During the week I had the somewhat dubious pleasure of travelling to Preston in Lancashire for a briefing on employment law. The briefing - it lasted all day so it wasn't that brief - started at 10.00am which meant I had to rise at 4.30am in order to be a Edinburgh's Waverley Station to catch the 6.52am service to Preston.
This is the third time I've made this journey in recent months. I realise this may be yet another sign of my unrelenting advance to my elder years but there is something wonderfully calming about travelling into Scotland's capital city at 6.00am. I boarded the bus at 5.40am. Not surprisingly I was the only one on the bus (apart from the bleary-eyed driver of course) and the journey from Dalkeith to the centre of Edinburgh took just forty minutes - a couple of hours later the same journey would take a minimum of one hour.
One or two like-minded people got on the bus during the journey. However, there was almost complete silence on the way to the city. No foul-mouthed neds. No loud-mouthed schoolchildren. No sixteen year old mothers with buggies containing screaming brats taking up half the space on the lower deck. No incessant ringing of mobile phones 'Hullooooo, ah'm oan the bus...' The roads were quiet, the sun had just risen and peace and tranquility reigned. This albeit temporary state of affairs set me at ease for the two and a half hour train journey ahead to the north of England.
The return trip later that day meant catching the 5.00pm train from Preston....
As is the way with these trips, my seat on the train back to Edinburgh was reserved. Naturally, as I boarded the train at 5.00pm there was someone sitting in my seat. Not content with sitting on my seat she was using the other seat for her bag, newspaper, sandwiches and shopping. She was an elderly lady, clearly oblivious to the fact it was the rush-hour and what seemed like half of the population of Preston had joined the train. Thus ensued the following exchange of words:
Me: 'Excuse me, would you mind moving up one?'
Me: 'Can you move your stuff so I can get a seat? I have reserved the window seat you're in but I'm happy to sit in the aisle seat if you can just move your stuff to let me sit down'
Lady: 'Aren't there any other seats?'
Me: 'Well, as you can see, there are but most of them are reserved - like this one'
The elderly women leant forward to the empty seat in front and bent back the reserved label. 'This one is reserved for someone travelling to Haymarket. If they don't come on you can sit there'
Me, fast becoming exasperated: 'Chances are they will come on and will have the same conversation I'm having with you at the moment. Now are you going to make this easy by moving your stuff or are you going to be difficult which will mean me getting the conductor?'
At this point she relented somewhat, uttered something inaudible but most certainly contained a swear word or two and began to move her things. She took her time in doing so which increased my irritation and those who were standing behind me waiting for the old biddy to move her things.
As a frequent rail traveller I've come to expect people having a blatant disregard for seat reservations. However, without wishing to stereotype, it's usually young people whose ignorace is compounded by asking 'So dae ah huv tae move then?' I've always had what now seems to be a misconception that elderly people are more courteous and more likely to show something which is sadly becoming a rare trait these days - respect for others.
You may have noticed there's a general election coming up in the UK. As yet, none of the political parties have anything in their manifesto about banning people over 65 from public transport during peak times.
But there's still time yet, folks...