Friday, 10 August 2012

Starting my Three Peaks Challenge

Volatile and oppressive cloud surrounded the dozen souls huddled against the face of the rough, stone wall. Freezing wind beat against us, carrying with it ice cold hail stones, which flicked at our face and legs like one hundred blunt razor blades. I crouched too and looked across at the girl next to me, who cuddled her legs and had her collar pulled up over her red cheeks. She was clearly sobbing. Only half way through the Three Peaks Challenge and with a body temperature that was falling faster than pebbles of ice around me, there was only one thing on my mind; why the hell am I putting myself through this? And,  if I was to be brutally honest with myself, I didn't really have an answer.

Things were a lot more comfortable 20 hours earlier, when I managed to secure an early seat on the 17:52 from Leeds to Settle. It was to prove a stroke of luck, as the train was soon packed to the gills with dozens of city workers, eager to start their weekend break.

As the swelling carriage became standing room only, a British Rail attendant came through and paused at a table where two very well dressed, middle aged ladies, were deep in conversation. They sat either side of the table, window side; a large burly lady and her petite friend.

"Excuse me ladies," said the attendant in gruff Yorkshire tones.
The ladies looked up, seeming slightly bewildered.
"Please can you put your bags on the rack?" the man indicated two large bags that sat on the two only available aisle seats . Standing passengers listened with interest, although they pretended not to,  as the prospect of a more comfortable journey home presented itself to a lucky few.
"No, I can't! " exclaimed the smaller woman. "I can't reach, I'm too weak."
"I can put it up for you",suggested the man and reached for the nearest bag, but he was stopped immediately.
"No! You see? But I won't be able to get it down again. I'm too tired and my arms are too short."
The attendant adjusted his hat and frowned disapprovingly, but before he could counter with any more of his annoying common sense, she continued, "Don't worry  dear. I won't stop people sitting here if that's what that want to do. I've been travelling on this train for 50 years. I've had a really busy week and it's Friday evening." It was delivered imploringly, but dripping with aggression.

Clearly taken aback by this, the official could only return, "Well, I'd hate to meet you on a Monday morning!" This he left as his parting remark, much to the general disappointment of those around him.
The lady turned to her friend opposite her and was clearly in need of some reassurances. "Was that alright? Was I being fair?" she bleated.
"Perfectly so, dear" said Lady Burly, "We have every right to have have bags there."
They proceeded to make each other a series of comforting noises, back and forth.
Like a game of 'Hmm' tennis, both seemingly ignorant to the glares from the poor people left standing in the aisles, propped up against seats, who were too English, or too tired, to do anything about it. For the duration of the journey the work weary travellers, at the end of a long week, looked on enviously at the bloated, leathery bags on the seats that were left to travel in comfort, and the luggage they both refused to move.

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