Sunday, 23 August 2009

Last train from Southport

It’s not often you see a naked man on a train. But then I’d never caught this particular train before. Maybe naked men are commonplace on the last train from Southport to Manchester on a Saturday night. Certainly the ticket collector’s face had a weary seen-it-all-before expression.

We should never have been on the train in the first place, but after a day out at the seaside – crazy golf, a pier with an old-fashioned penny arcade, ice-creams and my first ever victory at ten-pin bowling - we headed back to the car park at 10pm. And discovered that it closed at 6pm. We felt like the stupid city-dwellers we are. Then we ran to the station and jumped onto the last train, six minutes before it left. We had no time to buy tickets, but we struck lucky - the ticket collector’s machine was broken, so our unscheduled journey was free. The unscheduled journey that was going to take 90 minutes to travel 34 miles.

The first interruption was a screaming row between a man and a woman. Lots of swearing and shouting. She accused him of ‘womanising all week.’ He rushed along the carriage and locked himself in the toilet. She followed, a few minutes later, flushed, unsteady on her feet and glazed around the eyes. ‘Did he get off…did he leave the train?’ she appealed to us. The train rocked and rolled on through Lancashire.

It stopped at Wigan. A flock of teenagers got on, male and female - each one with hair that had been dyed, sculpted, teased into sleek and shiny styles. They looked like exotic birds. I guessed they were hairdressers’ models, but maybe all teenagers look like this for a night out in Wigan. ‘London is dead, dead, dead,’ they sang. ‘We’re not going to vote Conservative.’

In the next carriage things were getting rowdy. A group of women on a night out, cheerfully harassing their menfolk. ‘Get your kit off for the girls,” they chorused, “Get it out…” And the men were only too happy to oblige. Bums waggled in our direction, to shrieks of joy from the bawdy ladies. Cameras clicked. And then one lady – magnificently dressed in a tight blue leopardskin mini, eyeshadow to match – headed for the loo. And a man decided to follow her. With no clothes on. Screams from her. Gales of laughter from the naked man. The atmosphere was like the final scenes of The Full Monty - earthy, female, hilarious. My 9-year-old son looked on, as disapproving as a middle-aged vicar.

The train stopped at Bolton. A small panic as leopardskin woman tried to break down the toilet door to rescue a mate who had locked herself in. The flimsy door rattled as two hefty ladies threw themselves at it from either side. It burst open. The girls and their male playthings - now fully clothed - disembarked.

Then the football chants started. Four men in our carriage, still celebrating Manchester United’s victory over Wigan. The chants were tuneless and tasteless and frequently very funny. They were particularly virulently anti-Scouser – the traditional rivalry between Manchester and Liverpool. One Liverpudlian passenger felt moved to protest: ‘Don’t give up the day jobs,’ she told them. ‘At least we’ve got jobs,’ they retorted.

The ticket collector walked through the train again, making no attempt at all to inspect tickets. ‘And you wanted to pay for this!’ he said to us.

We were lucky. The drink-fuelled behaviour on the train was inappropriate, but completely good-natured. It's not always the way. While we were enjoying crazy golf and bowling 300 people were arrested in Manchester in a crackdown on violent drunken crime. Apparently it is one of the biggest problems in the region.

We walked back to our hotel making plans to rescue the car the next day. ‘You were too old to be looking at that man with no clothes on, Mum’ said my daughter. ‘Yes,’ said my son. ‘And too married.’


  1. Wow, sounds like lots of good fodder for stories. My train journeys are never that exciting.

  2. Mine neither...never been on a train like it.

  3. LOL - reminded me a little of a train journey we had back from Wokingham to London in May - not quite as extreme but enough to give your anecdote plenty of the visual flavour I'd otherwise not have known!

  4. From genteel Wokingham? Good Lord...

  5. oh dear, lol. Manchester never fails to disappoint!

  6. We love Manchester! And I enjoyed the train...