has ground to a halt. There are no buses, and I'm getting text alerts that the trains are delayed. I'm supposed to fly internationally in two days and the airports are closed. 

I wouldn't mind if these "freak snowstorms" were a freaky occurrence, but they occur several times over the winter. Every year.Why can't we seem to cope when the rest of Europe plugs along quite happily all year?  Snow chains, all-weather tyres and some preparation on the behalf of public transport and councils: it's not a big ask.