I’m typing this article on the train going up to Edinburgh. It’s not comfortable, there’s no table seat and I’ll probably look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame by the time I’ve done. My laptop is bouncing precariously on a seat back table and I’m wedged in to a tiny seat not designed for anyone over 5 feet tall.
I’m not especially well travelled, although my blog articles might make you think otherwise, and have never left Europe. I get bored and restless quickly and hate being contained in a seat. I get seasick, car sick and bus sick. I can’t read on moving vehicles, except the train or plane. I always want to jump off once I get bored, which is heartily frowned upon on a plane.
I do love the people watching and the eavesdropping opportunities. Why, just this morning there’s a huge wedding party on the train, decked out in shiny suits, over large fascinators and massive heels. I’m admiring their lack of taste and am kind of touched by their pride at how classy they look, when in reality they would fit in at a raucous gypsy do. As I always say “You can’t polish a turd.” They don’t seem to know this phrase. I blame the glossy magazines for making everyone think they should try and look like aristocracy or minor celebrities.
I do however, hate the enforced attack as people’s noise invades your space and consciousness. Noisy children, tinny headphones and lairy drunks seem to come as standard on public transport. Often nowadays the headphones aren’t even an annoyance, people will sit and play their music out loud on their phones and no one seems to bat an eyelid. I’ve often been tempted to get my headphones out of my bag and show them to the offending person to demonstrate how decent people behave. I was on a train to London recently and there were two children running up and down the first class carriage during the whole journey. In first class! You’d expect it in standard. There are also the olfactory sensations to contend with. People’s smelly food, bad hygiene and overpowering perfumes invade your space. Oddly, in the next carriage down, there’s a boy strumming a guitar. Now that is rude. I’d be snapping his plectrum if he was in my carriage.
I’m an anxious traveller, worrying about missed connections, losing my bags or getting mugged. I struggle to leave the house, checking the gas (whether I’ve used it or not) a handful of times and turning the taps off so tightly that it needs a spanner to unfasten them. As a teenager I loved travelling, especially on buses or trains. It was always an anxiety free time for me. I loved the feeling of being in between places. I’d sit on the top deck of a grubby bus, chain smoking, glad to be in limbo, not at school or home, no nagging or bullying.
One thing I do like to see on a train is a nicely turned out business man. They travel in packs on trains. As a gay man, I’m an expert at the art of discrete lechery. We have a genetic thing whereby we instinctively do this. There’s something about a smart suit which does it for me every time and turns even the most humdrum male into a stud muffin. The fit of a nicely pressed trouser against the thigh of a clean and soapy smelling male is like a red rag to a bull to me. I’ve never charged at one yet though, horns aloft, I just admire discretely.
I was on a train to London once, sitting with a friend at a table on a train. Sitting opposite was a fine specimen. He was tall and handsome with fair cropped hair and the lean yet muscular physique of a cyclist or runner. He must have been in his late 30s or thereabouts. He was clad in an expensive looking blue pinstripe number. In short, he was perfect and I would have married him as long as he was able to speak. Actually, that wouldn’t have mattered too much.
I was recounting an anecdote, which isn’t unusual, about a time when I had a tantrum in a sushi restaurant in London. The lovely man was typing on a laptop and was eavesdropping away. This became obvious because every time I said something funny he sniggered to himself. Oddly he kept catching my eye (his were a lovely shade of pale blue) and smiling. After a time he got up and went to the toilet, repeatedly looking back at me as he walked.
“He fancies you.” My mate said. “I think he’s hoping you’ll follow him to the toilet.”
I discounted this with a snort of derision. I never believe that any man could or would really fancy me or want to sleep with me, in spite of the odd bit of evidence over the years which suggests the contrary. If a man wants to make his intentions plain then nothing short of a written invitation will do. There’s no point making eyes or walking past looking at me. I’ll just be wondering if there’s a funny bit of acne I’ve not noticed or some lint on my clothes.
By the third time he’d walked to the toilet and glanced repeatedly back at me, I did accept that maybe his intentions weren’t honourable and I pondered what to do. He was in the toilet, he was gorgeous and he clearly wanted to make the journey more exciting. It may not have lead to marriage but I was single and it was a dull journey. Cheap behaviour isn’t always bad in my books. I decided against it, though. I thought that the etiquette was bad and to be honest I’ve never liked train toilets. They always smell so bad. The thought of getting caught isn’t an incentive for me, ever. Who wants a criminal record and a mention in the “In the Courts” column of the local press? This was a brief (briefs?) encounter that I wasn’t going to have.
Ten minutes later he returned from his wait for me in the toilet, looking mildly disappointed and plugged his headphones into his laptop. I thought wistfully about his lap. Not for long though, my regret faded as he began to play air drums to the music he was listening to. I guessed he was listening to Phil Collins, I may have been wrong, and every time he got to a drum solo he joined in on the air drums. He was doing that thing men do when they get really into music, biting on his lower lip and squinting slightly, head rocking side to side. I was mightily glad I’d not accepted his invitations and as I tried hard not to giggle (I was thinking about dead kittens or Bambi’s mother dying, it always helps) I considered my lucky escape. I’d considered, momentarily, having sex with a twat. It’s better to just look and dream, maybe even better to just look out of the window or read a book. Public transport can be dangerous.