Monday, 11th April. In 1977, that was my perfect day and I have never forgotten it. Never will. The thing about perfect days, though, the anniversaries which follow can never re-capture the magic … I suppose that’s part of what makes a perfect day. Suspended in time, it can never be re-lived.
One thing, forty-five years ago, there was no arctic blast! Honestly, I have just been out to retrieve bedding on the line which was about to blow into oblivion and beyond. Breezy, I thought, I’d strip the beds. I have to dry my sheets outside; no other way. A tumbler drier or on top of a radiator just doesn’t cut it, deprived of the freshness of a spring hurricane! Once upon a time, I had a utility room. A must for some, I could never really understand it … until I was lucky enough to enjoy the benefits of one. Admittedly, my washing machine is way past retirement but, as with anything of advancing years now, the quality far surpasses that of today: once made to last, now made for landfill. However, the old have their foibles and, when it comes to the spin cycle, my trusted machine delights with a noise worthy of Silverstone. It’s fine. One can get used to all sorts but ever grateful for the pause button on the remote.
My favourite date and who would have thought I would be writing about washing? That’s how bad it’s got, Pop! The temperature is baltic and the wind strong enough to carry Dorothy back to Kansas in a nanosecond, even if she’d eaten all the pies in the Emerald City. Just, why? It’s almost Easter and St Andrews is packed with staycationers here to enjoy – well, look at – the beach in between the fast-food fixes and the extortionate ice creams courtesy of Janetta’s. The pavements are awash with people as the seagulls hover in a bid for a side of chips and, meanwhile, the sun has gone to the sunny land and there ain’t nothing we can do about it!
How about a day-trip to Edinburgh? When I use the words ‘ill-advised’, assume capitals, bold and underlined! I should qualify that with the word ‘train’ – oh, and for further clarity, I’ll throw in my old favourite, ‘Scotrail’. Yes, a day-trip to Edinburgh, courtesy of Scotrail. Packed with potential and, just for good measure, why not catch the 11.41am from Leuchars – catchment, Dundee – on a Saturday when Hearts are playing Hibs at Tynecastle? Perfect. It was freezing, as ever, as we waited on a platform full of people, reminiscent only of a London tube station platform in rush hour. Free from the encumberment of First Class, there are no reservations on most of these luxury buses which never stretch beyond three carriages. No need. Known to be an extremely busy route, what with the 17,000 students and never mind the tourists, it seems that paying to stand is universally acceptable. Well, cattle stand … We did secure a seat worthy of Ryanair but, more than that, who knew there was entertainment on board? Superb. Across the doorway – never more grateful for one hundred yards – there was a table of four women. Ladies? Not even loosely! As the train pulled out, I caught a glimpse of the glittering outfit – back to me – but directly in my vision was the ‘blonde’ who had, obviously, got dressed in the dark and pulled on her teenage daughter’s attire. Not only that, she had failed to take her make-up/mask off from the week before. Yes, I concede, observation without glasses – small mercies!
As the bottles clanked in the accompanying bags below and the ‘bus’ chugged along to the sound of ring-pulls, the short dress continued to ride up revealing more than was palatable. Predictably, too, as the noise level increased, the hilarity became more inane and the laugh of a hyena filled the entire train – and that was before the whistle appeared. Not a word of a lie. Meantime, the luxury bus continued to pick up more and more passengers until they filled the aisles and the doors, prams, the lot. One could neither get in nor out without contortion. Worst of all, though, there was an old man – when I say ‘old’, he was probably my age – who struggled aboard in Kirkcaldy, I think. He had a suitcase but, vying with the pram, he seemed intent on standing by the door, far from the masses. He was wearing a mask. How I felt for him as his personal space diminished immediately and he was engulfed in bodies as he clung to the litter bin in a bid to maintain his balance. Why didn’t I offer him my seat? I would have struggled to reach him, through the melée, and Ryanair seats – sorry, Scotrail – are barely conducive to handbags let alone suitcases. So it was that he clung to the door – and the bin – while, behind him, the drunken ladettes were, now, in full song, grateful for the benefit of a whistle. One could have sold tickets. Oh, silly me, they did!
Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the consumption of alcohol on Scotrail trains was prohibited? Apparently, not. Coincidentally, having checked our tickets leaving Leuchars – at a sprint, I might add – no guard was seen again. To be fair, she may have been squashed in the crowd as she tried to negotiate the aisles …
An hour later, successfully climbing over the pram amidst the crowd at the door, we arrived at Haymarket to be greeted by an abundance of police and a van parked right outside. Hearts were playing Hibs, apparently. Of course. It’s 2022. Football is no longer a sport of gentlemen … Well, there are exceptions. On leaving the station, I messaged my friend, John Souttar, bemoaning the fact that his team had chosen to play Hibs on the very Saturday we were in town. Not long after, I received three laughing emojis in reply. It was 2.30pm. He must have been pulling up his socks!
Anyone for the train?
‘I have resigned and am now poor. When I say ‘poor’, I mean we may have to share a helicopter with another family.’
George Wade (Hugh Grant), Two Weeks’ Notice.
I’ll take that as a ‘No’, then …
This is Trish, signing off.