Let's All Drink Herbal Tea (Or, This Is What My Brain Is Like When I Am Hungover)
Saturday, 1pm - on a train from Manchester to Oxford.
Is it acceptable to tell someone off for eating crisps loudly in the Quiet Zone? She's not even eating them particularly loudly, but I can tell she's trying to be subtle about it so telling her off would be funny. To see how much more quietly she can suck all the flavour off each crisp before mashing it, replacing any crisp-enjoyment with excellent amounts of crisp-awkwardness. After texting Jackie for her thoughts on the subject, I am advised to "stare at her menacingly", and do so accordingly, although she is in the seat in front of me so I fear some of the effect might be being lost.
I am feeling crowded by the guilty remains of a train sandwich which managed to be dazzlingly bland whilst also costing more than my entire wardrobe. Outside the sky is low and snotty.
My eyes are feeling swollen as I am hungover, and, unlike the girl across the aisle who just announced cheerfully into her phone (QUIET ZONE, IDIOT) that she had a "tequila hangover", I can no longer drink my own bodyweight in alcohol without waking up looking and feeling like I have been beaten over the head repeatedly with a wine bottle. I sneak a look at tequila girl and she looks suspiciously fresh and peppy. I spend a few happy minutes loathing her before deciding that she probably only had one tequila, or perhaps just a tequila-flavoured sweet. Lightweight, I think.
We stop at Wolverhampton. It is resplendent in grey.
I am on my way to Oxford. I feel genuinely shocked and appalled that people are freely using their phones in the Quiet Zone. I consider saying something, perhaps stalking the aisle waiting for someone to so much as send a text so I can whip the offending technology from their paw. I decide that I am too hungover, but if I did I could make some kind of contemporary art piece from the phones I collect, perhaps spelling out the words I HATE YOUR VOICE, MORON in six foot letters. I spend a few enjoyable minutes wondering how I could get funding for such a project, but I get stuck on the budget and give up.
We trundle past low, crumbly factory building with mysterious signs on them saying things like J.N Fettings and Outer Space Storage Solutions!. I assume the latter is actually a portal to another planet, possibly the Fifth Moon of Stor (mainly comprised of usefully-sized shelving).
On a canal path a tiny dog optimistically wrestles with an massive stick. I am jealous of its innocent happiness and (presumably) lack of hangover.
We pull into Birmingham. A man is taking a photograph of a couple grinning happily, arms wound tight around one another as though they are standing in front of the Eiffel Tower rather than on Platform 9b at Birmingham New Street.
I texted Aisling earlier (she lives in Birmingham) to tell her that my train would be passing through, in case she wanted to come and stand on the platform and wave to me.
I text her again now.
"At Birmingham! I know you couldn't be here yourself so you sent a man with a beard to stand around looking vacant instead. Thank you!"
My hangover is making me weird. I hope she gets the joke.
Later on I receive a text back:
"I did send Julian to wave, but he says he "doesn't do waving". What a square."
I am relieved. I am weird, but so is everyone else, and my jokes are crap, but so are other people's. What else, after all, is there to life?
Both the train and my brain continue on their stupid little journeys. Past decrepit buildings, once busy and useful, now wastelands dripping with graffiti and lost potential.
I decide I have scribbled enough, so close my notebook and tip my head back to the seat, idly contemplating more coffee.