Tuesday 22 February 2022

Little Guide To Pet Peeves - (Pt 8 – Pertaining to transport - pre-Covid, anyway)

The usual preamble––I began this 'little guide' for fun regarding some of my personal bĂȘte-noires and so here I am again, with my penultimate one.  This was all written before Covid but since 'opening up' maybe a lot of it has become relevant again.

Train Ticket Queues

I use trains less and less these days, but not being the calmest of people, one thing that raises my blood pressure is when you want to buy your tickets for that day’s journey, and there’s someone at the head of a long queue, snaking towards the entrance, booking tickets for several weeks in advance and asking the ticket official all sorts of non-relevant things––can my dog and my three aunties have forward facing seats too? Hmm, I’m still not sure whether to get the 15.23 or the one an hour later; can you give me the times of arrivals again? OK, and how much will that be? Then said woman (it is usually a woman) fiddles around for her card––can I pay with this card?––and is still firing questions at the hapless ticket officer while he or she dispatches her tickets and receipts.

Train Window Screens

free image courtesy luca morvillo (pexels)

The local line between Totnes and Exeter passes some of the most stunning views in the country. Once you’ve passed through Newton Abbot, you can enjoy a most spectacular ride, particularly if you’re lucky enough to get a forward facing seat on the sea side. The estuary opens out at Newton Abbot as you look over to Shaldon nestling over the water beyond the bridge and boats. (Coming in the other direction, towards Newton Abbot on an autumnal evening you will be treated to some striking sunsets or misty skies). Before you pass through Teignmouth station the beach-hutted land at the harbour stretches our towards Ness Rock at Shaldon. Boats and masts provide a splash of colour before the estuary widens out and becomes open sea. Between Teignmouth and Dawlish Warren––another place of outstanding beauty and renowned for its rare winter bird visitors and its dunes––there are five tunnels for the train to pass through. Brunel had them built into the distinctive red Devon cliffs so the railway could connect those in the south west with the rest of the country. 

You may even recall how we were all marooned for a few weeks after the storms of February 2014 battered the rails and the line was left swinging and unmoored. (just a little plug here—I go into a lot more detail about this line in my book The Dead Club!)

The open seas have so much variation: you may be treated to great spumes of wave froth on a rough spring tide, choppy white horses or a picture-card sparkling sea on a beautiful summer’s day with families enjoying the beach in summer. Or people will wave at the train from the sea wall. Beyond Dawlish Warren’s sandy dunes, where on the low tide you can see men with their buckets collecting molluscs, lies the lovely seaside town of Exmouth. We had a lovely friend who lived there––we used to meet in Teignmouth, a kind of halfway point between our two homes. Sadly she’s no longer with us but we carried on waving over to her spirit as we passed! And it’s not as though all the scenery is on the sea side either. On the land side you have the towering red cliffs, you have the seafront houses and hostelries of Dawlish and then the beautifully named Starcross. Beyond is Powderham Castle and the deer park, the deer often to be seen congregating in the fields as you rattle by. Back on the seaside, little clusters of habitation appear again, as the sea narrows into estuary once more, in the form of Lympstone, and Topsham (where we’ve spent many a family celebration) before arriving into Exeter. And I’ve barely mentioned the skies and cloud formations.

Now the point of this rather long preamble will become clear! Why with so much beauty, variation, and nature would anyone pull the window screens down when it’s sunny outside and prefer to be ogling some tiny screen of phone or tablet rather than the seaside! Such is life in the Internet age. But I have to confess that if I’ve been sitting on a seat behind or in front with a shared window screen to one of the guilty ones, I’ve whisked the screen up to reveal the erstwhile obscured view.  As yet, nobody has dared to pull it down again!

Minging cars 

Car interiors seem to absorb smells into their fabric if not cleaned regularly. Stale crisps or old dog or rotting umbrella canvas, I'm sure you've all travelled in cars that ming like this. Someone—a friend or acquaintance—has kindly offered you a lift somewhere and it would show ingratitude to turn it down. You may not even be aware of the state of their carriage until it turns up and by then it's too late anyway as you try and mask your urge to dry retch and ask how the windows open in the back. 

I once worked for someone like this and his car was like a travelling hovel—people spoke of old nappies in the back—and it wouldn't have surprised me. But when people are offering to take you from A to B, you put up and shut up. 

Train carriages can be like this too. For some reason people taking the lid off their soup or opening a packet of cheese and onion crisps (already listed as a pet hate) or opening up their box of cold pasta and hummus can make the lives of others passengers hell as the stinking aromas taint their journeys. They certainly have me moving seats.

Do you have any travel pet hates?  Please do leave them in the comments section!