We’re not Familiar with Trains.

It takes some time for the older couple to get the huge suitcase up onto the luggage rack. She leaves him to finish shoving it into place and comes down the aisle looking for a seat. She is wearing a tartan hat and a scarf with zebras marching across it and she is smiling round at everybody.
“Is this someone’s seat?”
The young lad opposite looks up from his screen and points at the ticket sticking up above the seat.
“It’s reserved.”
“Oh.”
She isn’t sure what to do. He reassures her.
It’s all right though- it’s only reserved from York.”
“We’re going to Liverpool.”
This is a big problem. She wants to sit near her husband and that means two seats. She turns to the young girl sitting on the seat across the aisle.
“Do you mind if I sit there?”
The young girl moves cheerfully and they settle in to their seats on either side of the aisle.
“Sit there Bill.”
“My bags are in that seat.”
“It’s all right. It’s only reserved from York.”
“Is that seat next to you reserved?”
“Yes. From York.”
“When are they getting on?”
“York.”
She nods and looks at the ticket slip above my seat.
“Did you order your seat?”
I explain what happens when you book a train ticket on line. She listens carefully.
“Thanks for your help. We’re not familiar with trains.”
She looks around the carriage, taking stock.
“It’s empty now but I don’t want to sit there. I can’t travel backwards.”
She looks at the two quiet, well wrapped up ladies, sitting in the corner.
“Are you all right sitting there?”
They smile.
“Tired?”
They nod. She looks as though she would like to tuck them up in bed.
She plonks a pile of rail leaflets down in front of her husband.
“Here, read these.”
“Look at your phone Margie.”
Margie gets out her iphone- big, spotless, silvery new one- and starts to tap, announcing what she is finding out. There is a whole world in there.
“Amazon are wrapping Christmas parcels.”
“How do you get rid of adverts on here. You can’t can you? It’s gone on subscribers now- do they take notice of that? I’m sick of it.”
“They’re telling us how much gas and electric we’re using. Compare your tariff.”
“They’ve reduced it by £100.”
Bill looks straight ahead with his eyelids half closed, his hat heading downwards over his face. She is settled. He can relax. But not for long. She sets off for the toilet- in the wrong direction.
He raises an eyebrow.
“You’ve to go that way.”
She turns back.
“No. That lady told me to go this way.”
Margie disappears into the first class carriage.
The young girl looks at Bill.
“You’re not going to leave her alone in Liverpool are you?”
He grins.
“I’d love to.”
We all laugh. He points at the case on the rack.
“See that case? There’s bedding in there, cutlery, the lot. We’re only going for two nights to see our granddaughter. I lost her in Chicago airport once. She wandered off and had to be brought back- by security.”
When Margie returns from the first class compartment she is excited.
“Oh it’s another experience down there. You’ve to lock yourself in. There’s one man sitting there helping you and another man helping him.”
She settles back into her seat and gets back on her phone- watching a video clip this time. Their son has sent it.
“Here Bill.”
He puts the phone to his ear.
“No, Bill- look at it! Look at it!”
She smiles round proudly.
“He sent it to us first and then a lot of other people.”
The train rattles on. Holidays are talked about. Ones taken and ones to come. Destinations, prices, savings.
“Is there a trolley?”
There is and it comes. Two teas and a kit-kat are ordered.
“Are they the original ones? They’ve brought out a few. I don’t want one of them orange ones.”
They can no longer see each other, separated by the grey metal bulk of the trolley. This makes Margie anxious as she can’t see what is happening while Bill pays up for two teas and a kit-kat.
“We are together. We’re just sitting apart.”
The trolley moves on. She is happy with what she has heard.
“That wasn’t bad.”
“It wasn’t bad, cos I paid for it.”
He looks at me wickedly.
“I give her £7 a week housekeeping but I don’t know what she does with it.”
The trolley moves on and there is no sugar on the table. Consternation. Some sugar appears.
“Did you get that out of your bag?”
The two well wrapped up, shy ladies nod quickly and are thanked. She turns back to Bill.
“I thought you had a kit-kat as well.”
“No.”
“Oh, well that was expensive then. I thought it was cheap.”
They touch polystyrene tea cartons together across the aisle.
“Cheers!”

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