Waterloo Sunrise

‘Is this the Waterloo train?’

‘Yes, it is. At least, I hope so.’

‘Hope so? Aren’t you sure?’

‘Fairly sure, yes. I’ve been catching it for three years, so unless South West Railways has had another meltdown, I’m pretty certain we’ll end up at Waterloo.’

‘Good. Thanks.’

‘So, why are you going to Waterloo?’


‘Waterloo. What is the purpose of your visit, as they say?’

‘What are you, Transport Police?’

‘No, sorry, just making conversation.’

‘You do realise this is Surrey, don’t you? People don’t make conversation on trains down here. You’re not a northerner, are you?’

‘You make it sound like a dIsease.’

‘You don’t come across as northern.’

‘That’s because I’m not.’

‘Not what?’

‘A northerner. Born and bred in Guildford, me.’

‘Well, you obviously haven’t read the rules then. And you say you’ve been taking this train for three years? I’m surprised you haven’t been banned.’

‘What, for holding conversations?’

‘Exactly. It’s not allowed. The phrase “tut-tutting” was invented for people like you.’

‘Really? I always thought that was for people holding unnecessary, too-loud conversations on their mobile phones.’

‘Yes, that too, the operative word being conversation. See above for details. And, in case you weren’t sure, we are not having a conversation.’

‘Aren’t we? I say something, you say something back. That’s a conversation, surely.’

‘I’m only saying something back because you won’t shut up.’

‘Sorry, I’ll shut up now, I promise.’

‘I’m meeting someone.’


‘In answer to your question. I’m going to Waterloo to meet someone. Now will you shut up?’

‘I already had, but you started the conversation again. And now I need to reply to your reply.’

‘No, you don’t.’

‘I do. It would be rude not to.’

‘I think the rudeness ship sailed about five minutes ago.’

‘Which is more than can be said for this train.’


‘It should have sailed, let me see, three minutes ago.’

‘I think you’re confused. Trains don’t sail. That would be ships. You know, big wooden things that sit on the water?’

‘Or steel.’

‘Steal what? Who said anything about stealing?’

‘No, steel, not steal. Steel as in metal.’


‘Yes, metal. Steel. Ships can be steel as well as wooden. As long as they don’t have holes in, of course.’

‘If you say so.’

‘They can probably be made of other materials too, but I’m not an expert.’

‘You surprise me.’

‘Do I? What do you mean?’

‘Well, you sound like a bit of a know-it-all, frankly.’

‘Now who’s being rude?’

‘Well, I call it like I see it. And all I really want is a nice quiet journey so that I can get on with my book.’

‘Absolutely. I completely understand. I’m very sorry. It won’t happen again.’

‘What won’t happen again?’

‘Me answering your questions.’

‘Now you’ve being obtuse.’

‘You may be right. If I knew what obtuse meant, I dare say I’d agree with you.’

‘You can probably guess.’

‘Probably. So, who are you meeting?’

‘Good grief, don’t you ever stop? Listen to yourself. You keep promising to shut up, but then off you go again.’

‘Oh, I thought we’d got past all that.’

‘No, we haven’t, we really haven’t. And it’s none of your business who I’m meeting.’

‘Not Napoleon then?’

‘Now what are you talking about?’

‘Napoleon. Are you meeting Napoleon? You know, at Waterloo.’

‘Oh, yes, I see. Very funny, she said sarcastically. No, I’m meeting Wellington if you must know.’

‘I think he’s dead.’

‘So is Napoleon.’

‘History expert, are you?’

‘Not at all, but I should think he’d be about 250 if he were still alive, so I reckon I’m on pretty safe ground.’

‘What book are you reading?’

‘Here we go again. Not reading, unfortunately. Trying to read, but unfortunately the man sitting opposite me won’t let me.’

‘I’m not stopping you. And I haven’t actually seen a book yet.’

‘You mean you haven’t actually read a book yet. Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.’

‘Very good. You know what I mean. Where’s this book you’re reading.’

‘Or not reading.’

‘If I’d seen you immersed in a book, I’d have kept quiet.’

‘I very much doubt that. And are you sure you’re comfortable using big words like immersed?’

‘Getting a bit catty now, aren’t you?’

‘I wasn’t when I got on the train, but somehow I’m being driven to it.’

‘I thought you were being driven to Waterloo. We all are. Assuming the driver knows where he’s going.’

‘Anyway, since you’re so interested, here’s my book. I’m about to open it and start reading so I’d appreciate a bit of peace and quiet. You can look those words up in the dictionary you found immersed in if you’re not sure what they mean.’

‘What’s it called?’

How to get rid of annoying fellow passengers on a train.’

‘Is it any good?’

‘I’ll let you know. I certainly hope it’ll give me some tips. Ah, yes, tip number one. Throw him out the window.’

‘You’ll have a hard job. The windows are tiny and I’m quite big.’

‘I think the word you’re looking for is fat.’

‘I’m just big-boned, not fat.’

‘If you say so. Not sure everyone would agree. Tip number two. Kick him in the unmentionables.’

‘I’m not sure I appreciate the assumption that all annoying fellow-travellers are male. Does it say what to do with women?’

‘Are you saying you’re a woman?’

‘Me? Do I look like a woman?’

‘No. A woman would take more care with her appearance.’

‘I’ll have you know, I’ve shaved. And had a shower.’

‘Not necessarily today though, I suggest. Bought any deodorant recently?’

‘I don’t smell.’

‘Don’t worry, I’m not coming close enough to find out.’

‘Any other tips?’

‘Get off the train.’

‘That’s cutting your nose to spite your face though, isn’t it? You want to go to Waterloo, so there’s no point getting off at Clapham Junction. You won’t find Napoleon there.’

‘Wellington, remember? Not Napoleon. And I was referring to you.’

‘Me? I’m not Wellington.’

‘No, you, not me. Getting off the train.’

‘I don’t want to get off the train. I’ve got to get to London.’

‘Clapham’s London. And, oh look, we’re just arriving.’

‘No, I’m quite all right, thanks. I think I’ll stay where I am until we get to Waterloo.’

‘As you please. It’s a free country. Unfortunately. This would never be allowed to happen in Russia.’

‘Expert on Russian transport too, now are you? I’m certainly learning a lot about you. Historian. Linguist. Travel buff. Is there no end to your talents?’

‘Well, I’d obviously be no good as a teacher. I’m clearly not able to get children to keep quiet.’

‘What children?’

‘Child, singular. You.’

‘Class sizes getting smaller and smaller these days, aren’t they? No wonder the country’s short of teachers. Anyway, any other tips in your book? It looks quite large to only have three.’

‘Let me see. Yes, tip number four. Ask the guard to evict the annoying passenger.’

‘Hmm, I reckon your book’s out of date. They don’t have guards on trains any more. They held all those strikes about it, remember?’

‘The unions were quite right to strike. Although I don’t recall lack of resources to evict irritating, overweight, unshaven fellow passengers being given as a reason.’

‘You could always pull the cord.’

‘There’s a fine for that. And I doubt if you qualify as a medical emergency, although that might change if I implement tip number two.’

‘Remind me again?’

‘Kick him in the unmentionables.’

‘Oh yes, I remember. Well, you shouldn’t be doing that.’

‘I’m not sure if I could actually reach the unmentionables through the rolls of fat.’


‘You’d say a lot more than ouch, I promise you.’

‘You could try hypnosis.’

‘Hypnosis? That’s a thought. Me or you?’

‘You on me, I imagine. It’s me you want to shut up, isn’t it? Although I’m still not clear why. I mean, engaging in witty conversation like this has made the journey fly by, hasn’t it? Look, we’re almost there.’

‘No, on second thoughts, not hypnosis. I’d have to stare into your eyes to do that, wouldn’t I? not a pleasant thought.’

‘I’m not sure. I think you’d be getting me to stare into your eyes. Don’t mind if I do, frankly.’

‘Now we’re teetering on the edge of sexual harassment. I’ll be reporting you to a policeman when we get to Waterloo.’

‘Just arriving now. Oops, sorry, trainee driver, obviously, that was a sudden stop. I didn’t mean to throw myself into your lap. Nice lap though.’ 

‘Definitely sexual harassment. Get off me.’

‘Not my fault. They don’t provide seatbelts on trains.’

‘Even if they did, they couldn’t provide a belt long enough to get round your stomach.’

‘Anyway, here we are. After you.’

‘Thank you. First sign of manners in the entire journey.’

‘Well, it’s only a short trip from Surbiton. Twenty- three minutes. Almost a record for this service.’

‘Probably why the driver came into Waterloo at such a rate of knots.’

‘Knots? That’s ships again. You know, big wooden things that…’

‘Stop it. I’m getting a horrible feeling of déjà vu.’

‘You’re right, we don’t want to be going round in circles.’

‘God, no. A neverending train journey with you? Satan couldn’t dream up anything worse.’

‘Where are you meeting Napoleon?’

‘Wellington. Under the clock.’

‘That’s a bit of a cliché, isn’t it? It’s quite crowded. How are you going to spot him?’

‘Well, I imagine he’ll be wearing a tricorn hat with ostrich feathers.’

‘Bit formal for a Wednesday morning. Anyway, I’m going this way. Give old Jim my love.’

‘I think he prefers James.’

‘James Wellington? No, doesn’t sound right. He should stick to Jim. Has he been promoted yet?’

‘No, still just a constable. What time are you home tonight?’

‘Oh, usual, sevenish. What’s for dinner?’

‘Something quick. James always keeps me talking. I doubt if I’ll be home much before you. How does spaghetti sound?’

‘Very tangled.’