Yes it’s me, Alfie the wuss - back from that there London.
Been a whole week since my last post – a result of the deep seated shock that set in once I’d got back to the dear old palatine of Lancashire. London is a scary, scary, scary-Mary place – and every time I go there, the panic attacks get just a bit more extreme. Clammy hands, sweaty crotch, banging headache – and I’m not even in Euston yet!
I caught the first train of the day – 6:04 from Wigan North Western. I arrived nice and early, about 5:30 in the morning – and confronted the first problem of the day. No bloody change for the car park – they want five quid in coins for God’s sake. The ticket office is closed, it’s pitch black and there’s no one around….. except for a little old bloke walking towards me.
"Hey mate, have you got change of a tenner?"
"Course I ’ave, cock." With that, this little man with a big heart shoved his hand into his pocket and plucked out a veritable treasure chest of metal.
What a guy, what a pie eater! Would I have got such a positive response outside Euston Station at 5:30 in the morning?
I arrived in Euston at 8:38 – just in time for the end of the rush hour. First tough decision of the day – Tube or Taxi?
A mental toss of a two-headed coin confirms my decision – it’s the Taxi to M&S HQ.
The taxi rank at Euston is a crushingly depressing place – like a bit of old staging from a Blake’s 7 episode. Neon tubes, ‘gulag concretia extreme’ and a bloody great line of humanity waiting for that rarest of animals – a black cab. The queue goes right into the next time zone, there’s bloody millions of us wusses – all with 2 immediate goals in life – 1 get a taxi, - 2 avoid the tube.
They all queue patiently – but I can’t. M&S waits for no one (apart from St Michael) and it’ll be hours before I get a taxi ….. I’ll have to get the tube.
My heart sinks, down the rickety old escalator of Euston Square into the very bowels of that there pit of old London town. I’m surrounded, surrounded by people with rucksacks….
Oh God, people with rucksacks…
Putting myself as far as possible from the rucksack army, I manage to get to the platform. What should I do? Act weird, pretend I’m a bit of a nutter? Fart?…..
Instead, I position myself in the entrance where no one else is standing and await the train to Paddington via the Circle Line. The first train arrives. It’s packed. Packed with millions of rucksack carrying young men. More rucksacks are waiting to board. It’s my train, so let’s go soldier! Brain signals are stopping somewhere near my yellow backbone, feet are resolutely stuck in neutral, - the body, a rigid facsimile of granite stands immovable.
The doors slide, the train whispers off… "I’ll get the next one, honest"
The next one arrives, fuller and more chock full of humanity than the previous train. The Rucksack Express comes to a halt – again I pass, like a reluctant virgin at an orgy.
I’ve been on the platform for a full 25 minutes, people are starting to look at me. I just have to get the next one, or I’ll miss the meet at M&S.
Finally, my train – the OK train of happiness arrives. It’s a rucksack free zone. Superb, Su-bloody-perb. Are there any stickers on the windows I can see? ‘Camping equipment strictly forbidden’….. Maybe not.
Great, even seats are available. I park the ample OK posterior onto the ‘Cool Britannia’ fabric pattern of the seat.
Just then, at the next stop a young geezer gets on – with his I-pod, copy of Metro ….. and rucksack. He sits right opposite me. And then he starts to open the rucksack. Then he starts fumbling inside. Is that a nervous fumble?
What should I do? Twat him? Hard? Act like a nutter? Fart? What would the Wigan pie eater have done in such circumstances? ….
I’m waiting for the wires, the pressure button, the switch to come out of the top of the bag. Oh my God, this is bloody well it!!!!
The young guy pulled out a book. A book on ‘Fungi’…….
Sweat poured off me. I’m just being silly. For God’s sake grow up. Get real……. I mean, what are the chances?
Feeling more than slightly foolish I got to Paddington, walked over the canal to the brand new mega building that is M&S – (which stands for ‘Massive and Spacious). Glass, glass and more glass are the building materials for this monolith. And the lifts, made of clear glass are all on the outside, waiting to catapult me at the speed of expectorated vomit into the Stratosphere.
After rucksackophobia, it’s vertigo. What a bloody morning.
I meet a corporate bint from Australia. She was wall to wall M&S, wall to wall company moll. We go through the motions, exchange pleasantries, business cards, ideas – but not body fluids.
Something may come of it – who knows?…
The journey back was uneventful, except that the Virgin Railway Company totally amazed me by arriving on time at my destination for the second time in the day.
I picked up the car, exited Wigan and headed home. On the way, I drove past Tawd Vale – the boy-scout camp just outside Newburgh in West Lancashire. A troop of scouts marched through the gates….. every single one of them had a rucksack on their backs……………
'Sweat creep' started again.