On the way to Liverpool one day…

Did that really happen? The memory is still sweet…..

On my children’s lives this is no word of a lie!

A few years ago, let’s call it 2003, I was travelling on a Transpennine Express train towards Liverpool for a few days away sorting out a network issue in one of our offices. Let us not dwell on the kinds of network issues, they are not important. They were resolved.

However, if you can imagine such a thing, those were the days before universal mobile phone ownership. Quite a few people used them but a reasonable number did not. It was by no means certain that the person next to you would have such a device, and even if they did, that it would be charged up and able to get a signal, especially on a train chugging sedately westwards towards the Lancashire coast.

One of the advantages of this primeval existence was that on the whole train journeys did not involve listening to half a conversation about what someone did last night, what she said (and never what he said in reply), or indeed, nonchalantly scribbling down people’s credit card details because they inexplicably thought they were somewhere not, well, public.

Imagine the horror, if you can, of having a gentleman of the loud persuasion conversing incessantly between Leeds and Manchester to his accountant / bookie / whatever. In typical English fashion we all rolled our eyes at one another and grimaced and gurned to indicate that civilisation was probably not too far away (almost certainly due before we got to Manchester Oxford Road). And so it went on for what felt like hours but was probably no more than one.

As we travelled I doubt I was the only one to entertain withering comments I wanted to make to my fellow traveller; venomous remarks, dripping acid from every syllable, hoping the shock would produce a miraculous change of character and the recipient of my wisdom would overnight start a new career rescuing wounded puppies and kittens.

However it looked like the object of our collective ire was to be granted an opportunity to redeem himself in our eyes. A guard burst into the carriage shouting out to ask if anyone had a mobile phone because there was a medical emergency. We sneered to see the loud gentleman hastily conceal his.

“He’s got one!” said another man gleefully, pointing like the hand of God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. (Fortunately the loud gentleman was more discreetly clad than Adam.)

The guard asked to use it; the loud gentleman indicated in the negative. The guard asked again and got quite physical about demanding he hand it over. In the end he wrestled it from the loud gentleman.

“That’s no use!” exclaimed the guard. “It’s a toy one!” And he rushed on in search of someone with a working phone.

The silence deepened. None of us laughed, but you will forgive us when I say we may have smirked. The loud gentleman found no further occasion to make a phone call for the rest of the journey. Just for this one time, we felt the barbarians had been held back.

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