As the Tinker and I approached the platform at Paddington last night, at a measured pace because we had reserved seats, the melee around us was hurling itself towards the 17.33 train with a vengeance. We followed a gaggle of very loud and over-excited Hooray public schoolboys, ranging from about twelve to fourteen years old at a guess and a harrassed mother with two very large lurcher dogs loping alongside.
Firstly let me clarify that I have no problem with public schoolboys.
I'm sure the majority are polite, thoughtful and considerate young men and a credit to their parents, but I had a sick feeling, call it a premonition, that we'd find Family Hooray in Coach C, possibly within spitting distance of seats 9 and 10A forward facing, because that's the sort of luck we have.
We took our time, the train was heaving, not even standing room and eventually reached our seats only to find them occupied by part of Family Hooray and no seat reservation tickets to be seen because they were in the Middle Hooray's pocket.
We soon disabused him of the notion that the seats were theirs and with this another woman seated opposite wagged her finger at him and said "I told you, it's a £200 fine if you remove those," and gave me one of those weary looks which spoke volumes. "This is going to be a very long, tedious and debilitating journey".
The Hoorays were en route from boarding school (wish I could have caught the name) with friends in tow, to a weekend at their holiday cottage on the North Cornish coast. I won't name that place but I sincerely hope Doris is OK because the plan was to head off and stone her windows at midnight because this had been huge and jolly fun last time.
Mother of the Hoorays was sat behind us, oblivious to all because she was glued to her mobile and, apart from intermittent loss of signal, when she loudly assisted with French and Geography homework from across the aisle, she remained welded to it for the entire journey.
The Hoorays settled down at the table opposite and clearly saw it as their inherent duty to entertain the entire carriage for the whole journey.
This involved vast amounts of messy eating, climbing on seats to reach the luggage rack at five minute intervals, telling jokes, wandering up and down to play jokes on other people and make them look ridiculous and generally being obnoxious.The Geography homework done on Mother of Hooray's laptop deserves a C-, the Pyrennees were not in Scotland the last time I checked.In fact I'd be looking for a refund on the school fees there.
But what of the goss from the mobile phone behind us?
Film director, divorced from famous film production company owner and Father of Hoorays.The whole carriage was informed of his name...no I couldn't possibly say but we all agreed, he should have known better than to offer eldest son his air miles when he's worked b****y hard to earn that money for himself for his trip to Oz.Can you believe it?
But what of the the film script? Well fortunately for all of you, part of my day job frequently involves accurately recalling lengthy conversations and then writing down the details afterwards.
Yah, well darling, it's so sad, Rachel Weiss has turned down the part. It's tragic, can't be done for the money, Uma might be interested because word is she wants to get into a part about divorce and Will Smith, really we should approach Will for the lead man in this one darling.Oh I WOULD LOVE to get Kate Winslett, she'd be perfect.Blanchett's busy I know that, she couldn't possibly fit it in.The budgets for Lorelei are a shambles, £10,000 for three weeks of digital? No way, I'm not doing it, I'm just not doing it and what on earth are they thinking of paying the cameraman £400 a day, the same as the .....tunnel, noise missed this bit but probably the tea lady. Off to New York this week, romantic weekend with boyfriend lined up but had three meetings to go to, timing all wrong.
Oblivious to the existence of, or any consideration for their fellow man, I doubt Family Hooray were even aware that the rest of us had ears, but it was priceless as a covert system of eye contact camaraderie spread around the other passengers.Spirits were raised when one teenage Hooray asked Mother of Hoorays for his cuddly muslin nappy and proceeded to suck his thumb, the silence was momentarily golden but after a quick fix he was back in the groove.
Periodically the dogs were taken for a walk up and down the train.
Have you ever tried to turn a lurcher on its axis to face the other direction in the aisle of a train? They have a very wide turning circle unlike my Ford Fiesta which turns on a sixpence.
At some point the canine's rear end is going to be right in the face of whoever is seated there (the Tinker) and when shifted any dog does an instinctive shaking from head to foot which pollinated the carriage with a dusting of dog hair each time and has us all coughing and sneezing.
It has to be said that the lurchers were the best behaved of the lot, though I fear for their street cred if seen in the fields around here wearing those brightly coloured beaded and embroidered designer collars.Calling out "Che Guevara come here," when the bigger one ran off might also raise a few eyebrows.
Had they had wind I might have been feeling less benevolent, but the dogs seemed to be on the side of the majority, looking mighty fed up with their existence and after three hours we were all feeling of like mind.
It all confirms my theory that dog and people-watching is endlessly fascinating, the Tinker sat by bemused watching the fourteen year olds of today strut their stuff, and I do wish Family Hooray well.
Today they are on a private surfing lesson because the rip tides and currents on the North Cornish coast are notoriously treacherous.
No I'm not going to say it.