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Saturday, 25 October 2014

Long Train Running - Part 2

In Part 1 of this post, you left me somewhat inebriated (me, not you dear reader) on a beach in Ryde, Isle of Wight, in the summer of 1973.  Those with a good memory may well recall that I was on a pub outing train trip with the Cooper’s Arms in Anglesey Road, Burton.

After a sunny Sunday afternoon sleeping off the excesses consumed during the train trip to Portsmouth, Kev and I made our way back to the ferry and rejoined the rest of our party heading back to the railway station.  I must admit to having only hazy memories of this bit of the day, but that’s hardly surprising given our previous consumption and that generally foggy feeling that persists when you have been ‘sleeping it off’ in the afternoon.  Anyway, we must have found our way back to the station somehow and settled back in our seats for the long journey home.  Naturally, the beer started flowing as soon as the train set off again.

We can’t have been very far out of Portsmouth when someone noticed that the toilet nearest to our carriage wasn’t flushing any more.  This was a bit of a bind, as frequent trips to the toilet were about the only exercise that any of us were getting on this trip, but it wasn’t the end of the world as it was a very long train with many carriages and, therefore, many toilets.  So we transferred our allegiance to a convenience a few carriages along, until that too ceased functioning.  Slowly, one by one, all of the toilets on the train stopped flushing.  The rumour went about, and I don’t know how true it was, that some fool had failed to replenish the water supply on the train whilst it was in Portsmouth and we were now seeing the result.  Whatever the cause, it was clear that the problem was going to be acute before very long, and we still had quite a way to travel.

Logic would dictate that, when travelling on a train without any toilet arrangements, the sensible thing to do would be to stop drinking alcohol.  However, since when did logic play any part in pub outings?  Things carried on just as before, the only difference was the increasingly unpleasant state of the toilets as the input increased exponentially and the output ceased altogether.  After a while, you had to be either very brave or extremely desperate to go anywhere near any of them.  The train had essentially become a very long, mobile cess pit.  As time went by, people seemed to be adopting a tense, determined posture as they willed away the miles and pinned their hopes on Burton station.

We arrived at Burton station in the early hours of the morning.  It was pretty well deserted, but that situation didn’t last for long.  The stampede from the train was something to be seen as everyone sought refuge from the appalling smell which pervaded every carriage and homed in on the nearest functioning toilets.  I must admit that I have never seen such a long queue for the Gents before or since.  I suppose it was a mark of our British reserve that there wasn’t a mad scramble, just an orderly queue that stretched the length of the platform, composed of many people in varying degrees of discomfort and desperation.  Thus ended my last pub outing train trip, not with a bang but with the whimpers of a queue of hunched and very introspective blokes. 

I don’t know if these train trips still happen, although I would very much doubt it.  I think this type of mammoth outing, partaken by most of the pubs in the town, was a bit of a throwback to the great railway excursions of the previous century, when a day out like this was probably the only holiday many people ever had or could hope to have.  However, pub outings didn’t come to an end with that queue on Burton station for me – oh no,  I took to the buses, as I’ll tell you in the next exciting episode.

You can find a lot more of this sort of nonsense in the latest compilation of 'nostalgedy' stories 'A Kick at the Pantry Door'