Thursday, August 16, 2007


Sunshine, being a rare commodity these days, is something I am determined to manufacture. This came to me during the last Ryanair flight where I decided that no matter what they threw at me, I would beatifically smile back (driven admittedly by the small logged thought that said "You only paid £20 for this flight you cheapskate" but that's another matter) and infuse their lives with a little bright shiny happiness. It's the very least Ryanair staff deserve.

Sunshine is the order of the day. And not just in the general direction of Ryanair, or callcentre pikeys who I as a rule don't like very much at all.

No, let's start with the London to Edinburgh GNER East Coast service which is one of my favourite rail journeys, currently doubling as the comedy express to Festival City. This morning Jimmy Carr was seated only a few rows away from that West Country bloke off Mock the Week and Stephen Merchant's official lookeylikey was there too (three double takes to establish that it wasn't the man himself). This is a good service even when it's a tad overfull.

I was planning to the get 11.30 but being bored I got there early and jumped on the 11am to be told there was no chef for the dining car. Yes yes I know you didn't know they had chefs. Well the days of the curled up cheese sandwich were a long time ago in GNER. Admittedly, I recently asked to see "the children's menu" on the Scotrail Sleeper and was brought two microwaveable boxes of fish shapes and sausage shapes and gruffly asked which one I wanted. The small person just pointed in terror, fearful of being eaten by the grizzly one in uniform.

No no, GNER - who sadly are giving up the service in December due to parent company troubles and handing over to National Express (if you're liking all this train information why don't you also try is in a different league food and drinkwise and every so often the thought of a meal as we streak along the North Easteren shores of England hurtling towards Auld Reekie attracts.

However the 11am didn't have a chef, at which point I asked the man clipping my ticket if there might be a seat somewhere, anywhere on the train. He suggested that I get off at the next stop and get the 11.30 which would not only have seats but also a chef. I smiled and said that this was a good idea. It wasn't. But I smiled anyway.

Getting off at Peterborough, I was accosted by an overzealous ticket person who wanted my ticket, pronto, and didn't care if it said "Edinburgh" on it or not. I smiled provocotively. Then I asked which platform the 11.30 was coming into and was told "there is no 11.30". And after several smiley filled moments of conversation - not to say consternation - we established that sure enough, there wasn't indeed an 11.30. And never had been.

So I waited an hour and a quarter. When the 12 something or other trundled up and I got on. The dining car was in full swing with 8 empty seats. "Next sitting's at York. 2 o'clock".
I smiled. And asked if I could sit and wait.

I tried to find a seat but couldn't even make it into the next carriage there were so many people standing. Not many of whom were smiling, like me.

So I stood in the buffet where three Fringe producers had their stage drawings out for an Edinburgh show and were loudly discussing lighting which meant that the small drunk man of the buffet only really had me to speak to. And breath over. He smelt as if he'd been drinking since breakfast. I smiled in blissful ignorance since I couldn't understand a word he said.

At 2, I was allowed in and smiled at the stressed out staff. The food was great, the scenery even better, and the weather was smiling too. I finished at 4.15. The train was due in to Edinburgh at 4.30.
"I'll have to ask you to move" the stressed out non smiling lady said, "We need to clear the table". I smiled and said please go ahead. She insisted. I said there were no seats on the train and couldn't I just sit for the remaining 10 minutes of the journey?
I smiled and thanked her for, um, well I don't know really. For taking my money, serving me and then chucking me out the seat. With 10 minutes to go.

Arriving at Waverly Station, smiling through gritted teeth, I stepped into a city where ten thousands comedians are determined to make me laugh. No problemo. I'm smiling already.


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