Category Archives: Creative Writing

A White Old Mess

The stinging blare of my ringing phone woke me up, again, from a shattering dream.

I dreamt there was a homeless man snuggled in my arms as I rode this public convenience to a place, of only the Goddess knows where she was taking me.

Andrew, it says on my phone. My useless husband. Calling, to find out where I am? Why I haven’t come home? I doubt it. Probably calling to find out where his Mother’s antique terrine serving spoon has disappeared. I know where I’d like to deposit it, but I think his mother wouldn’t approve.

All this because I wanted to spend an afternoon with Sandra and have a few glasses of bubbles on a Wednesday afternoon. Where is the crime of a few cheeky glasses of bubbles delivered on a tray by my handsome waiter, Georgi? Oh Georgi, where are you now?

That acrid stench from earlier has returned to haunt my nostrils. There he is, the man of my dreams, or more poignantly, the man in my dreams. Nightmare. Sitting in First Class, giving me fisheye holding a brown paper bag, inside it, a glass bottle with its own special brew. Lifting it in the air to suggest we pick up from where we left off. Thankfully, I can’t remember where we left off, little lone where we first started.

To drive my message home I throw the chocolate biscuit and leftover Wotsits from my hair, in his general direction. I’m not a subtle woman. It’s part of my charm. My direct approach once captured the imagination of my Andrew, now he hides in his garage dressed for afternoon tea, sawing pieces of wood as he builds his tree beehive.

My new mate stands, blurts his black-yellow stained tongue at me, spital flys through the air, falling to the ground well before it finds its target. He turns and stumbles away, back to the rock he crawled out from under.

I’ve come to a realisation, having wished I’d taken up my useless husband’s suggestion of taking a taxi home and fending off their lascivious behaviour and hideous hairy hands. Still, I can get myself a drink and sit back and watch the world go by. Where is that woman?

The train continued on its mysterious journey, gently stampeding through the countryside, towards a sea of white.

Outside the light changed from a dull yellow to a greyish green/blue, almost pure white. The multiple coloured landscape is suddenly replaced by a stark landscape of white.

Snow. Where is my taxi, now? Why am I heading towards snow? Yes, it’s been cold, hence that rancid smell of a man taking refuge in this public convenience, but snow?!

I can feel a stern, considered worded complaint letter drafting in the back of my mind to the operator of this public convenience. I’ll gather as much evidence as I can, but look out.

A sudden bang from underneath my carriage, a jerk of the train and then silence from the engines, yet the train continues to move forward. I can smell a burning metal type of stench. I look about, but can’t see my vagrant mate. The train is slowing down, the snow making it difficult for the train to move forward.

Silence. Utter silence, except the wind’s gale force pressing against the windows. The lights go out.

Is this my punishment for gossiping with Sandra the moment when Frannie’s wheelchair-bound father finds out about his wife’s 6-month affair with her fitness instructor?

Last Safe Seat

There is no way I can be seen. It’s dark, a tight space and alone in the back corner of the last train carriage. There is only one way in, ahead of me. Behind me is the Conductor’s cabin and his door is locked. My bag sits on the seat next to me, eliminating any possibility of blocking my escape. It goes against my grain, stopping someone in need of a seat is utterly against everything I stand for, well, of some of the things I stand for. I stand for a lot of things, especially those things against humanity. We need to look after each other on this lonely planet spinning around in the same circle, each day.

Today, I have to think of self-preservation. This isn’t conducive to being a responsible public transport passenger. I know there are others to think of. Today, I strongly feel I must look after myself and I must be resilient. I’ve seen the outcome of those thinking of others when some think of themselves, and these are the very few on our planet, and today I join the ranks of those few.

It’s a dark and sombre place where I find myself. A safe space. A comfortable place and to my right is the window of the train. Nothing can see me, as I hide with a view of passing fields, homes and people standing on platforms. The gentle sway of the train comforts me, but I have decided I can’t let my guard down as I keep myself safe. It’s more about not letting my guard down when it is about protecting myself. I’m of an age where I am expected to take care of myself and a time when everyone is looking after themselves. We’re all too busy trying to get through the day.

I have to be brave, even though there is a smell of hot, sweaty suit pants emanating from the man sitting in front of me. It’s not as bad as the woman who eat a plate of eggy tuna on the train in the middle of the summer heat. It’s not as bad as the pretty girl who picked her nose on the way to London. It’s bearable, but I have to make it bearable as the alternative is not acceptable and I have to be brave.

The scratchy material of the train seat stings my fragile skin. The black stains merging into the seat fabric is somewhat disconcerting, but as I don’t know what they are, I try not to fixate on them. They look like black tare from the road, but who is to say what they are. It’s clear someone had a cheese sandwich here in the past few days or hours, one can never truly tell about these things.

The underneath of the tray table is something I will have to write to the Train operator about. The state of this dangerous health and safety offence, is exactly that, offensive. A congealed collection of drained fluids from multiple, unrecognisable sources. And of course, and why not, the obligatory pieces of discarded chewing gum. At least two of them have clear fingerprint impressions and with the right detective work and man-hours, the offenders could be placed in gaol for this offensive behaviour.

Today, I’m not wearing my headphones to block out the sounds of my fellow passengers’ incessant babble, as I have to keep an ear open for station announcements. This pain alone sends shivers throughout my skin, akin to the beating pain of a shin splint. Yet, sacrifices need to be undertaken for these strained circumstances.

The train conductor towers over me as he attempts to gain my attention, to inquire if I am “OK”, as he indelicately puts it. I’m sure my fellow passengers are eager to ascertain who the Conductor is talking to and the motivation behind my actions.

My only let down is not remembering to bring a blanket or some type of sheeting to place on the floor as I hide underneath the filthy tray table at the back of the last carriage of the train, travelling to work on this overly awkward Monday morning.

– Malcolm

Sick (Sex) On The Beach

O.M.G! O.M.G! Seriously, O.M.G! I went on holidays, on a plane. And now I’m back on the train, going home. Kill me now. I’m so embarrassed.

I actually made it. I actually made it to Heathrow last week from that nightmare train full of stupid suits. And not only did I actually make it to Heathrow, I spent a long number of brilliant tropical sunlight hours sunning myself on the beach. And not only did I sun myself on a tropical beach, I also got to have my favourite cocktail, Sex On The Beach served up by a hunky local named, Francisco. He was hunky, very attractive and he kept bringing the cocktails.

I WhatsApp Pippa a selfie with Francisco, from the beach. She didn’t get it. I sent a photo of me having Sex On The Beach and she sent me a selfie of her and the girl she likes at the cafe she goes to, to read her books. Pippa thinks she’s so amazing and so intelligent, but I’m the one with Francisco and his cocktails on the tropical beach.

When she sent me a selfie from the cafe, I replied with, “☀️☀️☀️”.

Pippa messaged me one word about this girl from the cafe, “Date”. Yawn. I’m on a beach and you’re in a cafe. So, I told her Francisco and I were having a date.

I have my suitcase with me, my broken suitcase. The handle is falling off and the wheels are broken. Baggage handlers. I saw them from my plane seat window, throwing everyone’s bags about. My hand luggage, well, the largish overhead cabin locker-bag, and my handbag stayed safe with me on the plane.

My phone just pinged. It’s Pippa, again, dying with jealousy, wanting to know all the gory details. I’m not going to tell her Francisco gave me too much Sex On The Beach, a pounding three-day migraine, severe sunburn, a hangover from hell and the weeping blisters on my legs. I don’t recommend passing out on a lounge chair in the sunshine, on a tropical beach after having Sex On The Beach.

The train is moving rapidly from side to side, rocking my head, turning my stomach as the other passengers, a whole raft of stupid suits staring at me with my red, peeling face and blotchy skin. My hair hurts. I just want to die. It would be less painful and less embarrassing. One man in his three-piece zoot suit stands in the doorway, swaying from side to side as his stiff felt wide brim hat shadows his face. It’s creepy. He’s watching me from afar but also looking straight through me. He looks like a giant wedding cake decoration, without the bride, or another groom, depending on your bent.

We stop at a random station to pick up more passengers. Some get off. My broken suitcase and hand luggage hide me from the brunt of the other suits. Why is it only suits who get on my train? Where are the normal people?

My phone just pinged. Oh God, I fell asleep again. Ugh! What is it with train travel and falling asleep. It’s Pippa, again. “U @ 🏠”.

“No. 🚂.”, I replied. I’m not inviting Pippa to meet me at the station to pick me up or greet me. I can’t let her see me like this.

Next year I’m going to Margate with Mummy and Daddy.

This is so unfair. FML.

– Nancy

A Victoria Sponge Lesson

Mike is back on the platform after a spell taking care of his mother. She’s an old stalwart and feisty woman. Bless her. She sent Mike back to the station with a tray of Battenberg, Maderia and Victoria Sponge with a Chelsea Bun for yours truly. She’s a good woman, is Mike’s mother; would give you her last penny if she thought you needed it.

Roland, Barry’s newbie thought he was well clever to be on Platform 9, Mike’s platform, a good half hour before Mike arrived. Said he was keeping Mike’s position, safe. We all know why he was there, and it wasn’t for the cakes. That in itself would’ve been a good enough reason, but, no, it was because Roland, over there, was writing down all of the unique train identifiers of the new Siemens rolling stock. The sod. He wanted to show off. He thinks being all pally with Mike is going to wash over? Mike won’t be fooled.

Sunday roast with Mother last weekend brought it all out in the open. Mother makes a cracking roast beef and potatoes; we’re not racists. She almost caused a riot by pretending she forgot the Yorkshire puddings and gravy. You could’ve cut the air with a knife. A strange sense of humour that woman, but I see where I get my cracking sense of humour from. Mike and his mother were sitting opposite when it came out, what that newbie, had been up to. My dear old mum spat out some of her white wine, back into her glass when she heard the news. Sunday is the only day she has one glass of white wine with the Sunday roast. She says, ‘If the good Lord above can have a rest day, so can I.’

Mike handed out the cakes at Platform 9 to the rest of our Hive. He kept the Chelsea Bun for me, of course, and when the Newbie put his hand out to receive a slice, Mike handed him a condensed copy of, Ian Allen’s train number book. That sliced right through his smug face. By his look, the embarrassment of admitting he’d been bragging about collecting numbers from buses, taxis and planes, put him back in his place. And, worse still, no Anorak. You can’t teach young people the simple things.

Vincent won our friendly competition the other week. He cleverly captured a number of train identifiers before my good self and Melvin. Now, we all know Melvin is a little compulsive and enjoys the art of debate, to put it politely. He argued the toss about one train identifier and a five-second difference between his time recording and Vincent’s time. In the end, due to the written facts, the award went to Vincent. Fair play and all that.

Next month is the annual National Railway Museum Awards in Yorkshire. We are making plans to travel up to Yorkshire for the night. I’m putting care plans in place to accommodate Mother’s needs. I’m tipped to win the Most Consistent Carriage Identifiers and Mike the Sensibly Dressed Spotter, and the Best Numerical Identifiers. Lucky devil to be nominated for both categories. Of course, the Newbie has been removed from the nominations because of the scandal surrounding the unique train identifiers of the new Siemens rolling stock. Shocking behaviour.

Some of the Hive are up in arms over this scandal and are calling for a town hall meeting to discuss the Newbie’s actions. I am conflicted; I see what the lads are saying, but I also have to uphold our constitution. It’s a sticky situation.

I best get myself started and prepare for the peak. It’s been a strange day, in the sense there was a young man loitering about the end of the platform. As I approached my position he made a hastened exit back to the cafe. I’m not saying he’s one for the Samaritans, might just be an interested person in Trainspotting. It’s an amazing hobby with a band of lads behind you. But with his European look about him, I doubt he’d be interested in our British past-time. You know, with Brexit and all that about to kick off.

– Phil

Sitting Down

I’m holding onto my coffee. Breathe. Breathe. It’s a reusable cup. I’m doing the right thing, saving our planet. The Dairy Grind cafe advertise their little logo of eco friendly and sustainable coffee harvesting. We are supporting local farmers in some country. Small communities. The milk is local, so they say. Just me and my coffee.

There’s a train coming. I missed my last train, so I’m completely out of my comfort zone. I don’t know what the schedule is, but I do know it’s stopping at my station. The display board says so. It’s slowly coming a stop.

I’ve only have to stand behind the yellow line and I can alight the carriage, but how? Where do I sit? These aren’t my people, my community of travellers. They aren’t my village. Am I intruding?

The carriage door blankly faces me. The deafening warning tone of the door lock release alarm my senses. I find my finger pressing the button to open the doors. With a swish, they open. It’s quiet onboard. Deafeningly quiet.

There are lots and lots of empty seats. I freeze. There’s a woman in the seat, where is usually sit on my train. I turn, there are five empty seats in the six seater. A man wearing headphones looks up from his screen and looks at me. Someone else coughs. I quickly sit down.

There’s a man sitting in the two seater I’m sitting in. His shirt blends in with the colour of the seat fabric. ‘I didn’t see you’, I think to myself. I’ve made my decision. I pull down the tray-table, placing my coffee cup on it. My handbag becomes squashed on my lap. I fidget. I realign my weight. I fidget. The man next to me does nothing. No reaction. I look over, he is squashed in the corner.

I look back to my coffee cup. I move my arm, but my forearm is touching his. Why did I move my arm? It wasn’t offending anyone? I have to get out of here. The man next to me does nothing. He stares out the window. I’m staring at his wild eyebrows. His nostrils expand and contract, can he smell something I can’t?

I remove my coffee cup from the tray-table, return the tray back to its position, lock it back in place, take hold of my handbag and stand.

There are more empty seats further into the carriage. I move past a woman, her shoulder peeking out from her seat. How can I manoeuvre past without touching her? I spy another seat before her. I sit down.

I sit down with a sigh or frustration and relief. I hear a, “haaaaa” exhale from my lips. The man next to me imitates my “haaaaa”. Surreptitiously, I glance sideways, but he isn’t facing my direction. Just like the other man, he looks out the window. Was there an echo in the carriage? I have to move.

The crackled announcement over the PA tells me the train is approaching my stop. “Haaaaa”, I say to myself. Again, I hear the echo.

Standing by the carriage door, and as the alarm sounds to warn of the opening doors, I press the release button and make my uncomfortable escape.

– Pamela

Two Gins Too Many?

Those pretty little painted cans of gin and tonic are the devil in disguise. The trolley lady was too well helpful with her personal service for my need to calm my nerves. My head is thumping. What is this public convenience hell?

The feeling of cold hardness against my head interspersed with the gentle movement to an under-toned rumble. Newspaper stuck to my face, a mirrored imprint of Boris Johnson smeared across my forehead, Wotsits in my teeth and a chocolate biscuit in my, once upon a time quaffed, hair. I dare not look up in case someone notices me.

My eyes drink up the passing view, my blurred vision turns to rolling hills and floating cows. A farmer’s tractor. Am I in Switzerland, the land of the cows?

The conductor told me I’d be back home in no time. I touch my seat, yes, I’m still in First Class. Yes, I’m still on the same train. I can tell by the leather touch on my fingers. I must be in England. But there’s a smell. Something not familiar to my South East London senses.

At first, I smell something akin to a burnt whiskey; smokey, full-flavoured and weighty, but then I’m completely thrown off course by a smell I’ve not smelt since Reception School, when Becky Forthright, at the age of 5 years old ran through the class with a full and wet flannelette nappy. She was from a supported family.

Turning to face the centre of the train carriage, I’m confronted by a man. A man covered in muck. He’s wearing a flat cap, unshaven and, oh, his stale breath, strong enough to peel paint. Snoring. A bent cigarette balancing on his lower lip. Pages from the offending newspaper in his hand.

These are those moments I wish the earth would open up and swallow me whole. I’m living an unbearable hell and it must be close to afternoon tea. Where is my husband? Probably in his garage sawing another piece of wood for that ridiculous tree beehive. I’ll saw his left testicle off if he comes into the lounge wearing his mauve cardigan, covered in saw dust.

He heard about saving bees on a programme on BBC1. We only watch BBC1, although I know when he’s been on ITV, there’s a ghost image of that gobby Susan woman on my television screen.

I can barely stand up, my heel is broken and I don’t want to disturb the street urchin. He’s saddled right up next to me. He must think I’m his next meal ticket. Not on my watch.

I’ve broken free of my homeless shackles. A gin and tonic can makes a deafening clanging noise as it rolls away, it imagines seeking freedom, too.

Thankfully, my shopping bags are on the overhead luggage rack. Even in my unsolicited state of inebriation, I managed to fulfil some sense of humanity and humility.

At the opposite end of First Class, I settled myself in for the long haul trip.

Then I start to think, have I died and this is the long train to hell? Does no one know how to reach me? Where is my mobile phone?

– Harriet

Stop That Pigeon

Circling me with its evil beady eyes and maniacally jiggling head, it draws closer. Diseased, and more annoying than as a restless six year old craving attention. Surrounded by an air of innocence, but I know better. I know.

Oh, why are these vermin attracted to me? Can they smell fear? What do they secretly know? A businessman standing next to me juts out his briefcase to shoo it away.

Relieved, the sudden arrival of the train frightens away nature’s beast. As the carriage doors open, a crowd surges forward and we stampede inside. My cares about that fiend vanishes just as quickly. The doors close, a muffled announcement crackles over the speakers and we commence our journey.

Relaxing into the gentle sway of the train, the clickity-click persuades me into a warmth of slumber. Breaking through the caressing peace comes a subtle, yet distinctive call. A call of an indignant, coo. At first it is subtle and distant, without a care in the world. It draws closer.

In the corner of my eye, a woman rises ever so carefully, so not to raise alarm. In front, a man looks up from his screen, but doesn’t look down. He put his screen down and looks towards the woman. His face says a thousand words.

Gently, I turn my head. At first, the only picture in my vision is the woman and a group of strangers staring at the same point. I focus my gaze. There. On the headrest of the fourth row aisle seat is, the pigeon.

Before I can drop to the floor, the eye of the pigeon stares directly at me. Why, me? ‘What have I done to you’, my thoughts run wild.

An explosion of screams breaks the silence. A sudden powerful forward upward motion of newspapers, briefcases, hats, phones and discarded fast food wrappers litter the once empty expanse above the our heads. Frightful arms and legs lash out, punching and kicking the air as the invasion of swooshing feathers from an invisible source cuts through the mayhem.

Through the airborne debris, I hear a woman, her screams from her bright red lipstick lips, I see her, clutching at her hair, ragged and disarrayed, whilst tears stream from her distorted face. A man clings to the window as he attempts to climb onto the luggage rack, slamming his battered briefcase into the carriage window, swinging whatever his in his hand at his attacker. A younger woman cowers by the carriage door, forlorn, defeated in her battle for survival. What feels like hours of battle against the warring pigeon, the train stops to pick up more passengers.

The doors open. A collective of battered and beaten survivors, my fellow passengers, stampede onto the platform. Suckered by the onslaught of escaping passengers, airborne debris litters the platform. Warnings of ‘run for your life’, echo throughout the station. Stunned onlookers watch as our collective come to a stop, calm down and turn our attention to our war zone.

The inside of the carriage settles into a litter of wrappers and newspapers, as the pigeon stands at the carriage door, cooing. Cooing! Looking innocent and vulnerable, the pigeon alights the train. Cooing.

With its evil beady eyes and maniacally jiggling head, the pigeon disappears into the crowd.

– Malcolm

Suitcase Crush

Heathrow airport here I come. Look out sandy beaches. Soak me up sunshine. Quench me, sex on the beach, my favourite cocktail. I keep running through my imaginary check list for take off. Passport, check. Phone, check. Checked in online, check. Download boarding pass, check. Cash, check. Map, on my phone, check. One suitcase no more than twenty-three kilograms. Twenty-two point eight, said my bathroom scales, check. Hand luggage, well, I have a largish overhead cabin locker-bag, a carry bag and my handbag. If them at the airport want to be pathetic, I’ll put my carry bag in my handbag until I’m out of sight and pull it out again.

The carriage is empty, except for a business woman on her phone at the other end bringing down the mood, trying to convince someone how important she is. No one cares lady, take a pill. If only she would. Oh wait, I have my headphones.

The Guard walks past for a seventh time, giving me a strange look. You’re not my Daddy. I don’t get old people. ‘What-ever’, I glare back at him . He asked me to move from the six-seater I am sitting in and move to a two-seater. No thanks, I’m comfortable where I am. This is lush. I got my suitcase next to me, no one can invade my space. My handbag and carry bag on the floor and my feet, stretched out over them, on the seat opposite. I’m already in holiday mode. This is the life.

Oh no. My headphones dropped me off to sleep for a minute. We’re picking up more losers in suits. Why are there only men getting on this train? Have I missed my station? Crap. I got to change to the bus to get to the airport. I can’t see the sign outside the window, it’s an ocean of stupid. No wait. It’s cool. Another five stops to go. So happy this is the fast train, not the all-stopper. Ugh!

My phone pinged. Who’s on my back? It’s Pippa. She WhatsApp me. “U @ ✈️”.

“No. 🚂 full of 🕵🏻‍♂️.🤮”, I smiled to myself. Knowing these guys have no idea I’m talking about them, to Pippa. She’ll get it.

“Detectives?”, Pippa writes in full words when she’s being sarky.
“Suits!”, not to make too much of a point.

If only she could see these old men looking at me because I’ve got a suitcase and I’m going on holiday. They’re just jealous.

Pippa was telling me about a girl she likes at the cafe she goes to, to read her books. She’s going to do something amazing one day, she keeps telling me. Pippa thinks it’s so amazing she came out to us. You know, decades ago it was something people did, because they had to justify themselves, but you what, these days, no one cares, there are bigger things to worry about. Like the bees, or if some old orange fart is going to push the red button and blow us up, or if I’m too fat, or not clever, or not sporty, or not listening to the coolest tunes on Spotify. But I’m going on holidays, on a plane. This year I’m not going to Margate with Mummy and Daddy. And what Pippa doesn’t get is, she said all this last night.

“☀️☀️☀️”, I replied.

Just then, we stopped at another station. More suits cramming into the carriage. It’s supposed to be summer holidays and there are hundreds of suits queuing to get in. What’s going on? These people are so sad. Why aren’t you at Bognor Regis or Butlins or whatever? Stop cramming in my carriage and bringing down my holiday mood.

“This is nuts. Help me off this nightmare”, I was serious this time. Pippa would pay attention to me this time, in stead of banging on about her new café lover.
“U K?”, Pippa quickly hit back.

Am I OK? Of course not. It’s rammed in here. Standing room only and she asks if I’m ok. I feel like I’m at Butlins at group check in at the hotel. It’s nuts and no I’m not ok.

The train is stuck at a red signal and looks like we are going to be here for a while. I don’t care, cause I got time to kill. But these suits are bricking it, they all want to get off this train and I want them gone, too.

My stop. I’m here at my stop. Right, grab my handbag, carry bag and my suitcase, but I can’t get out of this six-seater. ‘MOVE!’ I’m screaming in my head. I want to scream it out loud, but I don’t want to lower myself to the level of these people. A big lump of a suit is standing in front of me with his headphones on. I have to touch him to get his attention. ‘Ewwww’, is the only thought running through my mind.

The large lump takes a step to the side, but his big fat gut still blocks my escape. No room for me and my suitcase. Three men and a woman start looking at me, surely they know I want to get off this carriage, but they all move about, knocking into each other.

With a wry smile and a cringe, I manage a “Sorry”. Trying to force my way to the door. Then the carriage subtly jolts and the platform starts to move sideways. Uninterested people on the platform begin to glide past the carriage window.

“Stop the train”, I find myself shouting to the bemused suits as the train pulls away from the platform. Goodbye Heathrow airport. Goodbye sandy beaches. Goodbye sunshine. Goodbye, sex on the beach.

This is so unfair. FML.

– Nancy

Summer Tuna

Is she seriously going to sit there on this overcrowded train, outside thirty-two degrees celsius searing summer heat, no air-conditioning to save us from roasting in this poorly-cushioned oven whilst screaming children vicariously express their inner-demon, and she thinks it’s alright to devour that mound of smelly tuna and boiled egg? And with a plastic fork!

Is there enough mayonnaise?

Sitting there, shoveling fork pile after fork pile of stinking tuna into her overarching gob. My gut is wrenching. My nose attempts to cave-in, to shield itself from the agonising stench. The gall of her to look at me, as though I’ve infringed upon her sensibilities.

I feel sorry for the little train table jutting out from the seat in front of her, there is crusty breadcrumb litter from the offensive feast. Her, onboard picnic staining the Formica laminate, crumbs attaching themselves to the polyester seat coverings and the window filling with stains from stray offshoots of tuna flakes. When did consuming a meal on a train become such an invasion of the senses?

Standing at the edge of the station platform in the correct position, waiting for the train to position itself in its correct stopping position to allow the carriage door to stop directly in front of me, has become as natural as the sun shining. Then, one day, balding and eye-glasses wearing round man barrels himself towards me, hoping to intimidate me out of my platform position. I don’t think so. I have been standing in this exact position for years and no new plank will force me to move. Recently, he has taken to stretching and moving about whilst standing next to me.

“You’re not the first business suit to attempt intimidation with your stupid acrobatics”, I thought to myself. I shot him a look to let him know I won’t be moved.

The responsibility of alighting the train first means moving swiftly into the aisle and towards the centre of the carriage to find the first available seat. Unfortunately, Summer holidays means more passengers on the 17:46 train, limiting seats. Being first to board is a blessing, but today it’s been condemnation. Yes, I am grateful I located a seat, but not next to little Miss tuna-mouth.

And now I am sprayed with tuna oil, bread crumbs and little bits of lettuce leaf. Somehow, having lettuce leaf on an egg-tuna gives it a life of sophistication. It might be served in a fancy looking box from the local, but it stinks like any other.

And now I’m stuck in this wretched seat for the next forty-five minutes, feeling the pain of being the first on board at my platform to find a seat, here. Oh, how I wish the train would derail and we could all be mixed up like a cocktail shaker, having me land in a new seat, next to, no one.

But dreams are free.

Thank goodness I have a new bottle of Daz and disinfectant at home, I’m straight for the washing machine as soon as I walk in the door.

Ugh!

– Malcolm.

Spotting Train Spotters

Usually, Mike is standing proudly in the best viewing position at the start of platform 9 with Barry, his spotting companion. Mike isn’t there today. He’s at home caring for his mother, and it’s not looking promising.

We’re expecting the new fleet of Siemens rolling stock to pass through and he’ll miss a whole lot of unique train identifiers. They’re the numbers on the front.

Barry has a newbie with him, a Roland, or something. I know we always need new blood to keep our activity alive. The upstart has a very modern winter coat with sheepskin lining and zipped pockets, but he’s failed to adhere to our Anorak philosophy, there are no flaps on his pockets to keep out the driving rain. He’ll learn the hard way.

This morning he was bragging about collecting numbers from buses, taxis and planes. Planes, whoever heard of a plane spotter?

The young ones turn up with their electronic dictaphones and German specialist binoculars. What happens when the batteries run dry? A sturdy British lead pencil and paper pocketbook is the answer. None of that Brexit rubbish. Good old fashioned British made.

Me, I’m very knowledgeable about my subject. I find what I do more than a hobby, me. Others don’t understand it. Once, the wife and I were at a social, neighbour’s summer BBQ. Sometimes, people can’t contain themselves when I say I’m a trainspotter. Apparently, it’s something to be scoffed at. I’m out and proud about it.

The wife is good with it, gets me out of the house with a packed lunch and a thermos for soup and one for her special hot milky tea.

Keeps me entertained, and I suppose it does, but I also do my community duty at the end of the platform. You see those Samaritan signs, we show a physical presence. Of course, after what happened in Sept 2011 we were all being ejected from station platforms from around the country, claiming safety and breaching security. Bloody madness. Trainspotter terrorists, ridiculous, if anything we will spot them first before any of the general public, they’re too busy with their heads down looking at screens.

There are other Spotters in our hive. We’re a hive because we work together, but in different locations. Melvin and Vincent photograph their spots from a pedestrian walkover bridge at the end the platform at a different train station. We need to be discreet, especially when photographing, therefore I won’t disclose their favourite locations.

One woman accused Melvin of photographing her. Clearly, she was confused, to put it politely. You understand.

Roland thought he was cleverer than Christmas snow, lucky enough to write down the first unique carriage identifiers on the new Siemens rolling stock. Out of respect, we are reserving them for Mike. That’s his honour and he should be the first to collect them. Now he must wait for the next release of Siemens carriages.

It’ll take a number of years before the young upstart is able to walk on stage at the annual National Railway Museum Awards and claim an award for Most Consistent Carriage Identifiers, or Sensibly Dressed Spotter, or Best Numerical Identifiers.

Last year I won Best Antique Identifiers Collection. It’s called an antique collection because my collection has the oldest number of carriage identifiers. This is important because the carriage and wagon classification system changed in 1948. The Ian Allen’s train number books were popular in my family and that’s where it all started. It’s a family tradition.

The peak hour is about to start, best I free up my writing hand to start the competition.

It’s competition day, if I didn’t mention. Even though we’re all in the same Hive, we also like to keep our skills at their peak with a friendly match.

Our competition is a complex system of writing down identifiers, times and dates from our individual platforms, but also capture identifiers from other platforms, hence the binoculars and if I can spot an identifier before any other Spotter, I commandeer that identifier. It’s a friendly match and services can be verified by timetables. Plus, our companions also act as timekeepers.

Thanks for taking the time to learn more about trainspotting. If you’re truly enthusiastic, come to one of our weekly gatherings, details at our website TheSpotterWithin.co.uk.

And, if Mike were here, he’d have that upstart under control. March him straight back to the van to change into something appropriate.

– Phil