The Pendolino shakes us all up as it races through the dumbstruck countryside: commuters are squeezed in around me stood stock rigid, fit to pop, we’re all looking for somewhere to park, somewhere to rest our weary backs, somewhere to relieve our knees but tempers are fraying and we can’t wait much longer.
I see a pair of seats a few rows down, one of which is occupied by a teenage lad in a track suit and a bobble hat, the other which has a sports bag on it with some kind of nondescript logo emblazoned across it. The way he’s got his leg sprawled over it suggests it’s his. But the seat isn’t, so I squeeze past the mute sardines beside me and claw my way up to the seat and ask him ever so ever so ever so politely whether the seat is free, and as it’s clearly not because it’s occupied by his shabby nondescript bag, whether he minds moving it.
You know what’s coming don’t you? He says nothing, I ask louder, he feigns dozing, I go to move the bag, he sits up straight, fierce, defending his territory, he pulls a small knife, I stare at him incredulous then pull out my own and before you know it we’ve got blood smeared on our faces, there’s blood on the window, there’s blood on his bobble hat, we’re facing up to each other, he’s shouting, I’m trying to stay polite but there’s no persuading him to reason with me and move his sports bag.
So I push him back in his seat, and he slumps with a silly astonished look in his eyes. I bet he never thought his day would finish like this when he woke up this morning. I move his bag and settle back for the rest of the journey. Bloody Virgin Trains. Never enough seats when you want one.