Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Of grey suede boots, pigeons, and a very helpful hardware shop

Walking across Edinburgh to the office this morning, I noticed a pigeon had relieved itself on my boot.

That's a new-last-month pale grey suede boot which I'm rather proud of.

Cursing all pigeons, I headed for Home Hardware on Morningside Road, which is the sort of little hardware and household shop that sells everything you can think of and more besides.

This shop not only proved to stock suede brushes, but the gentleman behind the counter proceeded to kneel down and brush the pigeon dropping off my boot, leaving it pristine.

And he was surprised when I said I still wanted to buy the brush.

I figured it was the least I could do after receiving such excellent and thoughtful service.

And I'll also be forearmed if any more pigeons decide to aim for my boots.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

There's no seat in that space!

This blog is turning into "M's traveller's tales".

Here's Virgin Trains' latest caper.

Yesterday morning, at Carlisle station ready to travel to Edinburgh, I decided to book a seat in the quiet coach on the 16.57 coming home that evening.

Lady behind the counter: "The 18.16 doesn't have a quiet coach".
M: "No, I said the 16.57 not the 18.16".

She eventually (after several questions to her colleague, checking whether the train was a Virgin Pendolino or Virgin SuperVoyager, and getting stopped by the computer system several times) presented me with a reservation for seat 1 in coach A, the quiet coach.

As the train drew into Haymarket that evening, I was glad I'd reserved a seat. The train was packed.

BUT... when I got into coach A, I discovered that seat 1 was... the wheelchair space.

And unlike on buses, the wheelchair space on trains (well, Virgin Trains anyway) has no seat in it.

Given I'd booked the seat in person and the lady behind the counter could see I wasn't in a wheelchair, I'm bewildered as to why she gave me that space...

Thankfully there were one or two other seats free in the quiet coach so I sat in one of those. Otherwise I'd have been standing for an hour back to Carlisle.

Oh well, it makes a good story for the blog...

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Quiet? Who said quiet?

As my Twitter friend Katie Macdonald (a virtual assistant whose niche market is foodie businesses - great idea) says, I don't seem to have much luck with the "quiet" coach on Virgin Trains.

My train journey up to Edinburgh for my job with FreeAgent is part of my working day. So I always make a beeline for the quiet coach, on the basis that I should be able to work more easily there.

But "quiet" is often a misnomer.

In the last few months, I've encountered, in the quiet coach:
  • Crying babies
  • Shouting children
  • People talking loudly to each other
  • People talking loudly on mobile phones
  • People listening to their iPods so loudly I can hear it at the other end of the coach
Now a crying baby I can sympathise with, because if the baby is asleep then the best place for him/her is the quiet coach, so that there's more chance that he/she will stay asleep. And as an auntie of five, I know that babies don't sleep on demand. Also, on a busy train it's just not practical for mum or dad to take the baby out of the quiet coach until he/she goes to sleep.

I guess the same goes for a bored and fractious child. Unless there's a family carriage (which Virgin Trains don't seem to have), there's not really anywhere to take that child to let off steam.

But I'm sorry, if you want to have a loud conversation with your friends (whether they're on the train or at the other end of a mobile), don't sit in the quiet coach. And ditto if you want to play your iPod.

The signs on the trains say "please refrain from using mobile phones and creating unnecessary noise". But in 3 months of using the quiet coach, I've only once heard one of the train staff ask a passenger to turn his/her mobile off or put it on silent.

That's what I do. My mobiles stay firmly on silent when I'm in the quiet coach and if anyone rings, I scuttle out into the corridor.

Perhaps Virgin should put up more detailed guidelines for use of the quiet coach, or police it more zealously. Because noisy people just ruin the quiet coach for those of us who want - well, a bit of quiet.

Sorry folks, rant over :-)