Up close and im­per­sonal

Hav­ing moved to Lon­don and em­braced pub­lic trans­port, eve Jones now of­fers some sur­vival tips – such as how to keep the whiff of oniony pasty out of your hair

The Field - - YOUNG IN THE FIELD -

I read re­cently that Bent­ley has made an SUV with a spe­cial seat in the front for a fal­con. This means there are chauf­feur-driven birds in the world while I am car­less and still see taxis as a choice be­tween the fast way home and sup­per.

I was bought a car at 17. My par­ents, with decades of taxi ser­vice un­der their belts, felt the fi­nan­cial loss a mi­nor ir­ri­tant by com­par­i­son, al­though one car be­came five (one nicked, three write-offs). On mov­ing to Lon­don, how­ever, I re­alised the Oxfordshire dirt hold­ing my trusty steed to­gether was thin­ning per­ilously and the ob­sta­cles I seemed so in­clined to hit had mul­ti­plied. So I de­cided I had best give pub­lic trans­port a whirl.

For all the whin­ing peo­ple do about pub­lic trans­port you’ve got to ad­mit mostly, tech­ni­cally, it’s pretty good. de­lays and blocked loos aside, prob­lems stem mostly from hy­gien­i­cally sus­pect, ob­nox­ious pas­sen­gers. Take the tube, where you’re typ­i­cally squashed among damp, un­deodorised armpits or coughed and sneezed over. A man once openly fired snot on my face on the Vic­to­ria line and an­other time I got off and found a piece of ham in my hair. A friend, feel­ing some creep hav­ing a grope in a sar­dined car­riage, gripped the of­fend­ing paw, held it high and shouted, “Has any­body lost a hand, I’ve just found this one on my arse.”

I had a fight with some brandy-loaded West Brom sup­port­ers be­cause they were foul mouthed while there were kids on the train. If I were a man I’d have been flat­tened but I chan­nelled my mother’s scary genes and dressed them down like school­boys to a round of ap­plause. Be­ing vo­cal on pub­lic trans­port is un­usual, be­cause in town we don’t talk to strangers un­less we’re pissed. I must ra­di­ate bump­kin be­cause I of­ten find my­self in con­ver­sa­tion with strangers. It’s not al­ways bad. Af­ter days par­ty­ing at a wed­ding in Ger­many, a very jaded Jones on the first Mon­day morn­ing BA flight to Heathrow was im­mea­sur­ably perked up by a hot Ham­burger in the next seat. We flirted agree­ably all the way to england, blushed through pass­port con­trol but I chick­ened out of tak­ing his num­ber. I later wrote to BA and asked if, in the name of ro­mance, they could get word to him that I fan­cied the pants off him and we should prob­a­bly get mar­ried but they de­clined. Spoil­sports.

Most morn­ings I’ve a straight­for­ward travel rou­tine. Up at 5.30, crawl to the tube, snooze on the Pic­cadilly line to Knights­bridge, ride a horse then catch the num­ber 10 to Ox­ford Cir­cus by 9am. No-one is ca­pa­ble of speech at 5.30am, luck­ily, but the fly in the oint­ment is a mid­dle-aged Sloane ranger on the bus bit, who, de­spite my pre-9am scowl and horsey aroma, makes a bee­line for me. His favourite topic of con­ver­sa­tion is him­self and a round-up of his fi­nan­cial suc­cesses. I know about his hol­i­day plans, his mother’s costly cataract op­er­a­tions and an “in­ap­pro­pri­ately young” girl he is tak­ing on ex­pen­sive dates. He’s so ar­ro­gant that when I said he was sound­ing a lit­tle like a sad old sugar daddy, to the agree­ment of the lady in front, he took it as a com­pli­ment. Next time I’m go­ing to point out the hole in his “ex­pen­sive suit” and sug­gest once his mother’s eyes heal that she stitch it up for him.

I’m sure there are sim­i­lar bores out in the sticks but more eas­ily avoided by car. Not just con­fined to buses and tubes they con­gre­gate in hordes at train sta­tions. At 4.30 on Fri­days, they honk and bray their way to their “coun­try­side week­end” packed as heav­ily as if they’re em­bark­ing on an Arc­tic ex­pe­di­tion. Shoot­ing sea­son sadly in­creases the weekly mi­gra­tions of fur-clad, suede-booted, back­combed twits each with holdalls larger than two grown men block­ing the aisles and bel­low­ing down the car­riages.

It’s es­pe­cially an­noy­ing on the first off­peak ser­vice to Pen­zance, where space is at more of a pre­mium than a train out of Mum­bai Cen­tral. Last time I sat on the floor by the loo for two hours and, bored, took a sly pic­ture of the hot guy I was forcibly en­tan­gled with to send to my mate. Then I (ac­ci­den­tally) dropped a bag of cashew nuts in his crotch and he saw me send it, which did lit­tle to im­prove the com­fort level.

Thank­fully, the townie tossers’ lug­gage size gen­er­ally be­lies their des­ti­na­tion as they don’t stray far from Lon­don. So, if you aim to go farther than the Home Coun­ties you’ll prob­a­bly be OK. My friend from Northum­ber­land catches “the Stella ex­press” to Ber­wick on Fri­days, where there’s boozy cam­er­aderie on the out­ward jour­ney and a sup­port­ive, post-roast haze on the Sun­day evening back, prov­ing not all pas­sen­gers are prats and there’s hope if peo­ple take stock.

So, in the name of har­mo­nious travel, I’ve some sug­ges­tions for pub­lic pas­sage:

• seats are for bums – not your MAS­SIVE suit­case;

• let’s re­vive the han­kie – keep your snot to your­self;

• do not eat Cor­nish pasties on a packed train (I know this is hard but, hon­estly, one day I’ll mur­der a mid­dle-aged com­muter who steeps me with their onion waft);

• do not talk to any­one be­fore 9am;

• don’t make friends on a night bus – if you do chat, don’t ex­change num­bers (the 73-year-old rasta­far­ian was LOLS on the ride from Cam­den but you do not need to go with him to Or­leans base­ment club in Fins­bury Park – note to self, that one);

• mind your lan­guage (in case you meet my mum, who’ll have your guts for garters); • be nice – works on all plat­forms, that one.

A man openly fired snot at me on the Vic­to­ria line; an­other time, I found ham in my hair

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