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  • Philip Bryer


I was watching Pointless the other day. Yes, Pointless, which, to the unaware, is Britain’s premier quiz show. We watch Pointless as part of the process of turning into our parents, who, to the exclusion of flood, famine and bereavement, followed Fifteen to One and Countdown as if their very existence depended on it. At least we don’t watch every episode. Well, we actually recorded it last week, alright? Because our granddaughter was staying and she likes it too. OK? We certainly have never, ever, ever arranged mealtimes around it (ahem...)

Anyway, on this particular episode a pair of contestants were quizzed as to how they had met. “Well,” they twinkled, as if something really good was coming up, like they were introduced by Terry Waite while being held hostage in Lebanon, or they’d hooked up in Turkish knocking shop where he played piano and she did a nice line in BDSM (note to self – better check acronym later as currently at work). But no, where did these two edam-faced dullards first rub up against each other? On their daily commute into London, that’s where, and where they and half-a-dozen other nuisances met up daily and formed what they called Train Club. No doubt causing a numb, creeping horror to befall anyone unfortunate enough to be stuck in the same carriage as these dolts, these numbskulls, these clods and blockheads.

There is of course a certain etiquette to be followed while travelling on peak-hour trains. The most basic rule being that you should avoid causing a nuisance to your fellow passengers. Basically, do not attempt to engage strangers in conversation, and if you must travel with a companion try to restrict the pleasantries to the bare minimum which courtesy requires, for example, “How are you? Fine thanks. You? Likewise. Good to hear it”, before retreating into the sweet silence afforded by your respective newspapers, books, tablets, headsets etc. Boiled down to an essence of commuting behavioural jus: Keep your bleedin’ trap shut.

Train Club? What do they think this is, a sodding tea party? This is the harsh reality of getting to work in England’s fair capital as a physical and mental shit-storm of an ordeal. Just when you’ve got used to climbing inside your own bubble and blocking out stupid announcements about bicycles and bombs and buffet cars, there comes this group assault on the senses designed with nothing else in mind but to piss off everybody around them. Train Club? They’re just making the best of it, you say? Objection. While being expertly teased by presenters Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman, witness their delight in relating the tale of how they treat anyone unfortunate enough to inadvertently stumble into the carriage which they have decided is their own personal adventure playground. “We make it very clear that strangers aren’t welcome,” they simpered. How awfully Daily Mail of them.

Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman

On a train that’s rammed solid, and there’s just one seat available which you’ve kicked and elbowed your way through the hatchet-faced hordes to reach, only to find some selfish arse looking up at you and announcing that “someone’s sitting here”, well, there can be only one response to someone attempting to save a seat for a body yet to board by using the “someone’s sitting here” argument, which is, “Yes, and it’s me,” as you point your rear end in a seatwardly direction.

Oh, and how did they do in the game? These Pointless pillocks from Train Club? They got to the final. And lost. Departed without a penny in prize money. As I used to say before I realised what the current context is, I do like a happy ending.

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