Cyprus Mail

Let the train take the strain

Watching the countryside go by

Letter from London by Alexia Saoulli

I absolutely love travelling on the train. There is something so comforting about just leaning back in your seat and watching the English countryside roll by, as your thoughts roam free. For those few hours I feel content to set aside any worries I might have and to just ‘be’.

This past week I was actually up in our Manchester office for some training as well as a management meeting. I had an incredible workload on and so initially the thought of disrupting my schedule midweek with a trip seemed like an inconvenience.

The minute I got to Euston station I forgot about the terrible cold I was fighting (brought on due to the sudden onset of cold weather and rain) and the mountain of work ahead of me. Not only was I was going on a train but I was travelling first class! I could feel myself beaming as I joined the throng of people hurriedly making their way to platform one to catch the 1.40pm to Manchester Piccadilly.

It’s not the first time I’ve travelled first class on the train (on Sundays you can upgrade for a small additional charge which I’ve often done) but it always gives me such a kick. I love the extra leg room and the cute little lamps on every table. You also get a proper table with every seat, not one of those poky aeroplane tray things that u get in standard class. I sound like such a snob I know. Who cares, it’s the little things that give me such a thrill. I also love that you get a meal served and all the bottled water you can drink.

This trip was work related so unlike train rides in the past, this one involved working on a document I had been preparing. I tried hard not to let the rhythmic swaying of the train lull me to sleep and wished I hadn’t taken that cold and flu medicine which makes me drowsy. It’s really hard to concentrate when you’re fighting sleep. I was travelling with my boss who is a total workaholic mind you, so dozing off was not an option. He’s an amazing boss but I don’t think he’d have been too impressed paying for me to travel first class so that he could work and I could take a snooze.

The train steward was not the friendliest sort but I think it was more his manner rather than him being unpleasant. He seemed taken aback that I wanted a full cup of tea and told me he couldn’t fill my cup any more because the tea was very hot. I think it might be a health and safety policy. A bit like that incident in MacDonalds years ago when that lady burnt her legs and sued them. The next time he came round, however, he gave me a full cup. That’s when I realised it was more his manner rather than him being unpleasant. Unless of course it was the sudden swing round the bend that jolted his wrist in mid-pour that did it.

The only one thing I don’t like about the train is the toilets. If your seat is near them you have to put with the smell. Train toilets have a very distinctive smell. Like dirty dishcloths only worse. I can’t explain it. They’re not revolting smelling like some public toilets can be and they’re actually pretty clean. Forget the smell, however, and try using one. Now that is an experience in itself, as it’s very hard to squat when in rocking motion. You have to grip on the sides of the cubicle just so that you don’t fall over, while simultaneously praying that your aim is better than most men’s. As for sitting down on one of those things, I think not. Who knows what sort of bacteria is festering on those seats. Besides, can you imagine if the train crashed and you were found wedged in the toilet seat? I suspect the suction on that thing is pretty effective and who knows what could go wrong. I’ve heard the horror stories of the lady being stuck on an aeroplane toilet. Who’s to say the same won’t happen on a train toilet. I’d rather be able to get out of their pronto thank you very much. Then again, if the train were to crash, and God forbid it were to, I doubt I’d be too bothered where they found me, just as long as they did.

The trip to Manchester itself flew by and as I write this I’m actually heading back to London on the evening train and tucking into my salmon meal. I didn’t get a chance to eat all day as this document I was working on turned into a bigger project than I’d anticipated. I’m ravenous. Come to think of it, this is a very dry salmon meal. I think it’s supposed to be salmon en croute with new potatoes. It’s a bit more like spring rolls stuffed with pink stuff and a bit of spinach. In fact it tastes very fishy. I hope it’s not off. The last thing I need is a good dose of the dodgy tums, particularly as Euston is still half an hour away and I’ve already mentioned what using the ‘facilities’ is like.

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