Thursday, 15 December 2011

Queen of Pain

The Cramps again, of course.

I am now down at my parents to be spoiled over Christmas and it reminded me of a trip a few years ago. It's not just buses, you see. Public Transport and I have one of those love/hate relationships. I hate it, and it loves making my life a misery. Whenever I step on a train, or a plane, or a bus, or into a taxi, I take a deep breath and pray to everyone I can think of that I'm going to be sane at the end of the journey.

A couple of years ago I spent Christmas, as usual, in the soft and comfortable bosom of my family near Peterborough. After a wonderful time, we set off home. Now, I should state here that on Christmas Day I got the flu and I was feeling pretty ill. So I wasn't really looking forward to travelling anyway, but it was made all the worse by the fact that British Rail, in their infinite wisdom, had ripped up the railway tracks between York and Darlington, at the busiest time of year, so part of our train journey was done by bus.

Our seats were booked for the first part of the journey in Coach F. When the train arrived at Peterborough, we walked along past all the carriages - A, B, C, D, E, G, H. No F. So we walked back, just in case a tipsy carriage assembler had put coach F somewhere else. Still no Effing F. I spied a guard, a way up the platform, so, battling through the thronging hordes, and slamming myself into a pillar in the process (I didn't get transported to Platform 9 3/4 so I guess I won't be off to Hogwarts this term), I ascertained that Coach F was now Coach C through the miracles of Alphabet Soup so we managed to get a seat just before the train left.

At York, we all trooped out of the train, through a muddy bog that the station staff euphemistically referred to as 'car park' and onto buses. By this point we were already running 15 minutes late. Not to worry, said the guard on the train, the train would be waiting for us at Darlington. Absolutely. It definitely wouldn't be going anywhere until we arrived, we had his assurances on that.

So we all piled onto the bus. The bus was one of those posh ones, where you go down a little flight of stairs to the loo. Good, since by this time I was desperate to go to the loo. I walked up the bus and descended the stairs, only to hear the booming voice of the driver over the bus's tannoy "Could someone tell that woman that the toilet isn't working". About 17 people called down the stairs "Oy, you, the woman with the red face, the toilet isn't working."

We arrived at Darlington 40 minutes late to catch our connecting train (you remember, the one that on no account, absolutely definitely posilutely would not have left without us?), only to find that it had left without us, and the next one wasn't for another hour or so. Since we'd missed the train we had seats booked for, we didn't have seats booked for this one but there would be a whole load of people who would have had seats reserved. You could tell who they were - amongst the hordes of people on the platform they were the ones with really smug looks, the 4 bus loads of people who'd all arrived too late for our train just looked increasingly desperate, and were eyeing up those less fit than themselves, to determine their best chances of elbowing people out of the way to get a seat. By this time, I felt really, really awful, and promised the train guard (a different one from the lying sadist at York station) that I would vomit all over his shoes if he couldn't promise me a seat. He leaned over and whispered "I'll give you a tip since you're not well - Coach C has all the unbooked seats on it."

"My saviour. Thank you, thank you." I kissed his hands, sobbed into his British Rail jacket and promised him my uneaten British Rail sandwich (uneaten for very good reason I might add).

The train arrived. We sped down the platform past coaches H, G, F, E, D, B, A... D, B, A???? Had anyone reported this wholesale theft of railway carriages? Was someone, somewhere, setting up home in two cozy GNER carriages called F and C on a disused stretch of line somewhere between York and Darlington?

So, we grabbed seats in Coach D. I'm afraid I may have made rather a fool of myself as I clung to it sobbing "You'll never get me off this seat, never. Just leave me to die here. I've never harmed anyone." Anyway, it seemed to do the trick, no-one asked me to move for the whole journey. Not even the nice man in the white coat carrying the large butterfly net who hovered by my seat for the rest of the journey.

Now, enough of the nonsense. Scottish crime fiction news coming up.

Luca Veste over at Guilty Conscience talks about his top 5 books of 2011. Not only does he include Ray Banks' DEAD MONEY and Helen Fitzgerald's THE DONOR, but his number 1 is also one of my own favourite books of the year - the amazing BLACK FLOWERS by Steve Mosby. Luca obviously has excellent taste, I shall have to read the other two in his top 5 - Nick Quantrill's BROKEN DREAMS, and Neil White's COLD KILL.

More Ray, as The All Purpose Monkey muses over DEAD MONEY. And Ed Kurtz - another man with exceedingly good taste - picks it as one of his top books of 2011.

Doug Johnstone's busy year.

Conan Doyle's Moriarty on the big screen. And a review of A GAME OF SHADOWS.

Metaliterature reviews Philip Kerr's THE ONE FROM THE OTHER, Savidge Reads reviews M C Beaton's AGATHA RAISIN AND THE LOVE FROM HELL, and Crime Fiction Lover reviews Alex Gray's SLEEP LIKE THE DEAD.

Ian Rankin talks about which literary character he'd like to sleep with and other topics.

More on the Denise Mina comic book adaptation of the Stieg Larsson books. And more on the Unbound 26 Treasures project which Alexander McCall Smith is part of.

Irvine Welsh to write Britpop musical.

The Scotsman talks about their books of the year and note that Denise Mina and Ian Rankin show the "range of what the crime genre can do".


  1. Donna - What a trip! I'm glad that you made it back safely...

  2. No, we´ve not had nearly enough of the nonsense! Please, Donna, may we have some more?

  3. Thanks Margot!

    Dorte - I'm sure you may :o)