Tag: Trains

Why do we feel less bored moving compared to standing still?

This is my second weird thought of today. Today, we spent some time sitting on random benches in Aberdovey doing nothing and getting bored. This, we found, to be very boring. We also spent some time sitting on the beach, doing nothing. This was also, quite boring. However, sitting in a train without anything to do for two hours was less boring than sitting on a bench for twenty minutes. Why is that?

If only we'd found this bench we might have been less bored

If only we’d found this bench we might have been less bored

At first I thought it was because there is a window to look out of with an ever-hanging landscape. But I am also less bored on an areoplane where the scenery changes very slowly compared to how bored I am sitting still. I am also less bored when travelling at night compared to sitting still (i.e. when there is nothing to look out the window at). So why is sitting doing nothing on a plane or a train less boring than sitting doing nothing whilst being still? Perhaps it is because there is random conversation to eaves drop on. But sometimes the people on planes are sleeping (and the noise on planes is too loud for eavesdropping to be possible). So why? Why?

The unchanging view out of a plane window

The unchanging view out of a plane window

I don’t know the answer.

Thoughts about people on trains

Today I’ve been to Oxford and back for a work meeting to talk about the next edition of this book. And while on my travels and while in the toilets of Oxford city (two of them), I had a few thoughts about train travel and train travellers.

Will this train get to Birmingham in one piece?

Will this train get to Birmingham in one piece?


You need to sit next to likeable people Just In Case

This first thought is quite a morbid one, but I have it quite a lot. And it goes as follows: were there were to be some sort of crisis, such as a train crash or a terrorist take-over / kidnapping, the people who are sitting around you on the train could become your future best friends. What I mean is, if you end up experiencing something quite traumatic with them, you would probably want to stay in touch.

Also, you’d probably want some very practical, calm types with you who know first aid (so seek such people out if you can).

This terrorist take-over or non-fatal crash I worry about has yet to happen of course. This thought only came to me in 1999 after watching an ITV drama about such an event called The Last Train.

So even today, sat on the 16.07 from Reading to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, I looked at the man sat next to me and thought ‘would you be a good in a crisis?’ If we have a crisis, will we be friends forever?

Predictably, this didn’t happen and the man got off the train at Leamington Spa.


It is better to sit next to someone already sat down than it is to find two empty seats or an empty table with four seats

Why, I hear you ask. This goes against instinct, surely? Most people when they get on a train that is relatively empty, will choose empty seats so they can stretch out their legs and belongings rather than seats with occupants nearby. They are wrong to do this because if you choose an empty seat, you cannot control who will then come and sit next to or opposite you. You might get someone smelly or unsavory (or someone who likely doesn’t know any first aid). However, if you sit next to someone already sat down, you can deliberately select a nice little old lady with a bag of sweets and bags of common sense to sit next to, or a likely-to-mind-his-own-business business man who has been on a first aid course for work.


 Despite the above, I always seem to sit with the eccentrics of this world

Most train journeys I take, I end up being sat next to by or opposite life’s interesting characters. I’ve been given Christmas cake on a train (and other food stuffs including sandwiches, fruit, and sweets). I once sat opposite a fat business man eating a very smelly bacon buttie whilst reading a paperback of short stories that you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see you read in public. People have fallen asleep on me. Strangers always engage me in conversation. People like to tell me their life stories and ask me mine.

Today’s interesting character was an elderly lady with a Sony Walkman (yes, in the year 2014, she was listening to a mixed tape). We talked about hot chocolate vs coffee, her wires which got muddled with her coat and trains.

A real Sony Walkman in the 21st century

A real Sony Walkman in the 21st century


It is in your best interest to be as normal as you can

Be normal, so that you don’t irritate your fellow passengers by being odd or smelly. Also, and more importantly, so that you reassure them in case they are also worried about a terrorist kidnapping or train crash. I find this tactic works well.


But in conclusion, I love train travel. I don’t get to do it very often these days (I used to commute to work by train every day) so it’s a real treat to me now to spend a couple of hours with a book and a coffee, and with life’s oddballs.

My favourite train station

My favourite train station


The things about Downton Abbey that annoy me

This isn’t so much a weird thought, but a thought that comes to mind every Sunday (or every Sunday that I find myself watching Downton Abbey).

I love Downton Abbey. For me, it defines Sundays in autumn. I have to watch Downton Abbey with a BGRW (Big Glass of Red Wine). As I type, Downton Abbey is on and I’m very excited.

My Downton Abbey wine

My Downton Abbey wine

However, there are aspects of Downton Abbey that annoy me.


They never get fat.

They eat huge meals every night. They eat meals of at least three courses. Yet, they never get fat. They move very slowly. They never exercise. They don’t run, go to Zumba, or play any sports. Yet, they never get fat. There is no justice in that.

We cook, they eat, a lot

We cook, they eat, a lot


They never seem drunk.

They drink wine every night. They drink lots of wine. They drink different wines with each course and they probably have brandy after dinner. Yet they always seem completely sober. They don’t dance like nobody is watching, fall over or snog inappropriate people.


More wine you ask, yars please!

More wine you ask, yars please!


They don’t age.

Series One began in 1912. We are now in the 1920s, they have hardly aged since 1912, even the older characters. What skin cream do they use?

How old do you think I am?

How old do you think I am?


They don’t raise their voices.

They disagree with one another occasionally yet they never shout, get cross or call each other bad things. Is that because they are posh? Do not posh people in the current century shout at each other? Rather than shouting, they tend to show their discontent in scathing sarcasm. It’s entertaining but is it realistic?

I'm good at sharp wit, rubbish at saying the f-word when I'm really cross

I’m good at sharp wit, rubbish at saying the f-word when I’m really cross


They don’t go to the toilet.

See my blog entry about people in films. The same applies to Downton Abbey.

Lady Mary never needs the throne

Lady Mary never needs the throne


It is never summer.

They always seem to be out and about in winter coats in the streets of Oxfordshire, oops I mean Yorkshire. Don’t believe me? Watch it.

Brrr, can someone turn the sun on please?

Brrr, can someone turn the sun on please?


They pop over to London as if it were next door.

London is not close to Yorkshire. This bothers me. If I were to go to London, from Shrewsbury, in the year 2014, it is a big deal. It takes planning and perhaps an overnight stay. On Downton Abbey they seem to ‘pop’ down to London and this is the age before diesel train travel.

The fast train to London

The fast train to London


They wear lots of clothes but they never go shopping.

Or at least they don’t seem to to me. I guess they must do, perhaps they go on Monday to Saturday when we’re not watching.


Besides all that I think that it is an excellent drama and I love every bit of it. On that note, I’m now going to finish my wine and watch the rest of tonight’s episode.


The world is full of meaningles straplines

Recently I’ve noticed that the world is full of meaningless straplines. I’ve always known they were there, but until last week I didn’t really stop to read and analyse them. They seem to fall into two main categories: philosophies for the meaning of life or persuasions towards a way of life via a product or service.

Before I go on, I should add that I’m worried that I am not completely fulfilling the aim of this blog: writing about weird thoughts I have while sat on the toilet. This new interest about straplines didn’t come to me while on the toilet, but, rather, while on a train (and not on a train toilet due to previous bad experience – see last entry).

So here are some recently spotted straplines that annoy, amuse and / or interest me:

At Stafford Station I came across this one:

  • Staffordshire University: The home of great minds
Sunny Stafford

Sunny Stafford

This intrigues me for a number of reasons. Firstly, I am a student of Staffordshire University so I ought to be flattered that this strapline indicates I have a great mind. Thank you, Stafford station! Secondly, this might imply that other towns which contain great upstanding educational establishments do not house great minds. Or if they do, perhaps their stations also ought to declare: Exeter University: The home of great minds, Bath University: The home of great minds. Then where do all the dunces live? On the roads between these towns?

At Crewe station I saw this one:

  • Virgin Trains: Everyone home safely everyday
Travel by Virgin, you're safe in their hands

Travel by Virgin, you’re safe in their hands

This one annoyed me because it is clumsy. It is the ‘everyone’ and ‘everyday’ combination that I stumble over. And is it true? Not sure it is. It should say ‘Virgin Trains: Everyone home at some point and hopefully in one piece’.

I then also came across this one:

  • Staffordshire: The creative county
Only creative people here

Only creative people here

No offense to the lovely Staffordshire but I’m not sure it is renowned for housing more creativity than, say, Oxfordshire, or Nottinghamshire, or Devon. I reckon if a scientific study was to be carried out on the total creative output from the counties of England that Staffordshire might fare quite well, but would it come top? It may be the home of great minds but are they creative great minds?

Later at home after my train journey, upon scanning Facebook I saw this one:

  • Happiness has no formula

What does that mean? Happiness is not a science. Of course there is no formula. Although five tonnes of money might help, mixed with eight acres of sunshine and three kilogrammes of smiles from passers by.

My hometown’s strap line is:

  • Shrewsbury: The original one-off
There is only one Shrewsbury

There is only one Shrewsbury

Do not ‘original’ and ‘one-off’ mean the same thing? It’s almost as annoying as ‘very unique’.

On Monday at college I saw this one:

  • Stay hungry, stay foolish

So the home of great minds (i.e. Staffordshire University) can only keep its crown if those minds keep eating?

Here are some famous (and less famous) ones that irritate me:

  • Apple: Think different (sound advice but what does it have to do with iPods, iPhones and Macintosh computers?)
  • Tesco: Every little helps (oooh I really don’t like this often heard strapline)
  • Gillette: The best a man can get (that’s quite a claim)
  • Honda: The power of dreams (airy fairy and meaningless)
  • HSBC: The world’s local bank (is there a branch in Iwatsuki?)
  • L’oreal: Because you’re worth it (this tops the worst)

And finally, local governments make the best straplines and here are just a few:

  • Ashford Council: Best placed in Britain
  • Chorley Borough Council: Making Chorley Smile
  • Christchurch Council: Where time is pleasant
  • Dartford Borough Council: If only all Councils were like Dartford
  • Durham Council: Altogether better
  • Knowsley Council: The Future is Knowsley
  • Somerset County Council: Opportunity when you want it, help when you need it

I’m going to go live in Knowsley or Dartford. I can’t decide which is the best place to be.


What are people on trains thinking about?

Again, this isn’t a thought from the toilet (I don’t have a great track record with using train toilets having exposed myself once to a smart man in a suit because of my incompetence with Virgin train toilet locks). This is a thought from sitting on a train (I’m writing this blog entry still on a train).

The thought is: what are people on trains thinking about? A secondary thought is: why do they look so depressed? Chances are they are going somewhere at least mildly exciting, so why the glum faces? Even if travelling for work, it is likely to be more interesting than just being in the office. When I get to travel for work I feel quite excited. But perhaps that’s just me. However, today is a weekend day so I imagine most of these people are going somewhere interesting, visiting friends, a football match (the football tops and beer cans might give it away), a stag party (for those dressed as pirates) or a shopping trip. So why do they look so miserable? Perhaps their expression isn’t related to their destination at all, maybe they are having profound philosophical debates with themselves to while away the time getting to this exciting place to which they are going. Or maybe they are trying to work out what to have for lunch. So am I mistaking misery for concentration and quiet solitary contemplation?

If only I could hear them, their thoughts might go thus:

‘Hmmm Coventry next stop. I haven’t been there for years. I should go there again. I wish I’d got a coffee at Birmingham. Thirsty now. Oh well. I’m tired. I have an itch. Ahhh that’s better.’

Man thinking about going to Coventry

Man thinking about going to Coventry

‘I hate this song. I should just forward it. I wonder what is the meaning of life. Hmmm. Ahh this song is better. I do like a bit of One-D.’

Does he like this song or not?

Does he like this song or not?

‘Agh damn nose. I hate this time of year. Major snots. When did I last have some Piriton? I wonder if she’s replied to my text yet? I’m hungry.’



‘I hope we get the chance to watch Britain’s Got Talent tonight. I can’t miss it. Oh we’re approaching Rugby. Ages to go yet. I hope it doesn’t rain today. My hair will frizz up if it gets wet. I need a wee. I hate using train toilets. They stink. Can I last? I’ll just have to try.’

Britain's Got Talent fans

Britain’s Got Talent fans

I often wish I could listen to all the inner dialogues of other people. And if I could hear them, would they be more interesting than mine?