It is the weekend and I’m headed to Manchester for a conference. Anyway, to make my trip cheaper, I’m staying in Leeds where my friends live.
Leeds is really close to Manchester. I take the 10.42pm train for under a tenner on both Saturday and Sunday.
On the second night, a very friendly man gets on a couple of stops after mine, plonks himself into the seat next to mine and says, ‘Right, I’m charging you with keeping me awake until Huddersfield or my wife will kill me.’
I laugh, “Hello,” I say, “Why would she kill you?”
“Well my brother fell asleep on the train once after the Grand National at Aintree. Race was finished at 3 o’clock, he got drunk, got back on the train, woke up in York went to turn round and woke back up in Aintree, so it was 4.30 in the morning when he left and he got home at 6am. His wife divorced him.”
“That’s crazy, why?”
“She thought he’d been up to no good.”
“But surely when he explained he’d fallen asleep on the train she would have realised that was stupid. I don’t believe it.”
“Yes but you seem like a reasonable person. She wasn’t.”
“Did he remarry?”
“Did he have kids with her”
“Yeah two sons.”
“And two with his new wife.”
“And is he happy?”
“So it’s good then?”
“Yes, but I have a son and a wife and I really, really would like to see them again so please make sure I get off this train.”
I laugh, “what are you doing in Manchester then?”
“I was coming for my tea.”
“Your tea?” (he means dinner, but I say tea too)
“Yeah with some colleagues. Got the 4.01 and had some beer and a bit of tea.”
“How many beers?”
“Let’s see, from 4pm…Nine? I was in this really trendy bar in Manchester and this footballer’s wife came over, Liverpudlian accent, ordered four cocktails then when they were done said, ‘this is meant to be made with crushed ice, not ordinary ice, I won’t drink them’ and the guy had just spent seven eight minutes making these cocktails and he just stood with his mouth open, and I was like – I’ll have them.’ And I got talking to this woman and she says she won’t go out with anyone who earns less than a million pounds and I said, ‘I’m from Yorkshire and your attitude would mean nothing in Derby, but thanks for the free drinks.’ One of my colleagues ran for cover. So we had those and we had a few beers.”
“Where do you work?”
“I own a chain of estate agents and we have some in Manchester, some in Yorkshire, ten in Lancashire, one in Derbyshire… We’re the twelfth biggest firm in the north but we’re a bit buggered at the moment because no one is buying any houses.”
“What’s the deposit percentage at the moment?”
“25%. Do you have a house?”
“No, I’m too young,” I say, though I know I’m not.
“I got my first house when I was 21, left school at 16 had my first place at 21.”
“How far is it to drive to Huddersfield?”
“40 miles?” I ask.
“I was gonna say, you wouldn’t be able to sit down if you had 40 piles.”
I laugh a lot.
“I did take my wife and son on a Thomas the Tank Engine train journey this morning too.”
“Did you?!” I say, excited by this revelation, “where’s that?”
“In Huddersfield it’s called the Kirklees Light Railway and about three of four times a year they have a themed Thomas the Tank Engine trip, they bring the Thomas and the Percy and the Gordon, they’ve been doing it a long time.”
“It’s really amazing living in Huddersfield,” he says, “because it’s right in the middle of everything. People say, ‘I’ve come from Leeds’ or ‘from the South’ and are really not used to going very far to get what they want if you know what I mean.”
What, to a nearby city?”
“Well, have you been to London?”
“I live in London now,” I say sheepishly.
“I’m 38 in July and the only time I’ve been was when my sister, about 5ft 2, 7 or 8 stone, tiny little woman, was an international coach driver. She drove these big 50-60 seat coaches all round Europe, and the only time I’ve ever been to London – she was on her way from Huddersfield to London and broke down on the A1. She rang me at about 3pm and said, ‘I’ve broken down, I’m on my way to Paddington, can you come and pick me up and take me to Paddington?’ So I decamped from work drove down the A1, picked her up, drove her to Paddington, got her suitcase out the boot of the car, deposited her in Paddington coach station then drove back to Huddersfield. That’s the only time I’ve been down to London.”
“Really? How did you find it?”
“I followed the signs,” he laughs, “we came in at Marble Arch and I thought ‘oh that looks nice,” he laughs again.
“Although, I’ve got a son right?”
“And what I’d really like to do is take him to the Olympics but he’s only six.”
“I think if you did you, you’d have to go after all the beginning bit…” I say, “It’s three grand to go to the opening ceremony.”
“Wow, so the point I’m trying to make is do I register for tickets when he’s only six?”
“You could sell them?”
“No, no I’m not bothered about that; will he remember it, is there any point?”
“What do you remember from when you were six?” I ask.
“Well I remember in 1978 when I was three but I don’t think I’d remember Usain Bolt shooting through the finishing line.”
I say, in terms of big things you remember as a kid, I remember Diana dying and that I was in Swanage and that it was near New Year.
He says he’d just woken up in bed the day he heard Diana died. It was the day of his Dad’s funeral.
“The whole world stopped because she died and I thought,
So what? My Dad’s just died.”
Sophie Collard on Google+