Man sitting opposite: six weeks of train travel he says in a type of weary exasperation. I’ve been doing it for four years I reply. I then have to take out my headphones as he tells me about his shoulder. He’s been on a cycling trip to Wales with a friend, his friend slammed into a gate and he fell after hitting his friend’s bike. His shoulder was compressed and there were various injuries to do with ligaments etc and he is now attending physiotherapy sessions. He’s thinking of going private because the once fortnightly appointment on the NHS is not enough.
The 1652 on the way back to Bristol: A commuter’s husband manages a car rental place. He frequently changes cars and their friends say they never know in which car he will turn up. They also get cheap petrol. Much shaking of head and mirth.
A quiet zone carriage on the 1752 from Cheltenham: The carriage is full and one man is talking on his phone somewhere towards the back. I sit near the middle on the right side by the aisle. At Bristol Parkway the people from one of the tables get out and a young woman not yet in her twenties walks in and sits down while still talking on her phone. A minute or so later a much older woman stands up and is practically shaking. She proceeds to yell at the young girl who looks much bigger than her in stature and to threaten her with ‘if you were a man I’d punch you in the face, no one else is talking on this carriage. I have travelled all the way from Manchester and no one has talked the whole time’. The girl looked up at her then went straight back to her conversation with barely a pause. She seemed most unperturbed but the older woman was so angry she packed her bags and moved to sit elsewhere. I didn’t think it was the right time for me to mention the guy chatting at the back of the quiet zone.
On the bus in Cheltenham around 8am: A woman sitting at the front of the bus leans across to steady herself on the rail across the passageway. She’s in her 50s, wearing a vest and a woolly jumper, has a slightly ruddy complexion and short grey hair. I wonder why she’s leaning but think nothing of it until she takes out a bottle of white wine and drinks some before putting it away in her shopping bag.
The 0730 from Bristol: The king of commuters (unofficially) has been making the journey from Parkway to Cheltenham for 19 years. He has a law practice and has recently been trying out a fold-up bike. He doesn’t have it with him today and I ask how it’s going. He tells me that on his way to work the saddle had slipped, the pedal had fallen off and his leg had been impaled on the latter. He has taken photographs and is ready to sue.